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Not All Digital Natives Connected

Measuring the Information Society 2013

The term digital native has been on the rise for several years. According to the International Telecommunication Union report Measuring the Information Society 2013 report the term digital native is used to describe “young people who were born into the digital age and are growing up using information and communication technologies (ICTs) in their daily lives.”

Discussion about digital natives and digital immigrants, “individuals born before the existence of digital technology and adopted it to some extent later in life”, continues and this study was aimed at revealing the number of digital natives who are part of the total population.

Because digital natives are defined as being born into the digital age, it stands to reason that the majority of those born in recent generations such as millennials would be considered digital natives. However, according to the study only about 30% of the world’s youth population (ages 15 – 24) have been active online for at least five years. Overall, there are approximately 363 million digital natives out of a world population of nearly 7 billion (5.2 percent).

The study finds that while high rates of digital natives exist in many rich countries, smaller countries where conflict is common and access to the internet is limited have a significantly lower percentage of digital natives.

The study found that Iceland (13.9%), New Zealand (13.6%), South Korea (13.5%), Malaysia (13.4%), and Lithuania (13.2%) had the highest percentage of digital natives as a percentage of the total population. The United States ranked sixth with 13.1%.

The study suggests that as access to digital technology and the internet are made more available, especially in small and unstable countries, the number of digital natives is likely to climb. With estimates that the digital native population in these countries will double by 2017.

In the field of higher education understanding the needs of students of all ages and designing classes that are appropriate for all backgrounds is important for ensuring the success of all learners. As the number of digital natives continues to grow it is also important to understand that despite access to digital systems, not all youth are focused on digital trends. This study demonstrates that despite the stereotypes or preconceived notions about youth or millennials, not everyone is connected. Individual preferences about access to and use of systems continues into younger generations.

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