MAY 27 — The issue of broadband internet access to achieve digital inclusion has gained momentum over the years. In Malaysia, access which is the first level of exposure to Information Communication Technology (ICT) has been largely achieved.
A study of internet users in the Klang Valley, who are categorised into digital natives and digital immigrants, a term coined by Marc Prensky, revealed that 74 per cent of the immigrants have internet subscription as against 71.7 per cent for the natives.
This is because the immigrants can afford to pay as they comprised of mostly working adults.
This does not mean that the natives have no access. The digital natives who mainly are still pursuing their education may access the internet via free Wi-Fi at their colleges and universities.
Another aspect of looking at internet access and usage is in terms of hours of usage.
More natives use the Internet for more hours in a week than the immigrants. The reason could be that the natives are young and also some of them are still furthering their education and might use the Internet as a source of educational materials for their studies.
The digital natives in this study refer to the respondents born in the digital age.
The use of Social Media (SM) is the trend now, especially among the young generation.
The result of this study also confirms that the knowledge/literacy in using SM is the highest as compared to other internet applications among the natives.
In order to search for information on the Internet the users must have knowledge of the various search engines.
For the natives, knowledge of search engines is the second highest, while for the immigrants it is the highest.
This is somehow interesting as knowledge of SM and search engines have surpassed knowledge of email apps and usage.
A large number of the native internet users had exposure to SM and messaging apps before email applications, hence having more knowledge on SM and messaging apps than email.
The advents of Facebook and subsequently messaging apps suck as whattsapp, which have revolutionised social media usage, have contributed to this trend in usage.
As found in other studies on internet usage among Malaysians, this study also found out that the least knowledge on internet applications for both the natives and immigrants is the knowledge in using e-shopping/e-business applications.
According to media and communication scholars, some of the important aspects which can lead to digital inclusion are the various gratifications derived from using the Internet.
Recent research has attempted to expand the concept of the digital divide to move beyond access to consider issues of proficiency and gratification.
The highest gratifications that both the natives and immigrants derive from using the Internet are the information and socialization gratifications.
For the natives or Generation Y, solving problems and relief from boredom are additional gratifications they derive from using the Internet.
Overall, the literacy/knowledge and skills of both the natives and immigrants about the Internet applications is above average and this is a contributing and determining factor towards digital inclusion, couple with the gratification derived from using the Internet.
Apart from being active users, Malaysians, especially the youth are literate and skillful in using the Internet and SM apps.
According to a recent study by ITU, Malaysia has the fourth highest digital natives in the world who constitute three quarters of the country’s youth.
Findings from various studies on Malaysian Internet users have implied that there is no marked difference in terms of the gratifications derived from using the Internet between the natives and immigrants.
Wherever differences exist, the gap is not wide in terms of gratification derived from using Internet and accompanying SM apps.
In achieving digital inclusion, efforts must be made to provide more facilities to move forward the ICT transformation agenda of the country.
For an all-inclusive digital economy, the use of Internet, especially among the young adults for e-commerce, e-business, e-banking, civic engagement and e-government must be continuously promoted and encouraged. Failing this, the benefits of the Internet in terms of added value and empowerment may not be achieved.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.