In 2014, Accenture commissioned survey amongst 3,000 citizens in six countries across the world to understand citizens’ views on, and the likely future for, digital technologies as a means to enhance their travel experiences.
The survey wanted to examine some of the fundamental questions that face border management agencies today:
Are citizens satisfied with the digital technologies/biometrics that they have experienced?
How much have citizens used such technologies to date?
Are citizens prepared to use digital technologies to facilitate faster, safer and more efficient travel?
Perhaps contrary to conventional wisdom, we discovered that citizens are not only highly supportive of the use of biometrics, but also recognise the benefits they can bring, such as faster, safer travel experiences. Indeed, the survey results could reassure border management agencies who are in the process of considering greater digital investment—fears that members of the public will refuse to cooperate with new digital tools and practice are highly likely to prove unfounded.
The survey results offer insights into the future of digital technologies, biometrics and automation, and highlight implications for policy and technology decision making in the longer term.
In May 2014, an online quantitative poll was conducted amongst 3,000 respondents across six countries, with approximately 500 respondents each from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and Japan. The survey aimed to assess citizens’ awareness and understanding of digital technologies and to gather citizens’ views on the future impact of digital methods on their travel experiences.
The survey age categories represented include 28 per cent between 18 years and 34 years of age and 72 per cent were 35 years or older. Fifty-one per cent of respondents were female and 49 per cent were male. The survey was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland.
The survey uncovered five key findings about citizens’ perceived and actual opinions around the use of digital technologies in the border environment:
Citizens are ready to become biometrically known, digitally-enabled travellers. When the survey asked citizens about their willingness to share biometrics when travelling across international borders, a convincing 89 per cent said they were.
Citizens see digitally-enabled travel as a driver of improved safety and security. We thought that facilitation was a primary concern for travellers; what we found was that citizens value security above all else. Sixty-two per cent of all citizens said they would be likely to share biometric details if it meant their country’s borders were more secure.
Citizens are willing to share some private information if it clearly benefits their travel experience. The survey showed that more than half of citizens (56 per cent) said they would share more information if they experienced more convenient travel and 58 per cent of citizens will do so if they experience faster processing through customs and border control.
The research identifies three key takeaways for border agencies:
Make biometrics fundamental and universal
Making biometrics integral to the way borders operate means traveller authentication not only becomes easier, but also is more robust than relying solely on human interaction—and the survey shows that travellers acknowledge there are benefits to be gained.
Serve the majority and the minority
Most people are willing to share their personal data and biometrics and border agencies need to find a way to serve this majority, plus reflect the fact that a minority of travellers are still uncomfortable with biometrics.
“Show and tell” digital border benefits
There is a gap with border agencies and the public between perception and practice. Our survey found a correlation between the use of biometrics and the acceptability of biometrics—it is an important dimension and one that border management agencies need to exploit through elements such as better communication and education of biometric benefits.
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