A three-stage study structure was chosen to depict in a differentiated manner the role of information and communications technologies in people’s daily lives today and how they will be used in future (see Figure 1).
The foundations were laid by broadly based SECONDARY RESEARCH which evaluated existing studies on the topic of digitization and networking. In addition, the secondary research served to identify the structure of the lives of consumers and subdivide them into various spheres. These areas of life were then examined during the course of the study in a targeted manner with regard to networking.
Building on the secondary research, the further modules reveal the various prospects of digitization and networking. The DELPHI SURVEY assesses the current role and future potential of information technology, telecommunications and networking in various areas of life from the PERSPECTIVE OF EXPERTS. Within the Delphi survey, renowned experts from Europe and the USA were questioned in two successive surveys. The panel comprised 56 high-profile experts from various fields. Most of them work for companies engaged in IT and network technology, for providers of broadband services or at higher education institutions.
Finally, the broadly based ONLINE SURVEY was devoted to the CONSUMERS’ PERSPECTIVE. It offered consumers from six countries – Germany, Great Britain, France, Hungary, the USA, and South Korea – the chance to assess various trends and developments which were derived from the experts’ survey and secondary research. The countries were selected to ensure that different regions worldwide were taken into account: Germany, France, and the UK represent typical EU markets, Hungary serves as an example of Eastern Europe, South Korea allows an Asian perspective, while the USA allows a look across the Atlantic. All in all, 10,545 consumers were questioned. THE SURVEY WAS ORGANIZED IN SUCH A WAY THAT THE RESULTS ARE REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE INTERNET POPULATION OF THE RESPECTIVE COUNTRY.1
The sample survey was conducted in the form of country-by-country sample surveys (see Figure 2). This makes it possible to work out the differences between the countries examined and to take a closer look at those countries in particular where digitization and networking are more widespread. In addition, the large number of participants in Germany makes it possible to draw detailed conclusions on individual sectors of the population.
A look into the future: the digital avant-garde
The “Digital Living” study offers various options for assessing future developments. Firstly, the study takes a look at countries where digitization and networking are already far advanced. Secondly, it is possible to look into the future by examining more closely those consumers who are already using digital media in a way that most consumers will only do in several years’ time. This approach is consistent with the findings of diffusion research, which says that innovations initially spark the interest of a smaller number of people before they then spread further and are adopted by the majority.
How is it possible to identify those consumers whose behavior in terms of networking is trend-setting? This has been achieved with the help of cluster analysis. Based on different variables such as the role of digital media or the importance of innovative devices, consumers were subdivided into three distinct groups with regard to use of digital media: the digital avant-garde, the digital mainstream and the digital latecomers.2
The DIGITAL AVANT-GARDE with their digital lifestyle are pioneers in terms of networked living and working. For 95 percent of consumers in this group, handling digital media is an everyday matter, with 85 percent of them also frequently using their cell phone, iPod or PDA when on the move.3 In addition, for two of every three members of the digital avant-garde, owning a stylish device (such as an iPhone) is an important factor. The lives of the digital avant-garde are already very networked: consumers were asked in the study what role digitization and networking currently play in seven different areas of their life. On average the German consumers surveyed regarded networking in 2.8 out of 7 areas of life as indispensable or of very high importance, whilst on average, the digital avant-garde would not like to have to live without networking in 5.1 areas of life. The digital avant-garde anticipates a further substantial increase in networking in all areas of life in the future.
In their communications with friends and acquaintances, the digital avant-garde already rely heavily on digital and new media: for 77 percent of them the cell phone is crucial or very important when it comes to communicating and remaining in contact with friends and acquaintances (the average of all German consumers is 49 percent). As many as 56 percent attach great importance to instant messaging (average 20 percent), while almost half consider VoIP important (average 16 percent). 45 percent rely on blogs, contributions to forums or social networks (average 14 percent), and a quarter describe video telephony as crucial or very important (average 7 percent).
The digital avant-garde are very interested in the range of media services on offer. For 58 percent of consumers belonging to this group it is important, for example, to be able to retrieve content at any time, even when mobile. The digital avant-garde are also willing to pay a little extra for good quality communications technologies and media services.
In Germany, currently 19 percent of the Internet population can be considered among the digital avant-garde (see Figure 3). The cross-national survey shows that the other countries examined are somewhat ahead of Germany in this regard: in South Korea 31 percent of the Internet population already belong to the digital avant-garde, while this figure stands at 28 percent in the USA, 25 percent in Great Britain, and 24 percent in France. Only in Hungary, at 18 percent, is the proportion of digital avant-garde members lower than in Germany (see Figure 4).
As expected, the digital avant-garde, with an average age of 34 years, is the youngest among the three consumer groups identified, with 41 percent of the consumers belonging to this group under the age of 30. Among the vanguard there are many more men (58 percent) than women (42 percent). They are well educated, with an above-average number of the digital avant-garde currently still at school or in higher education.
DNAdigital – DIGITAL AVANT-GARDE IN GERMANY. The digital avant-garde are pioneers in networked living and working. But what are digital avant-garde members actually like and where are they to be found? A good example is the DNAdigital initiative under the auspices of Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. On the www.dnadigital.de (German), the Internet generation meets representatives of German business in order to debate jointly the changes arising through the Internet and the future of the world of work. The members of this website platform were also included in the study.
In contrast, most Internet users belong to the DIGITAL MAINSTREAM. In Germany, 48 percent of the Internet population belong to this group. Dealing with the digital media is already a daily experience for these consumers too – but they are not experts. The digital mainstream leads a selectively networked life: the consumers of this group would not like to live without networking in on average 2.9 out of 7 areas of life. As far as media services are concerned, short waiting times – for example when downloading a website page – are a primary concern for the digital mainstream. They also attach great importance to the simple and intuitive manageability of technical equipment. The digital mainstream is also very interested in Internet services and media content tailored to their personal interests. In socio-demographic terms (age, household situation, education and income) the digital mainstream is, as one would expect, around the average for the German Internet population.
The DIGITAL LATECOMERS form the third and final consumer group. In Germany, every third Internet user belongs to this segment. With an average age of 43, they are the oldest segment, with one-third over the age of 50. They are oft en married and live predominantly in two-person households. Pensioners and women are oft en disproportionately represented among the latecomers. In contrast to the two consumer groups outline above, the latecomers’ use of digital media, even today, is not yet on a daily basis. Correspondingly their lives are not so networked: digitization and networking are indispensable or of very high importance to them in on average just 1.3 of the 7 areas of life covered. For the future, however, even the group of latecomers expects an increase in networking in many areas of life.
Within the scope of this study, the digital avant-garde will be continually referred to as the reference group so as to show the direction in which life and work are likely to move under the influence of digitization and networking.
1 All figures cited in this report from the consumer survey refer to Internet users of the following countries and age groups: Germany, 14 to 65 years old; France, 15 and over; Hungary, 16 to 74, Great Britain (no age limits), the USA (no age limits), and South Korea (no age limits).
2 Using a cluster analysis, the 10,545 consumers surveyed were divided into separate groups (“clusters”) of individuals, which as groups were as homogenous as possible but within the groups as heterogeneous as possible. These consumer groups were based on various aspects that reflect the different facets of a networked lifestyle and approach to work. These include the role of the digital media overall, the importance of innovative communications media, the status of innovative user devices, and contemporary networking in a range of different spheres of life. Cluster center analysis was carried out via the k-means algorithm. As with all partitioning cluster processes, at the start of the process, a certain number k of clusters was defined. Due to theoretical considerations (diffusion research), three clusters were defined. To check the quality of the results, the F value was calculated. This shows that the group mean values for all cluster variables are clearly different from one another. The values of the relevant variables within a single cluster are much more similar than those of other clusters.
3 These and the following figures relate to the relevant consumer groups in Germany.