Internet use globally has grown by about 1300% over the past 2 decades. According to our analysis, out of the estimated 8 billion population globally, about 5 billion people, representing over 60% of the global population, are known to have access to the internet. Out of this internet using population, about 2.8 billion people, who were from the Asian region, representing about 56% of the people, were found to be online. Likewise, near to 90% of European population, and about 95% of the population in North America had access to the internet, also recording the highest penetration rate of internet. Meanwhile, Middle East had also witnessed the maximum growth in internet population by about 6000% (see Figure 1).
In an increasingly interconnected digital world, it doesn’t matter where we live and who we work for. We have a multitude of digital tools at our disposal, and we are making the most of them to understand the world, communicate with one another, buy goods and services, conduct business, banking, and payments, etc. without having to leave the comfort of our homes. Technology is evolving at an unprecedented rate and penetrating the farthest corners of the earth. The blurring of physical divides has led to the rise of Global Digital Citizens (GDC). Thriving in this digitally inclusive world requires a thorough understanding of what it means to be global digital citizens and what our responsibilities are.
Digital citizenship is the ability of an individual or a business to leverage technology to create meaningful, engaging, and satisfying experiences on the internet. It entails navigating digital spaces safely, respectfully, and responsibly. Today, online communications and transactions far exceed real-world connections. It is a sad fact that we're not always as mindful of our actions online as much as we are, offline. Extensive digital use can turn into digital abuse if we are not careful. Data shows that the use of digital tools for abuse is quite rampant around the world. 34% of men and women over the age of 18 were responsible for technology-facilitated abuse, while among adolescents and young adults aged < 25 years it was 14%. Many are not aware of the appropriate ways of using technology and others have the know-how but aren’t putting their knowledge into practice. It is imperative to equip ourselves with the skills necessary to handle the internet and other digital technology effectively, especially, for the greater good of society.
And then there’s the issue of data privacy. In order for people to feel secure and engage fully in the digital world, they need to be assured that their personal data will be handled with utmost care. According to our research, more than 80% of internet users are worried about the privacy and misuse of their data and around 46% of them revealed that they had already made the switch to other companies because of data policy concerns. These startling facts are making businesses and governments take a step back and make data protection their topmost priority. As we prepare to transition to a smart future, measures need to be put in place to foster digital citizenship to nurture a generation that is wholly engaged in not just making the most of the opportunities available to them, but also actively executing their civic duties as global digital citizens.
A digital citizen is someone who strives to use the internet, smartphones, and other digital devices responsibly in their day-to-day lives. As global digital citizens, users should understand and accept that they need to abide by certain rules and responsibilities (see Figure 2). A good digital citizen participates in positive and healthy interactions online. They refrain from engaging in online scams, bullying, sexual harassment, or other toxic activities and have a know-how on fraud detection and prevention. Through empathy and connection, they are able to create long-lasting online relationships.
There are a number of ways to sustain responsible digital citizenship. Most of them are focused on gaining an all-around perspective of the digital world, learning about its safe usage, and developing sound online interactive skills. Here are a few strategies to ensure good digital citizenship -
Understanding the Ways of the Digital World Today the Internet has become a daily necessity and is being used by several people around the world. Yet most of us are unaware of its inner workings. Taking time to understand how the internet works, what happens to the information that we put out into the world, and how we can protect ourselves from scams and thefts can help us learn how to conduct ourselves online. Businesses can do more to educate the public about the effective use of the internet.
Use Caution While Sharing Data We must be deliberate about who we trust online. Caution needs to be exercised before sharing our location, images, account details, or any other personal information with people we meet on the internet, especially in different social media platforms. Companies need to go the extra mile to protect the information that users entrust them with. For instance, social media companies can deploy services for social media fraud detection, while institutions dealing with money transfer, can user services related to online payment fraud detection.
Watch Out for Scams Cybercriminals employ various methods such as phishing and setting up fake websites to scam someone online. Phishing is a common cybersecurity threat that involves a scammer acting as someone we trust and sending links that inject malware into our devices. In 2021, phishing was at its peak, with over 285,000 attacks just in the month of December. And fake websites are common with shopping websites. Many of these scams can be avoided by educating the public and adopting the right security solutions. Businesses can help prevent phishing through cyber intelligence, i.e., by educating their employees and spreading awareness about cyberattacks and the availability of cyber security solutions. Strengthening Email security and adding security layers like firewalls can be achieved with the help of an IT security team or digital brand protection companies.
Protect Identity and Data Online There are tools that can be used, like an identity threat scan or a dark web scan, to check whether data has been compromised. Companies comb through the dark web filled with stolen usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and other data that are up for sale. The user will be notified if their stolen data is found on the dark web. They then need to take immediate action to prevent more fraudulent activity by changing passwords and canceling credit cards or closing their accounts.
Just like individuals, even big enterprises need to champion digital citizenship.
Providing Tools and Knowledge to Enhance Right Digital Engagement Organizations can assist their employees and other stakeholders assimilate new technologies and prepare themselves for digital transformation of every aspect of their business. They can conduct workshops to educate their teams about the available security tools and the proper digital etiquette. All of these can help to enhance corporate digital citizenship while maximizing productivity and protecting brand reputation.
Ensure Digital Marketing Strategy Aligns with Business Model For a business, brand image and reputation hold the key to the respect and trust of stakeholders. They need to ensure that they remain true to their brand by putting out consistent and honest value-added content on their web pages, social media channels, and other media coverage.
Don’t Put All the Eggs in One Basket Whether you are the owner, employee, or investor of a business, it is essential to diversify your media marketing strategy. Even statistics show that over 75% of consumers bought from companies whose CEO used social media. The audience increased further with the diversification of content on other platforms. Like media diversification, wealth diversification in different online assets also ensures a brand remains robust despite fluctuations in digital media.
Take Data Privacy and Ethics Seriously Businesses run on data. Data can help companies make better decisions related to production, distribution, warehousing, and marketing. Through data, they can glean customer insights such as their preferences, purchasing behaviors, and more. Data can help organizations optimize their everyday business operations. Using data protection as a service and using data in the right way businesses can deliver innovative bespoke products and services to customers. But using this data comes with great responsibility - companies can’t afford to take privacy and data ethics lightly. They must provide information on how they use the data they collect and disclose which companies they pass them on to.
Digital citizenship and data privacy are going to be more important now than ever as the internet becomes more enmeshed within our lives in the years to come. It is better to start inculcating the principles of positive digital engagement from a young age. This means that educational institutions will need to take the onus of teaching students about the right way to interact with others online. By doing so, we can ensure the well-being of not just individuals but of the entire global society. Here are some ways in which businesses and investors can do so (see Figure 3).