KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 12 — Malaysia stood out as having the fourth-highest proportion of “digital natives” in the world, despite ranking much lower globally in information and communication technology (ICT) development, said a report commissioned by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
But among its fellow developing nations across the globe, the Measuring the Information Society 2013 report, which is touted as the first ever comprehensive study on global internet usage, ranked Malaysia as having the highest percentage of “digital natives”.
“Digital natives” are defined in the report as youths aged 15 to 24 with at least five years of active internet use.
The study, jointly conducted with the Georgia Institute of Technology, counted 13.4 per cent or more than 3.9 million Malaysians as “digital natives”, accounting for nearly three quarters of the country’s youths.
Neighbours Singapore was ranked 12 on the study at 12.2 per cent of the population or 643,589 youths, followed by Brunei Darussalam in 13th place with 12.1 per cent or 50,049 people from its total population considered “digital natives”.
Conversely, Malaysia dropped two rungs on the ICT Development Index (IDI), settling in 59th position for 2012 compared to 57th a year earlier.
The IDI is measured based on a country’s overall ICT infrastructure development, active usage by its population and ICT human resource development.
While Malaysia is considered to have “relatively high” internet penetration across all age groups at 66 per cent as at 2012, the report attributed the country’s high proportion of “digital natives” to its “youth bulge”.
Despite having just 15 per cent of the population with home internet access in 2007, youths were able to access the internet in other locations, particularly schools, the report added.
“Malaysia has a history of investing not only in education, but also in ICTs in education.
“A 2002 ITU study on the Internet in Malaysia highlighted the country’s advances in bringing schools online, and back in 2000 as many as 31 per cent of primary and 54 per cent of secondary schools already had PC facilities, while 10 per cent of primary and 34 per cent of secondary schools had Internet access,” read the report.
The report, however, noted that youth bulges typically occur in developing countries that fall under the low income and lower-middle income bracket.
Separate studies showed a high proportion of children and young adults in the populations developing countries due to the combination of high fertility rates and declining infant mortality, the report said.
“Looking at income categories, it is apparent that the youth bulge is most significant among the low-income and lower-middle-income countries.
“This also explains why some low-income economies, such as Kyrgyzstan and Zimbabwe, where 15-24 year olds represent 21.5 and 24.4 per cent of the population, respectively, have relatively high percentages of digital natives,” the report said.
Kyrgyzstan is ranked 80 with 6.6 per cent or 357,450 youths from its total population who qualify as “digital natives”, while Zimbabwe is 87th with 6.1 per cent or 769,166 “digital natives” out of its total citizenry.
Comparatively, Zimbabwe is ranked 115th in the IDI, while Kyrgyzstan did not even make it on the list.