The concept of digital natives and digital immigrants is a controversial one. Is age a good enough predictor of digital proficiency? Or do other variables play just as important a role? This is part two of a series of three entries that look into what factors affect our digital development. Read part one here.
From multinational corporations, to charities, organisations have increasingly transnational stakeholder relationships. This fact is particularly important for organisations who are communicating with large and diverse publics abroad. The Digital Development of populations in different countries will be very different to that of the UK.
Most obviously, internet usage is varies globally. For example in India, while over 100 000 000 use the internet, penetration levels stand at around 11% of the population. A PR strategy that assumes everyone born after ‘the’ digital revolution will be able to take on board messages delivered digitally will fail. Indeed, a much more diverse range of tactics may need to be used. The key lesson here is gaining local knowledge. A first step towards this is leaving behind preconceived concepts that may be partially applicable to western societies.
Another key issue in terms of global reach is censorship. Many emerging markets are in countries that have different, and sometimes stricter, censorship laws to the UK. For example twitter has been blocked in China since 2009. The blocking of various social media platforms could well influence the digital development of people, though this is hard to measure. Could these people be less likely to understand social media platforms and therefore be less likely to engage with social media campaigns?
Could these people be more likely to understand social media platforms as they have to spend more time circumventing government filters? Young internet users in Iran, for example, have developed a reputation for being ‘tech savvy’ after years of developing ways to beat censorship. Indeed Persian is the second most used language in the blogosphere, despite not being in the top 20 most spoken languages of the world. Would it be better for organisations in the UK to see young migrant workers from such countries as having more honed skills? Digital warriors as well as digital natives perhaps.
These issues throw up many questions. The fact that so many questions are generated suggests that using generalised predictors of digital savviness, e.g. age, nationality or class is far from fool proof. Rather, each individual’s digital development is shaped and influenced by a multitude of factors. And different countries require informed approaches relevant to their own pattern of digital development.