India Digital Summit : ‘Is the online world as important to Internet users as the real world?’

India Digital Summit : ‘Is the online world as important to Internet users as the real world?’

Author | Pallavi Goorha | Friday, Jan 19,2007 8:43 AM

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India Digital Summit : ‘Is the online world as important to Internet users as the real world?’

The two-day India Digital Summit organised by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) commenced in the Capital on January 18. The focus this year is on two distinct areas: Internet and related issues of current and future policies, communication tools, and commerce, and mobile devices and mobile VAS.

The first day’s session began with Prof Jeffrey Cole, Director of Centre for the Digital Future and Research Professor USC posing a tantalising question “Is the online world as important to Internet users as the real world?” He posed this question while delivering the theme address on convergence, communication, content and commerce.

“Large numbers of Internet users hold such strong views about their online communities that they compare the value of their online world to their real-world communities,” pointed out Cole, who added, “As per the Digital Future Project 2007, 43 per cent of Internet users who are members of online communities say that they ‘feel as strongly’ about their virtual community as they do about their real-world communities.”

“More than a decade after the portals of the Worldwide Web opened to the public, we are now witnessing the true emergence of the Internet as the powerful personal and social phenomenon we knew it would become. The Internet has been a source of entertainment, information, and communication since the Web became available to the American public in 1994. However, we are now beginning to measure real growth and discover new directions for the Internet as a comprehensive tool that Americans are using to touch the world,” Cole said.

According to him, online communities served as a catalyst for connection and activism. Quoting the findings of Digital Future Project 2007, Cole said that involvement in online communities led to offline actions. More than one-fifth of online community members (20.3 per cent) take actions offline at least once a year that is related to their online community. Moreover, a significant majority of members of online communities (56.6 per cent) logged into their community at least once a day. Online communities served as online havens for interaction among members; 70.4 per cent of online community members said that they sometimes or always interacted with other members of their community while logged in.

Growing percentages of Internet users are going online to post information, whether on a blog, posting photos, or maintaining a personal website. The number of Internet users in America who keep a blog has more than doubled in three years (now 7.4 per cent of users, up from 3.2 per cent in 2003). Likewise, the number of Internet users who post photos online has more than doubled in three years (now 23.6 per cent of users, up from 11 per cent). The number of users who maintain their own website also continues to grow steadily (now 12.5 per cent of users).

The Digital Future Project found continuing growth of the Internet for connection to family and friends – but with virtually no negative effects on time spent in person with them. Internet users are finding growing numbers of online friends, as well as friends they first met online and then met in person. Internet users report having met an average of 4.65 friends online whom they have never met in person. Internet users report an average of 1.6 friends met in person whom they originally met online – more than double the number when the Digital Future Project began in 2000.

Cole further said that research showed that in the US, 41 per cent of Internet users watched less TV than non-users. More people were using the Internet because of broadband penetration. However, the online users haven’t affected people watching movies and reading books.

Regarding newspapers, this is no new news – teenagers don’t read newspapers, they just read news online. They don’t know which news is credible. They go towards brands of news portals.

But the most exciting development is that online newspapers are back in the breaking news domain. People keep themselves updated by the news, which is a sad line for offline papers. Everyone is switching to online papers. Only advertising for content in magazines is surviving. Radio is surviving as people listen to it while driving.

Comparing the life between 12-15 years and 25-54 years, Cole said it was found that 12-15 year olds would never read a newspaper but might be attracted to magazines. But 25-54 year olds would read offline newspapers. Teenagers would never own a landline or watch TV on someone’s schedule much longer. 25-54 year olds would use mobiles for voice and not for other stuff like emailing chatting, pictures download. The teens will trust unknown peers online than experts. Adults will trust experts on factual information. They will aggregate information online.

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