‘Digital Natives’ is a term coined to identify the individuals who have been born after 1980 and brought up in a technological world. The ubiquitous digital connectivity and the associated technological dependence of this group of individuals can be ascertained from the fact that for them thinking of a second without the technological gadgets is impossible. They can perhaps survive without food, air or water but living without tablets, laptops, mobile phones is beyond their imagination. They relate relationships with social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, then instant communication and sharing of the digital media content on Whatsapp, Viber etc. These individuals are going to change the work culture in organizations drastically in the near future. The present generation of managers are majorly the ‘digital immigrants’ who did not have exposure to digital world when they were born and whatever they digital learning they inculcated about the personal and professional use of the digital devices was acquired during their adult life. The article by Myers & Sundaram (2012) argues that if this digital savvy generation considers the existing organizational policies as an impediment in implementing their plans and accomplishing their tasks making the use of the digital bridge then the organizations will need to control their ambitious dreams riding digital wings. In fact, certain organizations have restricted the use of digital devices in their work premises to tame this group (Myers & Sundaram, 2012). The present paper cites the differences between the cohorts of digital immigrants and digital natives and explores the way the present systems can deal with this cohort.
Differences between ‘Digital Natives’ and ‘Digital Immigrants’
According to the survey conducted under Project Tomorrow (www.tomorrow.org) it has been found that the use of digital devices, their relation with the routine life practices and the associated dependencies for daily tasks together make this cohort widely different from their digital immigrant counterparts. The prompt and deep accessibility furnished by the technological advances has made this generation highly pragmatic, having preference for things yielding instant gratification and exhibit high degree of digital literacy. They have large network of social connections and belief in experiential learning. The information systems for them are a mean to affirm their identities as they feel happy, sad, alone, excited and so on with the ‘status updates’ they make on the social networking sites; counting the number of ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ on their updates is a method to adjudge their importance in the lives of their acquaintances as well as their relationship value. It is no wonder that they are highly comfortable in exchanging their personal information on public forums, a trait which is significantly different from the digital immigrants who even after years of use of information systems have apprehensions in sharing their personal data and are opinionated on what to share and what not on public forums.
For online communication, the digital natives prefer instant messaging rather than emails; for mobile or telephonic communication the digital natives like text messaging than direct calling. Though it has been observed that the immigrants and natives both use blogs but the reasons for which it is used differ across the two groups. Digital natives use personal blogs as online journals for sharing their personal experiences while the use of blogs made by immigrants is to raise intellectual discussions (Myers & Sundaram, 2012). The technological expertise reflected by these groups has been demarcated by the IS scholars by refer to the immigrants as ‘passive users of IT’ while natives are considered capable enough to create the technical content of their own being active users of IT.
An evaluation of the reading habits of these cohorts reveals that their reliance on digital information to find answers to their queries is extremely high. Google & Wikipedia have become close substitutes to teachers and text books. The way this cohort interacts with digital information is also distinct. The digital information can be approached in a non-sequential manner hopping between the relevant content skipping the unnecessary in between. The online presentation allowing the insertion of multimedia within text makes the content more interesting to cater to the specific needs of the target group (Houston, 2011). The digital literature has also covered a long journey adapting to the changing times encompassing features like open access via World Wide Web making it accessible, interactive as well as connective, incorporation of new design features for use as well as search & navigation and introducing the digital collections with expanded scope.
Though the above discussion highlights the distinction between the two groups but it is ought to be remembered that the switch between these two cohorts is occurring in continual transition and hence it is difficult to segregate individuals in either of the two pure categories. The scrutiny of the emotional responses of the digital natives towards the use of web and what feelings they have regarding web reveal that there is a positive rhetoric about the medium (Page & Mapstone, 2010). The findings of the study indicate that the consumer responses towards the web are influenced by the structure and content as well as the age of the digital natives as the younger they are the more positive they feel about web.
The role of ubiquitous information systems (UIS) needs to adapt itself to cater to the needs of the digital natives by incorporating features that offer attractive, intitutive, personalized and socially interactive (Vodanovich et al., 2010). For example, books must be available in online digitals formats to ensure that the future generations continue to enjoy the literary classics and genres. The digital information must be available for open access to people of all age groups, educational, income, cultural and ethnic background, beyond the physical barriers of region at no cost. The design features need to be more attractive, use an amalgam of media types to present the high quality of information in a way that appeals to digital natives (Houston, 2011). Libraries can incorporate digital collections to exhibit them in interesting ways.
The invasion by ‘digital natives’ is going to revolutionize the way the technology is being perceived and used. Hence the organizational landscapes and the existing information systems need to adapt them as per the changing needs of the users. The information systems are required to become more attractive as well as interactive for personalized and social usage, cheaper and easily accessible.