March 27, 2015

The Impact of Digital Natives

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Digital Natives

Digital native
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“The term digital native can be used to describe people born after 1980, when social digital technologies, such as Usenet and bulletin board systems, came online. Digital natives are characterized as having access to networked digital technologies and the skills to use those technologies. Major parts of their lives and daily activities are mediated by digital technologies: social interaction, friendships, civic activities, hobbies. And they’ve never known any other way of life”
By way of the above definition I am a digital non-native, I might be considered an adopted child of the natives. Although I was hacking code and designing digital systems prior to the 1980s, I do not have the mindset that differentiates the digital natives from the non-natives. My experts on the topic of digital natives are a pair of true digital natives, my daughters, they are 18 and 20 and to them I am a total digital Luddite. I asked them about their views on the use of digital technology and their expectations of the networks that supported these technologies. I suspect their answers are typical of digital natives the world over. These views and expectations are changing all aspects of networks to include: storage, security, connectivity, services, pricing and advertising.
Some of the digital native’s views and expectation:
• No concept of “where” the content resides (on-net, off-net, local, cached, it does not matter)
• No concept of busy hour or congestion periods so that the term 24/7 is meaningless as there is no other option and down-time is incomprehensible as the only time that you cannot access content is when your battery is dead.
• Power is free and available
• Mobility trumps size and comfort
• Cellular service is a staple part of the household budget (not a business expense)
• No off button, apps that always run
• Social networking is a given (others care what they are doing)
• Social sites are safe (Whether or not, they are a tremendous source for identity theft or a sociopaths playground)
• Applications are secure (their information will not be lost or stolen)
• Where an application runs is of no concern (locally or not) only connectivity options
• Touch, links, resizing, tabs, multitasking (on the machine) are all natural operations
•Given these expectations for service, how does your network design meet these new user’s requirements?
• Was your network designed around traffic engineering standards of the 1990s?
• Does your network have single points of failure? Transport, management, billing?
• What is your upgrade plan, are you watching the bandwidth growth, or just the bandwidth?
• Do you have a means to notify users of security breaches or do you just watch them happen?
• Can your systems withstand another Hurricane Sandy and survive?
• Are you transporting all your traffic all the time? Is caching viable?
If you cannot answer these questions, then it is time to take a close look at your network. If you answered these questions and most are to the negative, it is time to rethink the implementation of your network.
If you are wondering who these natives are, you are not one of them, but look around, they are pasted to their smart phones, taking selfies, and poking fun at you.  If your network or systems fail, they won’t care, there are other providers or app that will work just fine for them.  What’s your #?

—Peter Southwick