Fourth Industrial Revolution

Are digital natives really good at using technology?

Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Fourth Industrial Revolution?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how The Digital Economy is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

The Digital Economy

Growing up with personalised technology has made some things easy for today’s young adults.

Many of these so-called digital natives are adept at communicating via social media and texting. Apps such as Uber are customised for users and let them complete complicated tasks (like navigating from A to B in a strange city) by pushing a single button.

But that means programmes like Outlook and Excel — the workhorses of modern corporate life — feel primitive, alien, and complicated to them, according to Chris Pope, senior director of strategy at the technology services company ServiceNow.

It gets worse. Many young adults still can’t use Google efficiently. One study of college students at Illinois Wesleyan cited by Time found that just 23% (seven of 30 interviewed) were able to conduct a “well-executed” Google search. An Inside Higher Ed account of the study said:

They were basically clueless about the logic underlying how the search engine organises and displays results. Consequently, the students did not know how to build a search that would return good sources. (For instance, limiting a search to news articles, or querying specific databases such as Google Book Search or Google Scholar.)

“I think it really exploded this myth of the ‘digital native,'” project lead Andrew Asher told Inside Higher Ed. “Just because you’ve grown up searching things in Google doesn’t mean you know how to use Google as a good research tool.”

The Illinois Wesleyan study was commissioned to find out why students seem to be so bad at research. It begins by noting that most students can’t find the campus library, and the ones who can don’t know how to ask a librarian for help.

This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

To keep up with the Agenda subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Author: Lucy covers technology at Business Insider UK.

Image: A visitor stands in front of QR-codes information panels during a ceremony to open an information showroom dedicated to the Zaryadye park project in central Moscow. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov 

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

More on Fourth Industrial Revolution
See all

How governments can attract innovative manufacturing industries and promote 4IR technologies like AI

M.B. Patil and Alok Medikepura Anil

June 24, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum