Digital Natives Measured By Country
October 8, 2013

US Ranks Sixth In Percentage Of ‘Digital Natives’

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Roughly 30 percent of the world’s population between the ages of 15 and 24 has been active online for the past five years or longer, according to a new report (PDF) from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The findings show South Korea has the highest percentage of its young people active online – 99.6 percent – while the Asian island of Timor Leste has less than one percent, the lowest of any country.

The study marks the first attempt to measure, by country, the world’s so-called “digital natives,” a term typically used to describe young people born around the time the personal computer was introduced, meaning they have spent their entire lives connected with technology.

Nearly 96 percent of American millennials can be categorized as digital natives, lagging behind Japan (99.5 percent) and several European countries, including Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Georgia Tech Associate Professor Michael Best, who co-led the study, said he believes the number of digital natives, rather than the country’s total population, is most important.

“That’s because a country’s future will be defined by today’s young people and by technology,” said Best, who along with the ITU developed the model that calculated the worldwide figures.

“Countries with a high proportion of young people who are already online are positioned to define and lead the digital age of tomorrow.”

The majority of countries with the highest proportion of digital natives are rich nations, which have high levels of overall Internet penetration. The current study found Iceland at the top of the list with 13.9 percent, followed by New Zealand, Korean Republic, Malaysia, Lithuania and the US, which ranked sixth at 13.1 percent.

The study showed somewhat surprising results for Malaysia, a middle-income country with one of the highest percentages of digital natives (ranked 4th at 13.4 percent), and a strong history of investing in educational technology.

The countries with the smallest estimated proportion of digital natives are Timor-Leste, Myanmar and Sierra Leone. The ten lowest ranked nations consist entirely of African or Asian nations, many of which are suffering from conflict or have very low Internet availability.

However, the report notes Internet usage has increased significantly in the developing world during the past five years, and the ITU believes the digital native population in these regions will more than double by 2017.

Overall, there are approximately 363 million digital natives out of a world population of nearly 7 billion, or 5.2 percent of the world’s total population, the ITU said.

“Youth are transforming our world through the power of information and communication technologies,” said ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Touré.

“The Youth Declaration (PDF) developed at ITU’s BYND2015 Youth Summit in Costa Rica and presented to the UN General Assembly last week by Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla calls for more measurable targets to monitor the digital empowerment of young people at national, regional and international levels. This first attempt to measure the number of digital natives around the world is a valuable first contribution to this effort.”

The model used in the study was developed using data collected by the ITU through surveys conducted around the globe. The study is part of the ITU’s Measuring the Information Society 2013 report, which was released on Monday.

Image 2 (below): Digital natives as a percentage of total population, 2012. Courtesy: ITU