Which digitalization topics affect society? Results of an online survey

We use a structured process to sound out topics for CAIS research programs and projects, one of the final components here being a broad-based online survey.

Which topics should definitely be studied in an increasingly digitalized society? We determined the answers to this question in several studies (real-time Delphi study, expert discussions) with scholars from digitalization research. Also important is the analysis of key texts (automated text analysis), which complements the numerous topics and guiding questions.

The results of the three components of identifying topics mentioned were then condensed and compiled into a pool of more than 80 different research topics. An online survey assessed these topics in terms of their importance, the responses indicating which topics are important across society as a whole.

Approximately 600 people assessed the importance of digitalization topics

The survey’s diverse sample of 595 people provides a good illustration of how the importance of digitalization topics is assessed. The participants in the survey included experts in digitalization research, practitioners with different experiences, and members of the public. Besides the economic and academic context, we also took into account the everyday aspects of digitalization in society as a whole.

All participants indicated which of these topics they considered to be particularly important for research.


average age: 46.17 years
gender: m= 334, f= 260, d= 3

The importance of topics varies in the groups

There is a high level of agreement on the importance of the topics, but also minor differences. Experts in digitalization research tend to prioritize abstract topics (e.g. transparency of algorithms), while members of the general public tend to prioritize everyday topics (e.g. education and digitalization, IT security). While those surveyed from the real world choose similar topics to the experts in digitalization research, their selection shows a clear link to their work context: education and digitalization. A large proportion of the practitioners in the sample stated that they work in the field of education.

There is agreement with regard to the topics that are not perceived as relevant (e.g. “digital twin”, “history and development of ‘artificial intelligence’ systems”).

Four focal points and seven topic sprints

From the survey emerge four focal points that have great importance across the groups surveyed:

  1. Ethical issues of machine learning (AI, algorithms, etc.)
  2. Sustainability & environmental protection in conjunction with digital technologies
  3. Security and data protection
  4. Education and digitalization

These four focal points reflect, among other things, central topics of previous studies (Figure 2). These and any overlaps are then discussed and fleshed out with different stakeholders in topic sprints, which are condensed, co-creative workshop formats for interdisciplinary work. In this way, the different stages of the process always give the broad research questions a sufficient depth of detail.

Abbildung 2. Schnittmengen der Survey-Ergebnisse mit den vorangegangenen Studien.

This overarching structure of continuous alternation between gathering and condensing insights is based on the Double Diamond method and recurs throughout the process of identifying topics (Figure 3).