Digital Natives

An interesting term that I encountered for the first time “Digital Natives”. It was used in the Services 2020 Workshop 1 Report and was put in context of the up and coming generation of young adults that have grown up never knowing a world without the internet. As someone that is currently working in digital media, I think it would be foolish not to keep one eye on this, yet untapped, segment of society. The gap between my own generation and that of my parents and the younger citizens of the digital world will probably be the same – a scary idea.

As much as I love all things digital, my own expectations are quite forgiving compared to the Digital Native.

How would I put myself in the shoes of the Digital Native?

  1. Have no fear of the net – for better or worse, I think that the digital native values their digital privacy differently. What is valuable to keep to oneself versus what is worthy of putting “out there” is something that each generation will redefine for themselves, it may not be the choices of my generation but I have to be able to at least put my bias aside temporarily.
  2. Expect my choices to mean something. I think the days of web-based products and services that dictate every aspect of the user experience are dying out. Early examples of customisation were as simple as letting the user choose from a list of styles. The Digital Native demands much more than this now. Drag and drop to completely change the interface such as iGoogle is the norm.
  3. Expect the basics to be free with some sort of up sell.
  4. Expect Service A to interact with Service B.
  5. Allow sharing with other users and the ability to submit your own content. Remember that the digital native will use the net for everything – they want space on your site to put their stuff. Their motive for using your site is to further cement their digital presence.

Some people have probably started frothing at the mouth about point five. Some people might say that the digital native can’t really expect to see the net as a massive collaborative network for sharing between like minds. The digital forefathers created the internet for exactly this purpose, it has since been hijacked. To that I ask “why not?” – paying bills online is just another transaction between the digital native and a website – after all, they researched the provider, signed up and interact with the company this way from the beginning. The utility company of the future is going to be run from a website. The successful company will be the one that can effectively monopolise (and then monetise) the digital natives browsing habits. For all we know the utility company of the future won’t need a full web-presence at all, it will just need a few very complete and easy to use facebook+1 (eg. the next social networking “big thing”) plugins. Imagine in the very near future, having your water company “friend” you!