By Professor Martin P Fritze from the University of Cologne.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? I bet it’s not brushing your teeth, drinking coffee, or even saying ‘Good Morning’ to the other person in bed, but rather picking up your phone and replying to messages, downloading the latest news, and ordering something online using various digital services; but why is this?
In an ever more digitalized society, we now see digital services on our phones as an extension of our personalities, and we rapidly connect to and are reluctant to give them up once we have obtained them.
Over the years, studies have highlighted how important the ownership of material products is for individuals, however more recently, there has been a call for understanding consumerism for digital markets, and why we are now so reliant on the apps on our phones.
Consumer research has exposed extensive evidence proving that people view their material possessions as part of themselves, and that the things we own help us to express who we are or aspire to be. However, in the digital age, our possessions clearly extend beyond the physical, and it has become apparent that we can now also become instantaneously attached to our digital services, using our apps to express, reinforce or reach a desired identity.
We retain functional apps on our phones such as banking apps, due to their practical purposes, keeping them ‘just in case’. This is because, as humans, we have a conditioned tendency to keep hold of our possessions once we own them. We place a higher value on a good that we own, or feel we own, than on an identical good that we don’t.
So, if we believe the app on our phone will fulfill the purpose of solving a task, and we acknowledge the possibility of being able to use the object in the future, we will hold on to it and will be reluctant to give it up once we have downloaded it.
However, beyond practicality, we also become attached to the apps on our phones not only due to their potentially useful functions, but also because they tie into our self-image, meaning we also use our apps to fulfill our emotional needs and desires.
We use apps to help us reach our personal goals, like becoming healthier, finding a relationship or to save more money, and when we attach some meaning to our apps, which exceeds purely functional dimensions, it allows us to express ourselves in ways we may not in everyday life. This means that we hold significant sentimental value towards them, viewing the digital services on our phones as an extension of our personalities, and as an access route to wider communities we may develop strong affiliations with.
With this in mind, given how important digital services such as Instagram, Tinder, and WeChat have become to people’s lives and how much time and emotional energy individuals spend using such services on a daily basis, it would be naïve to think that relying so heavily on our apps couldn’t lead to serious mental and physical health issues, due to their pervasive and addictive nature.
This along with the fact that downloading a new app, trying out a streaming service, or registering on a social media platform takes very little time to do, adds to the increasing inevitability and our likelihood that we will become psychologically dependent on our phones and tablets.
In an ever more digitalized society, we should constantly be aware of this. Of course, there are a vast amount of positive aspects that digital services bring to our lives; they help us to connect with our loved ones, meet new people, express ourselves in ways we feel most comfortable, as well as simply making life more entertaining.
However, we know that relying on apps on our phones can lead to mental and physical health issues, and the full extent of the effects that consumer behavior has on individual well-being in the digital age is not yet fully understood.
Further research on human attachment to digital services is rich in potential, and we have to gain a better understanding of people’s reliance on apps, especially when you consider the ongoing progress in artificial intelligence and the continuous rapid development of technology. For now, though, we should not be overemphasizing the importance that apps have on our self-worth and happiness, and we should aim for balance and moderation when incorporating digital services into our lives.
Sunak to use budget to expand apprenticeships in England
LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will announce more funding for apprenticeships in England when he unveils his budget next week, the government said on Friday.
Employers taking part in the Apprenticeship Initiative Scheme will from April 1 receive 3,000 pounds ($4,179) for each apprentice hired, regardless of age – an increase on current grants of between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds depending on age.
The scheme will extended by six months until the end of September, the finance ministry said.
Sunak will also announce an extra 126 million pounds for traineeships for up to 43,000 placements.
Sunak’s March 3 budget will likely include a new round of spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, but he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances.
Sunak is also expected to announce a “flexi-job” apprenticeship scheme, whereby apprentices can join an agency and work for multiple employers in one sector, the finance ministry said.
“We know there’s more to do and it’s vital this continues throughout the next stage of our recovery, which is why I’m boosting support for these programmes, helping jobseekers and employers alike,” Sunak said in a statement.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)
UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook’s one-week media blackout in Australia.
Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.
“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.
“We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”
Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets did not currently function properly.
He spoke after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister.
“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.
Facebook said in a statement that the call had been constructive, and that it had already struck commercial deals with most major publishers in Britain.
“Nick strongly agreed with the Secretary of Stateâ€™s (Dowden’s) assertion that the governmentâ€™s general preference is for companies to enter freely into proper commercial relationships with each other,” a Facebook spokesman said.
Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June.
It is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action toward “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.
The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but Australia has also been invited.
Britain is working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data, and introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)
Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit
By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it would offer a fast-track visa scheme for jobs at high-growth companies after a government-backed review warned that financial technology firms will struggle with Brexit and tougher competition for global talent.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that now Britain has left the European Union, it wants to make sure its immigration system helps businesses attract the best hires.
“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.
Over 40% of fintech staff in Britain come from overseas, and the new visa scheme, open to migrants with job offers at high-growth firms that are scaling up, will start in March 2022.
Brexit cut fintechs’ access to the EU single market and made it far harder to employ staff from the bloc, leaving Britain less attractive for the industry.
The review published on Friday and headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, set out a “strategy and delivery model” that also includes a new 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) start-up fund.
“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.
Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.
The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance, all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.
It also recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.
“We recognise the need to make the UK attractive a more attractive location for IPOs,” said Britain’s financial services minister John Glen, adding that a separate review on listings rules would be published shortly.
“Those findings, along with Ron’s report today, should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform.”
Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.
“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.
A UK fintech wanting to serve EU clients would have to open a hub in the bloc, an expensive undertaking for a start-up.
“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” Swinburne said.
The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).
“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.
($1 = 0.7064 pounds)
(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jane Merriman and John Stonestreet)
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