Digital natives around the world

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Digital natives around the world

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Much has been written about the so called digital native population.  These youngsters have grown up with computers, and in particular the Internet, and such is their supposedly unique outlook on both life and work that many are advocating that they will forever alter how work is done.

All of which makes a new study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) interesting.  The study attempts to get to the bottom of this group of people, understanding who they are, and how they differ globally.

For instance, South Korea come out tops in terms of the most engaged population digitally, with a whopping 99.6% of its young people digitally active.  That compares to 96% in America.  Several other countries beat the American tally, including Japan (99.5%) and several European countries, including Denmark, Holland and Finland.

The researchers believe that the key to the transformational power of the digital natives is how many of them exist relative to the total population in that country.

“That’s because a country’s future will be defined by today’s young people and by technology,” they say. “Countries with a high proportion of young people who are already online are positioned to define and lead the digital age of tomorrow.”

Wealthy nations tend to top this particular league table, with Iceland top of the tree with 13.9% of the total population in the digital native group. The United States is in 6th place with 13.1%, whilst Britain lags behind in 25th spot.

“Youth are transforming our world through the power of information and communication technologies,” says Hamadoun Touré, ITU secretary-general. Overall, there are approximately 363 million digital natives out of a world population of nearly 7 billion (5.2 percent).

Whilst the general zeitgeist is that digital natives will transform the workplace, not least by heralding the kind of approaches and technologies at the heart of social business, research this summer cast some doubts on this thesis.

Kellogg Business School’s Paul Leonardi looked at how comfortable employees of various generations were in using enterprise social network tools for workplace collaboration and communication.  The results weren’t all that good for the digital natives.

“They would say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be posting things my boss would see.’ … On the other hand, the senior employees didn’t have that same concern. For them, the technology was another mode for communicating about work-related matters.” Leonardi said.

No doubt digital natives will have an impact on the modern workplace, but I think it’s a mistake to assume that they will inevitably herald the dawn of social business.

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