Generation Wireless – Will women and unconnected majority lose out?

Generation Y Millennials – aged 18 to 30 – will be led by a group of tech savvy, switched on young people who believe they can change the world, says Telefonica survey of 12,000
Telefónica UK has released the results of the largest ever global survey of Generation Y Millennials, broadly seen as those aged 18 to 30 that have lived most of their lives with access to the internet. The mobile operator, owner of O2, spoke to more than 12,000 people across 27 countries in six regions. 
Given the tech focus of the report, it is clear that many see the global internet revolution as empowering, useful and necessary for future personal and global success. The research found that 76 per cent of this group now owns a smartphone, highest is in Asia thanks to hugely tech-savvy populations in Japan and South Korea, at 83 per cent, and lowest in Central and Eastern Europe at 60 per cent. Look to your left and right. No matter what your political leaning, and whether you think it is always a positive thing, it is clear that we are always-on, media gorgers. 
Much of what they found won’t come as a shock. In North America, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe and Asia, all of these young people agreed that the economy is the number one issue. In Latin America and the Middle East and Africa the answers differed – with social inequality and terrorism topping each list respectively.
A significant majority, 63 per cent of Millennials globally, believe it is difficult for their generation to progress from school to adult life. With unemployment rates in many of the countries surveyed highest among 16 to 24s, this comes as little surprise. And news of the consequences of ageing populations has clearly reached our young people too – 39 per cent expect to have to continue to work indefinitely and not have enough money to retire. When asked whether they thought employment was a right or a privilege, 55 per cent said that having a decent job was the former versus 45 per cent who picked the latter. A bit of a leading question? It is an economic imperative – we all have to eat. More positively, and hopefully without delusion, 68 per cent of those surveyed believe that they have the opportunity to be an entrepreneur.
Telefónica claims to have identified a new kind of elite – 11 per cent of Millennials globally – who are not defined by metrics like socioeconomic status, but by their access to technology and opportunity. While their immediate priorities are the same – family, school and friends come first – 44 per cent of these leaders believe access to technology is important to success, compared to 30 per cent overall. “These people are at the cutting edge of technology and highly interested in what happens around them from a political standpoint,” said José María Álvarez-Pallete, COO of Telefónica on launching the results. “Politicians around the world must see that technology is going to influence the future. But this is not just for government but for business leaders too,” he said. 
Speaking in a keynote at the launch, Julian Genachowski, former chairman of the US telecoms regulator the FFC and head of Obama’s tech strategy during the 2008 election, said that the world is now engaged in a “global bandwidth race”. As healthcare, tech, government and people move increasingly online, countries are now concerned with giving companies and citizens the quickest access. But given that only one in six of the world’s population actually has access to the internet, 1bn people, it is clear that socioeconomic status, which gives people access to technology and opportunity, is likely to still dictate who the winners will be.  And while many young people are switched on, politically speaking, as Álvarez-Pallete mentioned, many aren’t. Recycling is the acceptable face of the green movement in developed nations but sustainability goes out the window when you see flights to Barcelona for £49. Meanwhile, literacy and access to basic human rights and services, let alone internet, are also hopelessly lacking in large parts of the world too. 
The UK’s young people appear to be are more tech savvy than their global counterparts, the survey found, with 49 per cent here saying they have an excellent knowledge of technology compared to just 30 per cent worldwide. Tech is now seen as more important than any other subject, with 25 per cent saying it is critical to future success, compared to economics and science both at 18 per cent or languages with just eight per cent. There are certainly jobs to be had in tech, in fact, there is a skills shortage. On top of that, 76 per cent believe technology makes it easier to get a job – many jobs are only advertised online  – so job search, application and even doing many of your average Western jobs is an increasingly digital pursuit.
A “new gender gap”, as if we need one, was also outlined by Álvarez-Pallete, with men around the world much more likely to consider themselves at the cutting edge of tech – 80 per cent vs 69 per cent. Those that believe that tech is the most important factor to ensuring future success also saw a contrast – 42 per cent vs 29 per cent. It appears that women, yet again, are likely to be left behind.
But why would a company like Telefónica want to know just what little old us think of our future anyway?
“For a company like us,” Álvarez-Pallete said, “we need to understand what’s going to happen for our industry and for our customers. This is the largest technological revolution in human history and Millennials are the drives.  We deeply believe that we need to understand what’s going on to have an idea of what the future will look like.”
Take that to be altruistic, after all Telefónica has its own start-up accelerator and is working with the EU to create a young entrepreneurial community of 300,000 people, along with many other worthwhile initiatives. Or look at it with a keen eye. We are a huge target market for advertisers and will continue to be so into our later years – more than 90m of Telefonica’s 316m customers worldwide is a Millennial. Companies like this need our custom, our data and actually depend on our success. But given how events have unfolded around PRISM and GCHQ, I’m just surprised they didn’t have access to all of our vital statistics already!
My favourite stat from the report was that 89 per cent of everyone surveyed believes that the best days of their country are yet to come. In a world of economic uncertainty where we fumble from one political problem to the next, I’d like to hope that they’re right!
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