Frontline services workers feel ‘digitally poor’, new survey finds

Growing gap between workers and organisations as digitalisation of workplace continues

Almost two thirds of workers in Ireland’s frontline services organisations are feeling “digitally poor”, despite an increase in digitalisation in their working lives, a new study has found.

The study, carried out by Eir Evo and supported by Microsoft, looked at digital maturity and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) within organisations across health, education, local and national government, retail, and hospitality.

It revealed that 65 per cent of respondents viewed their organisation as “highly digitalised”, while 62 per cent said they felt “digitally poor”.

More than a third said they had experienced barriers in their jobs such as limited connectivity and a lack of real-time digital collaboration tools. More than 30 per cent said they were still relying on manual and time-consuming processes for tasks such as data entry and reporting.


This is despite the fact that 86 per cent of frontline workers use mobile devices for work, with more than half having access to cloud-based collaboration tools such as Microsoft 365.

The Covid-19 pandemic pushed many businesses and organisations into a more digital workplace, as restrictions on movement to control the spread of the virus shut down many offices and forced staff to work from home at short notice. That led to companies adopting digital tools to keep running.

But it has also created new challenges for companies, including with cybersecurity. Nearly two-thirds of workers said they were compliant with their data security protocols, but 39 per cent said they had experienced a breach or other data security incident in their organisation.

Almost 40 per cent of respondents said they were worried about causing a security incident, while 38 per cent are frustrated by learning to use a new process or system.

The emergence of generative AI is also becoming a challenge for companies, with 27 per cent of workers saying they were using open-source AI tools like Chat GPT. This was despite a lack of official backing for the tools, highlighting the need for some sort of guidance for staff.

“Our research highlights a disparity in digital adoption among frontline workers across Ireland. While they have better access to technologies and are confident about their digital capabilities, there is a gap between organisational digital goals and the actual digital experiences of frontline workers,” said Martin Wells, managing director of Eir Evo.

“What is crucial now is to focus on enabling frontline workers to better connect with each other and their customers through real-time collaboration and to realise the value and potential of increased digitalisation through greater inclusion and literacy.”

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist