The Rise of Digital Immigrants: Beyond A Pandemic
By Fabiola Amedo
“We are not in normal times.” You are probably tired of hearing this phrase as much as I am.
Before the COVID-19 narrative and the endless clichés surrounding the use of phrases such as “new normal”, “social/physical distancing”, “quarantine”, etc., numerous pre-millennials - Generation X, Baby Boomers and earlier - may have never bothered to ask about Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts or Whatsapp video calls. A few people who match this description may have just crossed your mind.
In Ghana, just three weeks of a partial lockdown of Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Kumasi, brought us to the realization that the need for connectivity was very much inherent in the older generation as much as it was in their younger counterparts. The first quarter of 2020 saw Telecommunications companies such as MTN, record a 19.4% increase in data revenue due to the significant spike in active data users and smartphone adopters, according to their Quarter 1 results, released on April 29, 2020. As at October 29 2020, the company reported a 20.7% growth in data revenue ascribed to similar reasons. Others such as Vodafone Ghana, launched a virtual assistant, TOBi to provide 24-hour customer service to enhance customer engagement during this period of COVID-19 and beyond.
Emerging from the devastation caused by a pandemic, is a growing community who are claiming their fair share of the ‘Digital Pie.’
Digital Immigrants are widely described as the older generation (aged 41 to 65 years) who were born before the proliferation of digital technologies and the internet. Though generally associated with an older age group, the term could also refer to millennials and Generation Zs who may not have been exposed to digital technologies due to their socio-economic disposition; or those who are now learning how to use them.
Digital Immigrants can be categorized into 3 sub-groups namely, Avoiders - who generally stick to traditional media and refuse to adapt to new technology; Reluctant Adopters - who are aware of the technology but adapt slowly; and finally, Eager Adopters - who are enthusiastic about new technology and the opportunities thereof. Juxtaposed to the Digital Immigrants, are the Digital Natives, whom Prensky, a renowned thought leader and writer ahead of his time, describes as the younger generation, who are the “native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet.”
The intersection of Natives and Immigrants increases the Inclusive Internet Index and creates a multiverse of opportunity for all stakeholders.