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Are we ready for digital well-being?

                                       Herocles T. R. Kharmujai

 

We are living in the era of a digital world, a world where digital presence is regarded by the possession of personal devices that augment mobility and communication. The 20th century has coined this concept as mobile computing. Innovations, studies, researches and published articles on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), have often discussed the digital wave and the smart world. The possibility of the same has been witnessed and is available at every individual’s palm and finger tips.

The digital era is proposing to support ‘communication on the go’, a century wherein we all drain out our time and energy in our daily chores and in the extra time we have spared from the busy life schedules we try keep ourselves all charged up not to miss out anything that is happening in Kilobyte, Megabyte, Gigabytes or Terabytes.

If we are to keep a reality check on the evolution of family sittings, group hangouts or individual recreation time, we shall realise that the idea has gradually faded away with the advent of living room settings and the replacement of technologies in it. From the era of radio waves to telecommunication, from television to personal computers and now to personal devices and to the future of Internet of Things we have really come of age in practically applying E.M. Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation Theory in communication. The communication space has been widely explored and the communication space has apparently been downsized and minimised to a six by three inch flat screen.

The arrival of the ‘new media’ has transformed the culture of communication space. Consumers are segregated into various diasporic groups, within variegated social media and communication platforms like WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Facebook, Instagram,  Twitter and many others applications to express and communicate personal, profession, political or commercial agenda. Now that we have access to the ‘new media’ the ‘digital era’ and the ‘smart world’, the question of concerns is, are we ready to adapt to a digital well-being?

At this point I would like to mention that I am no anti-digital or technophobic person, but instead just putting out an opinion and raising a concern. As we together level up from the notion of the digital divide to digital literacy and make our individual stance of being one amongst the digital natives this plausible transition is made possible only due to the penetration of smart-phones. According to Statista, the number of smart-phone users worldwide is projected to amount to nearly 2.7 billion by 2019. And 2017 was likely expected to have almost a third of the total global population using a smart-phone. The United States which previously held the top position has a distant leader. China. considering its population growth. Statista records that India, the second most populous country had 199.08 millions smart-phones users in 2015. The projection is that there will be 339.95 millions smart-phones users by 2018 and 442.5 millions smart-phones users by 2022. Now the question that arises is, with the increasing number of smart-phone users stepping into the digital age are they going to be ready to adapt to a digital well-being?

The advent of digital era has spontaneously brought in the new media and with it the new media software developers and tech giants like Apple Inc., Google and Windows. Product vendors like Samsung, Xiaomi and Lenovo and others have come out to sell their respective ideas of a better appliance for ICT. The availability of technologies varying in their own unique specifications paved the way for Network Service Providers (NSP) like Verizon, AT&T, Airtel, Vodafone and even BSNL to name a few, all competing to provide better service for their consumers. Now with the stage (digital era) set, technologies evolved (personalised devices) and connectivity (ISP) available, the question that strikes is whether consumers are ready to adapt to the digital well-being?

News articles from around the world have often highlighted on the pros of technology and cons of excessive use of that technology. Simultaneously news on cyber crime- frauds, fake news and leaks are also doing their rounds, but instead of that we all try to keep an edge and updated in ourselves on mobile application in our daily lifestyles, only to ease out the unwanted long process of getting things done. That’s how the concept of online marketplace, banking and allied sectors have come to the picture. Now with multi products and services targeted to a consumer, can he/she adapt to the digital well-being?

The digital era is here and it is presumed to sustain for a long while, hence researchers often debate on the humane nature of the digital ecosystem. At present with the popularity gained on the digital space, innovators, developers and providers are often questioned by concerned authorities on the wellbeing of their products or services, thereby bringing to light the advancement of digital inclusion. In short digital inclusion identifies three broad facet- ‘access’ depending on the availability and affordability for inclusion, ‘adoption’ characterised by relevance, digital literacy and consumer safety and ‘application’ based on economic and workforce development, education, health care, public safety, civic engagement and social connection.

Undoubtedly the giant players of ICT have been successful in introducing and innovating, products and services for consumers ever year. But with the simultaneous advancement in science and technology the equation of digital inclusion had gone for a toss. And digital inclusion is addressed on ‘access’ and ‘adoption’ only, leaving out ‘application’ as the consumer’s responsibility.

Now coming to climax of this piece, Smartphone addiction is a serious issue and it has been debated and talked about globally. Considering the present scenario if you are to keep your head up, you will notice simple infant’s toys are replaced with gadgets, because we absurdly believe that is it the smartest replacement for one. Kids are seen glued to a device once they are done with school routine, because we illogically feel games are more immersed and safe that way. Young adults, adults and everyone is  busy communicating, socializing, and exploring the virtual world, because everything, everyone is live online and perhaps real life seems to exist only when we are exhausted from tapping from one app to another and then another and then to another till we doze off to sleep to hibernate for a brief while until we are back to the race of the digital age. Now with this familiar pop-culture of the digital era will we be able to cultivate a well being in the digital space? Can we adapt to a digital well-being?

Digital well-being is a concern of the hour. We must be conscious of the decision, time and connect we hold on to in a device. It is a slip of that consciousness that leads to the prevalence of smart-phone addiction and similar disorders. The concern of digital well-being has struck the sellers of products and services, and for that very reason we see applications for personal devices like ‘Moment’ in iOS and ‘App Usage’ in Android are available for users to keep a tab of their usage and help users to stay away from their devices. I wonder if the same concern of digital well-being will actually strike a chord with the primary users. In the recent ‘Google annual developer’s conference-I/O 2018’ apart from Google bragging about the launch of updates and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in their upcoming software, what caught my attention is their initiative on digital well-being, an initiative to combat smart-phone addiction and help users make less use of their device. When Google proudly announced that soon the system will be available for users. I couldn’t help but question my conscience; do we really need a system to keep ourselves in tune with reality? Well, smart-phones are really getting smarter with inbuilt AI, and humans born with real intelligence are getting un-smarter and dependent on just a popular device called a smart-phone- waiting for updates, wanting for upgrade, willing to buy an idea (scheme) so that we are not left one step behind. If all that is not an irony of the digital age then I don’t know what is. It’s time we take digital well-being seriously and take charge of our devices and step into reality for good.

 

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