Entrepreneurship is always about taking the bull by the horns; and the latest addition of digital media has just paced that big bull by adding one more arena to fight. We are living in such a time where identity & authenticity of almost everything is synonymous with its digital presence.
The advancement in ICT at the helm of digital media is herculean enough to grab the creative minds by a stir. Ranging from travel to health, grocery to education, everything has at-least one digital facet readily available today.
At no cost, the civilized society can ignore digital media under the current scenario. Yet, we see a vast digital divide in a country like India.And entrepreneurship is no different when it comes to this specific form of new media. Along with digital divide there prevail digital hypochondria among the entrepreneurs in countries like India. To mention, digital divide and digital hypochondria don’t just cover only the entrepreneurs, but masses!
The prime reason behind digital divide is illiteracy. Whereas more than 87% of digital media content is in English, only 74.04% of the Indians are literate and out of that only 30% can speak English (Forbes data). According to Census data, the most spoken languages in India are Hindi (422m), Bengali (83m), Telugu (75m), Marathi (71m), Tamil (60m), Urdu (51m), Gujarati (46m), and Punjabi (29m). Though Hindi acts as the prime connecting language among different states, yet it is not the main language for digital media in regular.
Unavailability of resources can be termed as another reason for this digital divide in a country like India. As per World Bank data 2014, 58% of total Indian population were living on Rs.190 per day earning. With a poverty rate of 22% of the entire population (Census 2011), availing digital devices can be seen as pure luxury rather than necessity in such a context.
This digital divide is further fuelled by the negligence and ignorance of people to learn & adopt new technologies. This negligence can be proved by using the Technology Acceptance theory given by Fred Davis in the year 1989, which says that the adoption & usage of any new technology depend upon the perceived usefulness and the ease of use.
Digital hypochondria, on the other hand, is a new term coined by the author to depict the scene of over caring for everything digital without learning/knowing what is digital media. It can be very easily noticed among the developing countries where 100% digital is still a distant dream and more of a mirage and yet they are after it. Without imparting proper education system and putting efforts to grow the literacy rates, ‘100% digital’ will definitely take a good long time to get fulfilled. Further, to fuel the situation and make it worse, various government programmes are taking the shortcuts of using/employing digitally illiterate people to make everyone digitally literate. Period!
If we talk about the effects of digital divide and the digital hypochondria on entrepreneurship in India, the picture is pretty much clear here. Most of the Indian entrepreneurs are far behind the international standards of digital entrepreneurship. Indian entrepreneurs are yet to explore the new faces of ICT, new media and mostly the digital media.
Being an eager beaver is good for entrepreneurship, but yet, too much of concern for something in particular is not good. And many of those Indian entrepreneurs using digital media are falling prey to digital hypochondria.
To succeed, to diminish the digital divide and to control the digital hypochondriaentrepreneurs today need a proper process of learning. They must learn digital media the hard way. It is not the subject one can plan to learn as s/he uses. Rather, digital media is like a pen that entrepreneurs have to grip properly, ink properly, take care of to sign their entrepreneurial fortune!
Author: Syed Mohsin Raja is a digital & social media strategist from the region. As an alumnus of London School of Business & Finance, Holborn, he earned his Advanced Certification in Digital and Social Media marketing in 2014. He is a visiting faculty for digital media in Dept. of Mass Communication, IDOL, Gauhati University, and Indian Inst. of Entrepreneurship. He is also a guest faculty for business development in Assam Rajiv Gandhi Cooperative Management University, Sibsagar, Assam.