skeptical
A survey of over 20,000 people worldwide pointed to some troubling trends for ecommerce PHOTO: Georgie Pauwels

Forty-nine percent of respondents said their main reason for not shopping online was lack of trust.

This telling statistic was one of many more uncovered in a global survey conducted by Ipsos and the Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). 

The study gathered responses from 24,225 people in 24 countries.

Key Findings

The survey focused on a number of key issues, including distrust in the internet, privacy and ecommerce. Here are some notable highlights.

Distrust in the Internet

Forty-four percent of respondents said they distrust the internet. They gave these key reasons:

  • The internet is not secure (65 percent)
  • The internet is not reliable (40 percent)
  • The internet is controlled by corporate elites (29 percent)
  • The internet is controlled by the government (28 percent)

Although security and reliability top the list, it’s interesting to see that the internet’s centralized state is also a common cause for concern.

Privacy Concerns

Fifty-five percent of global citizens reported being more concerned with their online privacy, as compared to last year.

Those who were worried about their privacy cited the following as their top sources of concern:

  • Cybercriminals (82 percent)
  • Internet companies (74 percent)
  • Governments (65 percent)

Putting internet companies in close relation to cyber criminals should sound a warning for any business with an online presence.

Mobile Ecommerce

Despite, the ecommerce industry’s evident and continuous boom, it appears to be running into trouble when it comes to growth of mobile ecommerce in developed economies.

That’s because the world’s gradual adoption of mobile payments isn’t panning out the way anybody expected. According to the survey, developing nations are more likely to use mobile payments, while most G-8 countries displayed aversion to it.

Ninety-five percent of polled Indonesians for example, saw no problem with paying via mobile device — yet only 27 percent of Germans claimed to be comfortable with the idea.

'The Consequences Are Nearly Irreparable'

Fen Osler Hampson, director of CIGI’s Global Security & Politics program, didn’t walk away with an optimistic interpretation of the survey's results.

“The lifeblood of the internet is trust, and when that is damaged, the consequences for the digital economy are nearly irreparable,” Hampson said.

“The results of this global survey offer a glimpse into why policymakers should be concerned, and why there is a strong link between user trust and the health of ecommerce,” he continued.

At a time when more businesses are turning to a digital presence to bolster lagging sales, this strong vote of no confidence in ecommerce and the internet as a whole is worrying to say the least.

The counter argument would be that the internet is still showing exponential levels of growth. However, the issue isn’t the internet’s number of users — it’s the way those users approach the internet. 

Repairing the Irreparable

While Fen Osler Hampson calls on policymakers to make a change, Tim Berners-Lee’s initiative to reinvent the web, Solid, may provide a method to repair the damage.

The concept of individual web surfers owning, storing and governing their data beyond the reach of governments and corporations is the antithesis of the current centralized state of the internet. And I suspect it’s the kind of model that internet skeptics would welcome.

Yet even with a radically new model in place, trust is a thing earned, not given. The challenge now is for businesses to earn it.