Thematic Sentiment Analysis, Q4 2021 – Thematic Research

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AI was perceived as the most disruptive technology in Q4 2021, with 69% of respondents stating that it would cause either slight or significant disruption to their industry. After dipping mid-year, AI ended 2021 the same way it had started the year; leading our disruption metric. In Q4 2021, cybersecurity and cloud computing retained their spots as the technologies most respondents claimed were already disrupting their businesses. These two technologies have held these positions since our polls began in Q4 2020. COVID-19 made the importance of cybersecurity and cloud computing more evident to companies and increased demand. That trend continued throughout 2021.

What are the most disruptive technologies in Q4 2021?

Artificial intelligence (AI) closed 2021 as the technology perceived to be the most disruptive for businesses. AI was not the technology where the increase in positive sentiment was the highest, but it was the technology that most thought would disrupt their industries. After dipping in Q3 2021, perceptions of augmented reality (AR) recovered in the final three months of 2021. Alongside virtual reality (VR), AR is central to the metaverse, one of the themes that will dominate 2022. In Q4 2021, as the metaverse dominated technology conversations, sentiment towards AR also improved.

Despite the hype surrounding non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the emergence of numerous crypto wallets, blockchain, a key technology supporting those developments, did not enjoy the same boost in positive sentiment as AR. Blockchain is perceived as the least disruptive of the seven technologies that GlobalData polls quarterly. Almost a third of respondents said that blockchain would never disrupt their industries, and it is ahead of only the Internet of Things (IoT) in terms of positive sentiment change. Stability is the main trend in perceptions of the other technologies polled. Cybersecurity and cloud computing have become utilities for most businesses. 5G and IoT are important technologies with clear use cases, and perceptions of their impact have remained stable throughout 2021.

Businesses widely use cloud computing and cybersecurity, and perceptions of their disruptiveness are stable. Both are essential to business operations, and their profile has not changed substantially in the last year. Perceptions of 5G and IoT’s disruptiveness have remained stable in the last year. 5G, in particular, has encountered technical obstacles in some markets, including the US. However, despite those challenges, it is steadily becoming more available.

Technologies, by the level of disruption in Q4, 2021

Technologies, by the level of disruption in Q4, 2021

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How have companies changed their behavior in the last 12 months to achieve ESG goals?

GlobalData believes that ESG will be the most critical theme impacting businesses over the next decade. This includes tackling climate change, improving governance, and making companies more socially sustainable. In Q3 2021, we broadened our focus to tackle the three pillars of ESG: environmental, social, and governance. We repeated these questions in Q4 to observe any changes in sentiment. More companies have changed their behavior to achieve ESG goals than not. It is striking that 29% did not know if their company had acted on ESG, suggesting ineffective communication or a lack of transparency around ESG strategies. It could also indicate that the actual number of companies not acting is higher than the 22% recorded. However, the percentage of those surveyed unaware of company policy on ESG is declining, albeit slowly (29% in Q4 compared to 30% in Q3).

Market report scope

Poll Duration The sentiment polls ran between October and December 2021
Poll Participants In Q4 2021, 2,225 respondents participated in the polls
Key technologies AI, Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, Internet of Things, 5G, AR, and Blockchain


  • GlobalData ran six polls on its Verdict network of B2B websites, which had 57 million unique visitors between December 2020 and December 2021
  • The survey focused on seven emerging technologies: 5G, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, blockchain, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and the Internet of Things.
  • It also looked at attitudes towards ESG, the most important theme impacting businesses over the next decade.

Reasons to Buy

  • This survey gives a unique insight into the views of the business community on emerging technology and ESG.
  • The responses reveal which technologies executives view as most disruptive, which they believe to be over-hyped, and how their opinion of them has changed over time.
  • They also provide insight into attitudes towards ESG, including whether companies have changed their behavior to meet ESG targets.

Table of Contents

About our thematic sentiment analysis

Executive summary

Level of disruption

Disruption timelines

Hype vs. substance

Sentiment change

ESG goals

Commitment to ESG

Sentiment polling methodology

Our thematic research methodology

About GlobalData

Frequently asked questions

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