Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants

I attended a talk today at the ongoing CTO2008, a yearly technology forum organised by the United States Commercial Services.

First off, Shina Badaru editor of Technology Times presented the top 100 websites visited by Nigerians. Topping the list was Yahoo (perhaps no surprise there), closely followed by Google.com.ng, Google and Facebook. The highest ranking Nigerian-owned website was Nairaland, which came in at number 13, showing perhaps how much Nigerian love to talk.

Then, Ayo Atobatele, founder of Nigeria.Com, spoke about how the Internet is influencing how we do business in a presentation entitled Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants. Hmmm, interesting ideas on how the Internet has changed so much about how we get information, communicate, do business, etc and how most people are either drigital natives or immigrants. Digital natives are born into the technology of now and grew up integrating it into all facets of their lives. Digital immigrants are forced to learn how to use these tools later in life as a result of professional needs or personal interest. Most of us (I should say, most of us in the late 20s and over) are digital immigrants, while anyone younger could be a digital native.

There must be a 3rd group not identified in his presentation at all; the group of people for whom these Internet-based technologies have no impact at all, the digital aliens?

Anyway, he goes on to say that most tools we use now were developed by digital natives; usually to meet a personal need or just for fun. However, the profit-making or impact-generating angle was spotted and developed by digital immigrants, who tend to have more business experience.

The bottom-line is:
- If you want to reach out to this younger, tech-savvy group, you need to be sending out your message through channels where it will get to them e.g. blogs, social networks, discussion groups, SMS, etc.
- Don't forget about the digital immigrants while you're at it
- This also means providing services that both groups will appreciate. How about online banking that actually is, and not just limited to checking balances, for example?
- You will most likely need the digital natives to develop the tools, but have digital immigrants use them to create competitive advantage and address business needs

To this, particularly the last point, it's important to:
- Create a process that encourages the creativity of digital natives (apparently, most Google products were initially employees' personal project and Google allows employees time to work on these projects). Okay, I laughed at this, sure that NO Nigerian company would do this, until he said that GTB's GENS SMS service is based on an application created by a GT employee.
- Create digital native mentoring programs with digital immigrants as the mentors
- Since most of us listening to his presentation were at best digital immigrants, we would need access to some digital natives to give insight on proposed products, services, and information delivery channels

It was good to see some interesting ideas, as well as some things that we intuitively know pulled together so cohesively. Download the presentation.

The Internet is definitely having a big impact in our lives, however limited access (availability and low bandwidth) continues to curb what we could be achieving with it.


Loomnie said...

Hi Ore,

Thanks for this. I wish I had known about the programme... would have loved to attend.

Ore said...

I'll try to blog about these events before-hand in the future.