This study deals with the impact digitization and networking have on our lives. But what does “our lives” mean? International research on quality of life and satisfaction with life shows that – despite vastly differing life plans and circumstances – people’s life worlds can ultimately be divided neatly into seven areas of life. Life consists of interaction with family and friends, leisure and well-being, work and study, material and financial matters, health, society and community life, and the topic of security with all its facets.4 The results of the study show that digitization and networking are already a daily feature in many of these areas. At the same time, the results indicate that these trends will extend further still in the years ahead.
The extent of networking in our lives today
Cell phones are being used increasingly as surfing platforms. New cars are equipped with web access. Thanks to sensors in their running shoes, athletes can transmit their running speed, distance or calorie consumption directly to an online platform and thus analyze their training results. Or they can challenge friends to contests and find running partners in their neighborhood. Yet some trend researchers speak of the new-found appeal of being non-contactable. Just how networked are our lives right now?
In the study consumers were asked what role digitization and networking currently play for them personally in the various areas of their lives. It was shown that digitization and networking are already an everyday phenomenon for consumers in many areas of their lives (see Figure 19).
In Germany consumers are particularly networked in the area of family and friends. For 57 percent of Internet users in Germany, digitization and networking are indispensable or of very high importance for staying in touch with friends and family – be it through e-mail or sharing photos on the Internet. In the digital avant-garde reference group, the figure is even as high as 88 percent. Digitization and networking are also an everyday feature in material and financial matters, as well as in work and study: 48 percent of Internet users in Germany cannot imagine life without online shopping, online auctions and online banking, while in the digital avant-garde reference group, this figure is almost twice as high (81 percent). Just over 79 percent of the digital avant-garde are expanding on working from home, on working in decentralized networked teams, or on e-learning (figure for all Germans surveyed: 44 percent). At 79 percent, networking in the sphere of leisure and well-being is almost as important to the digital avant-garde. Digitization and networking are also of great importance to German Internet users with regard to security. This means not only personal safety (e.g. being able to call for help on a cell phone) but also the security of personal property or data (e.g. in the form of secure online payment transactions).
How do the results for Germany compare internationally? A look at the other countries surveyed shows that digitization and networking play a more important role in those countries than in Germany in some areas. In France, for example, 69 percent of Internet users regard digitization and networking as indispensable or very important for staying in touch with friends and family compared with 66 percent in the USA (see Figure 20). And whereas in Germany today 40 percent of the consumers surveyed regard digitization and networking as very important in terms of leisure and well-being, in South Korea this figure is as high as 58 percent. The cross-country comparison and the high agreement rates in the digital avant-garde reference group suggest that digitization and networking will gain further in importance for Germany in the future.
The extent of networking in our lives tomorrow
Digitization and networking already form a part of many – if not all – areas of our lives. But what does the future hold? Experts and consumers agree that the degree of digitization and networking will increase further in all areas of life. The experts assume an even greater increase overall than consumers do. Both agree, however, that the biggest increases are to be expected in the areas of leisure and well-being, family and friends, work and study, and material and financial matters – and the smallest for heath and fitness (see Figures 21 and 22).
For example, 93 percent of the experts and 59 percent of Internet users in Germany assume that people’s LEISURE ACTIVITIES will be influenced even more strongly by digitization and networking in future. It will become an increasingly common aspect of leisure activities to listening to music or the radio over the Internet, access videos at any time or fill in waiting times playing games on mobile handsets. Internet users in South Korea are even more convinced of this trend than German consumers, with 73 percent anticipating greater networking in the leisure and well-being category.
In terms of FAMILY AND FRIENDS, 90 percent of the experts expect further growth in networking. From the perspective of the German Internet population, digitization will increase most in this area of life – with 65 percent of Internet users anticipating further growth. It will therefore be even more natural in future to keep in touch with people through the Internet, to share photos online with friends and family, or to exchange views on specific topics with like-minded people on the Internet. And this applies by no means only to Germany: as many as 74 percent of Internet users in France and 73 percent of Internet users in South Korea expect increased networking with family and friends.
In WORK AND STUDY, too – the classical area of networking – 79 percent of the experts and 64 percent of German consumers predict an increase in the level of digitization and networking. They are convinced that in future far more than today people will be able to work at any time and anywhere and that learning will become a daily activity with the help of digital media and mobile access to online databases and encyclopaedias.
The survey of the current state of networking in the different areas of life has shown that online shopping, online auctions and online banking are already very popular. Nevertheless, experts and consumers agree that the level of digitization and networking will increase further in MATERIAL AND FINANCIAL MATTERS: 79 percent of the experts and 62 percent of the German Internet population believe that digitization and networking will increase in importance in the area of material and financial matters.
It is also interesting in terms of future prospects to take a closer look at the different consumer groups in Germany. The digital avant-garde, for example, despite already leading a very networked life, assume that digitization and networking will increase further in all areas of life. This also applies to the otherwise comparatively conservative assessment of the area of health and fitness.
4 The classification scheme using seven areas of life is taken from the work of Australian quality of life researcher, Robert A. Cummins. These areas were identified as part of a comprehensive meta study, and take 137 individual aspects into consideration.