Walk through the center of any given city in North America, and you might assume that the so-called digital divide (the generational difference in technology use) is huge. The young folks seems glued to their smartphones, while older Americans appear not so much.
Yet you’d be mistaken if you assume that “digital natives” in this country (generally defined as someone who has used the Internet for at least five years) go online more than their older counterparts. And this holds true across most of the developed world, according to a new study out of Georgia Tech.
“The supposed distinction between always-on members of the millennial generation and their older counterparts is actually much less pronounced in industrial nations than elsewhere in the world,” writes Eric Pfanner in The New York Times’ tech blog.
Interestingly, the study points out that the digital divide in greatest in developing areas, with young people in these countries being three times more likely to use the Internet than the general population, Pfanner points out.
Demographics, public investment in network infrastructure and educational priorities all play a role in young adults’ interest in digital devices, according to Michael Best, a professor from Georgia Tech involved in the study.
“Everyone’s fascination with digital nativism in the U.S. or, say, Scandinavia is fine, but the places where this phenomenon probably has the most impact are low-income countries in Africa or Asia,” Dr. Best said. “The places where it is most salient are those where the least amount of attention has been paid to it.”
Publishers and advertisers would do well to take note and recalibrate their assumptions about our readers, both old and young.