A study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the International Telecommunication Union, and published on Oct 7, shows that only 30 percent of people ages 15 to 24 have spent at least five years actively using the Internet, the criterion used to define digital nativism.
As expected, more than 90 percent of young people in high-income countries are considered digital natives, with South Korea leading the way at 99.6 percent. But many low income countries lag far behind with an average of only 6% of youth being digital native.
Interesting for us in developing Asia, is the fact that Malaysia ranks fourth globally, while most other countries rank below (Vietnam, 56 and Thailand, 85) and others well below (Pakistan, 115; Bhutan, 123; Philippines, 124; Indonesia, 132; India, 139; Sri Lanka, 143; Afghanistan, 149). What is Malaysia’s secret? The authors think it is the use of ICT in education. To quote:
“Malaysia, in particular, stands out as a developing country with one of the highest proportions of digital natives. With 13.4 per cent of digital natives in 2012, the country ranks fourth globally, as compared with its much lower rank (59th) on the IDI in Internet Development IndeX. This is a country with a relatively high overall Internet penetration across all age groups in 2012 (66 percent) that was also fairly high in 2007 (42 per cent). With 18 per cent of the population falling into the youth age range, however, Malaysia does not have a particularly large youth “bulge”. Instead, the main explanation for Malaysia’s position near the top of the list is the high estimated proportion of young people who have at least five years of experience in using the Internet, at 74.7% in 2012.
While home Internet access was not particularly high (15 per cent) in 2007, young people may access the Internet in other locations, such as schools. Malaysia has a history of investing not only in education, but also in ICTs in education. A 2002 ITU study on the Internet in Malaysia highlighted the country’s advances in bringing schools online, and back in 2000 as many as 31 per cent of primary and 54 per cent of secondary schools already had PC facilities, while 10 per cent of primary and 34 per cent of secondary schools had Internet access (ITU, 2002). “
This news is food for thought for those who still pursue the ‘telecentre’ model of Internet access strategy as in India, Sri Lanka and other South Asian countries.