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How do Americans really feel about tech? A Modis survey gives us some insight

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When it comes to American exceptionalism, no industry is exempt from the assumption that here in the U.S., we do it better. And tech, unsurprisingly, is no exception to that rule. It makes sense, of course. The largest tech and Internet companies in the world are headquartered in Silicon Valley, and some of the most recognizable names and faces in the industry (Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Tim Cook, the late Steve Jobs) are all Americans, proudly leading Americans organizations with global implications. But just how confident are Americans in our ability to maintain our status as leaders of the pack when it comes to tech and innovation? A new survey from Modis gives us some insight into how Americans really feel about the booming industry.

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In a survey of 1,010 individuals in the United States over the age of 18, Modis found that 60.9 percent of respondents agree with the statement, “The U.S. is a global leader in the technology industry today.” But in spite of this rosy outlook, many Americans seem concerned about the lack of quality education in preparing the next generation (and a more diverse one, at that) to take the reins. Respondents also seemed concerned by “a lack of government support of tech growth,” as well as “a lack of financial investment in tech innovation.”

“It’s clear that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education — and in particular, technology — needs [greater focus], especially in secondary education,” Jack Cullen, president of Modis, told me via email. “Other countries around the world are investing in curriculums and trainings and [America] should be doing the same. Additionally, private, public and educational partnerships could add a lot of value to the quality of education.”

With 94 percent of respondents noting that “technology education in the U.S. is important to maintaining the country’s status as a global leader in the industry,” it is clear that initiatives like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s to implement coding as a requirement for graduation has significant support from a wide range of constituents.

Part of the impetus for this increase in tech education, perhaps, lies in the widespread belief that tech and technical skill sets will become increasingly important over the next few years. In fact, 85 percent of study participants believed that “the demand for tech professionals in the U.S. will grow over the next five years,” and a majority of respondents saw the tech industry moving out of Silicon Valley and across the entirety of the country.

“Technology is everywhere,” said Cullen. “Think about how many times a day we look at our phones or access the Internet to search for information. This will only continue.”

Health care, Americans believe, will be particularly impacted by the growth of tech, though a wide range of industries will doubtless be feel the effects of innovation and digitization. “As the Internet of Things becomes more prevalent, we’ll start to see technology play an even larger role,” Cullen noted. This includes “the merging of technology and engineering, the merging of technology and manufacturing, and so on.”

Still, experts agree, Americans shouldn’t get too comfortable with its perceived tech dominance. “For many years, the United States was the leading force in technology and we became comfortable with that position,” said Cullen. “During that period, other countries began to highly invest in building these skills amongst their emerging workforces. While other elements certainly contribute to the United States’ position of one of the top global leaders, it’s important that we continue to build infrastructure and skills that will allow the next generation to excel on the world stage.”

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