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Avoiding Digital Ghetto's


Much to the irritation of our finance department, I keep all data services on my mobile turned on (most of the time at least… there was an incident with international roaming that was a bit too eye watering with regards costs…) as firstly, I like the benefits of doing so in terms of the extra information it puts at my fingertips and secondly, I am aware that my doing so allows various people to collect and analyse my data. For the most part I am fine with that, as I adhere to the theory that most people in the world are ‘good’ and hence in some small way I will be helping someone create something useful.

A few months ago, my then two year old son decided to conduct an experiment with my other half’s iPhone – conclusively proving that it is not a boat, nor waterproof. Since then she has been using a battered and bruised – but still entirely functioning – Nokia. This handset enables calls, texts and photos but not a lot else. No maps. No Facebook. No fitness tracking. No location services. On balance, I think she has enjoyed the relative dislocation from the ‘always-on’ environment many take for granted. The difference in experience between us both is probably most stark when walking through town – I get notifications for offers and freebies from shops I am near, or an alert telling me I am hitting my daily target for activity that ensures I get a better deal on my health insurance and associated benefits.

Sure, smartphones are fairly ubiquitous, but they are far from the only connected product that exists and they all come at a cost – either for the product itself or the data charges associated with its use. With the rapid increase in products that share your usage data with the manufacturer in return for better deals for you, we need to consider whether or not we are creating an ever bigger divide between the haves and the have nots. Clive Humby recently wrote about the risk of creating “digital ghettos” where people who are either unable to afford the devices to allow them to share their data or those who do not want to share their data are effectively dis-advantaged by a world which is ever more hungry for information about who you are, what you are interested in and, ultimately, what thing you can be most easily sold. As these devices and this sharing economy becomes more entrenched we need to think carefully about access to the benefits we, as marketers, are able to offer on behalf of our clients and work to ensure that wherever pragmatically possible, we create the environment where we all prosper and grow together.