Why it's good graduates muck about on mobiles

Nov 20 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Students and graduates from emerging economies are much more technologically advanced than their counterparts in the West, raising the prospect of the next generation of workers having constantly to play catch-up if they want to retain a competitive edge.

A survey of nearly 3,000 people in 114 countries by international student placement organisation AIESEC International and workplace consultancy Career Innovation has found a widening gap in technology usage between students in emerging and established economies.

Three quarters of Asian students, excluding India, had written their own blog, while more than seven out of 10 in Latin America used webcams to connect with friends and family by video.

Nearly two thirds used simulation and gaming technologies socially, and nearly a fifth used them for learning purposes.

By comparison, students in established economies such as the U.S, Western Europe and Australia, while also avid users of technology, reported fewer work-related benefits.

They were much lower users of certain technologies, such as podcasts and mobile email, the report also found.

Overall, however, the worldwide picture was of a generation permanently "wired", with little variation by region.

In fact, more than nine out of 10 said they had a mobile phone and kept it switched on so they could be contacted.

"A global digital generation of young leaders is emerging, who will enter the workplace expecting to communicate using social media," pointed out Lucy Symons, AIESEC chief communication and networks officer.

"If they use these technologies effectively, they'll be the leaders who build tomorrow's most successful organisations" added Jonathan Winter, founder of Career Innovation.

"Future success is more likely to be defined by people's ability to collaborate across boundaries of culture and hierarchy," he continued.

But a key challenge over the coming years would be how to maximise this technology and knowledge without ending up simply managing a generation of time-wasters and slackers.

As one survey respondent put it: "Firewalls block innovation. They block Facebook, personal email and forums. This limited access means we have a limited ability to study and read up on some important issues."

Nearly two thirds of students and more than half of the workers polled said they took take part in publishing activities, such as contributing to a wiki, for social purposes.

A quarter of workers were also "publishing" as part of their work, signalling the rise of user-generated content and a shift away from one-way corporate communications, argued AIESEC.

A study earlier this month by consultancy firm Accenture highlighted the danger of trying to ban such technology from the office or workplace.

It found that the "millennial" generation of students and employees, or those aged 14 to 27, expected to be able to use their own technology and mobile devices both for and at work.

And if they couldn't or weren't allowed, they would either walk to alternative employment or simply be less likely to join a company in the first place.