RALEIGH, N.C. – Technology is pervasive. All of us as individuals use technology; and every business, organization, and institution is either tech or tech-enabled.

Yet many of us have a love-hate relationship with technology. On the one hand, we regularly hear of data breaches and other privacy/security concerns.  Naturally, this makes us anxious.

On the other hand, technology improves the way we live, work, and play.  Healthcare is improved, the customer experience is more customized, and our tasks are made quicker and more effective.

In some cases, the impact is intensely personal.  My son has an undiagnosed health challenge that the best and brightest minds in American medicine cannot figure out.  Technology is being used to treat his condition, explore potential causes, and literally extend his life.

Technology is also my business.  As CEO of the North Carolina Technology Association, my primary goal is to advance the tech industry in our state.

With technology affecting all of us, the question arises:  what is the public’s perception of the tech industry?

North Carolinians say …

We decided to ask our fellow citizens.  In November, a scientific poll was conducted of North Carolinians in which they were asked about their impression of the tech industry.  The results were encouraging, with a few intriguing twists.

Overall, two-thirds of North Carolinians have a positive impression.  Very few have a negative impression, and about 20 percent had neither positive nor negative view (interestingly, that percentage of “no opinion” was fairly consistent across age, race, region, political affiliation, etc.).

Given that the overall impression of the tech industry was pretty good, what was the demographic breakdown of views?

Triangle loves tech

Not surprisingly, the Triangle was the region with the highest positive impression of the tech industry, followed by Charlotte region, the Triad, Western NC, and then Eastern NC.  This squares with the notion that the more urban, the more positive a citizen might be about tech.

Men were more positive than women, and whites were more positive than blacks (by a significant margin).  Perhaps this is a reflection of the oft-mentioned digital divide?

Political affiliation showed that Democrats were the most positive about the tech industry, followed by Independents, and then Republicans.

And among age groups, the positive impression of the tech industry was highest among the youngest age group, and lowest among seniors.

The bottom line

So what does this tell us?  We know from other polling that there is a growing distrust of institutions in our society. The results of this tech industry poll tracks that trend, in that the same demographic groups show the greatest skepticism.

The tech industry is one of North Carolina’s key economic drivers, and that impact will only increase over time.  Our opportunity, and challenge, is to support technology innovation while being vigilant in ensuring security and privacy.  Looking ahead, ethics will play a more pronounced role in how technology is developed, used, and regulated.

To see how North Carolina’s tech sector compares to other states, visit www.NCSTIR.com for key findings from the 2017 “North Carolina State of Technology Industry Report” published by NCTA. (A new report will be published in February.)

[Editor’s note: NCTA will not release full results of the poll, citing it as “private.” WRAL TechWire did request poll details.]

Brooks Raiford is CEO of the North Carolina Technology Association, representing nearly 700 member companies, organizations, and institutions that collectively employ over 200,000 North Carolinians (www.nctechnology.org).