What exactly does it mean to be digital? - Daily Nation

It’s all in the detail: what exactly does digital mean?

Friday September 14 2018

The 20s generation is, for the most part, seen as native to the digital age.

The 20s generation is, for the most part, seen as native to the digital age. PHOTO| FOTOSEARCH 

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The 20s generation is, for the most part, seen as native to the digital age. This is the generation that was born in the 90s and came of age just as internet was settling hence the name: information age.

IGI Global Handbook of Research on Practices and Outcomes in E-Learning: Issues and Trends defines the digital generation as the generation of humans whose generational location places their birth and developmental experiences during a time of widespread access to digital computing technologies and whose exposure to; and experience with those technologies led to a technological comfort and expertise that surpasses those of prior generations.

That aside; how do we define digital and, are we harnessing all that we possibly can out of digital? Being active on social media platforms, knowing all about the apps that can solve problems of getting food to exactly where we are is a good place to begin. But how are these applications actually built?

For example, what goes into creating content that digitally advances the world? To understand some of these concepts is to better understand what ‘digital’ actually means and what systems go into making online solutions that actually work; as well as what opportunities exist.

This week, we speak to people in various organisations in the digital landscape as we attempt to make sense of what the A to Z of digital actually entails; from a professional perspective as well as the perspective of consumers.


Editor and writer at Potentash

Rayhab Gachango from Potentash during an interview at Nation Centre, Nairobi, on September 7, 2018. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO

Rayhab Gachango from Potentash during an interview at Nation Centre, Nairobi, on September 7, 2018. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO

The audience is an integral part of being a successful blogger. “The best way to get into this is by first having in mind a description of the person you are writing for. This is the best way to map an audience. This calls for you to have a very analytical mind that will enable you to read the trends and plan,” she says.

As a commercial blogger, one can make money through writing content for companies, social media campaigns for clients, banner ads or outsource your services as a blogger.

“And to get people to trust you to do these things for them, you must have great content, be consistent and be a passionate and authentic blogger,” she adds.

Content creation skills is something that people looking to make a name for themselves in the digital space should be aware of. Luckily, there are various ways one can build their blogging skills.

“As a blogger, you have to read because the more you read, the better you become, because you are aware of what other bloggers are doing and what is happening in life, generally. Audiences are drawn to extraordinary bloggers,” she confirms.

And like in any field, training and mentorship is important. A writing mentor is especially valuable if you are just setting out – identify sites that impress you and begin to slowly learn from what they are doing.

“Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) has been very useful in my journey as a blogger; they helped me set up and in turn I also mentor others. There are also various free online courses that one can take, to learn more about creating digital content that stands out,” she says.


Web developer, Africlub

Salmon Kitololo.

Salmon Kitololo. PHOTO | COURTESY

Africlub’s realm of work includes developing and designing websites, web hosting (domain registration and maintaining the website online), and content development including content strategy analysis, social media advisory and direct marketing advisory. They build the websites for enterprises, businesses and organisations to aid in the achievement of the goals of these organisations.

“I would say Kenya is a digital country. World statistics for internet usage are at 53% of the total population (4 B of about 7.6 B people) and in Kenya, 89.4 per cent placing the number of internet users at over 43million,” he says.

A developer builds websites and is the person that is responsible for writing machine language (code) that makes things happen on the computer.

“Being digital means being able to take advantage of digital tools and technology either in our day to day life or in our work. There is a whole spectrum between people who are totally digital to those that are totally untouched. A good example would be the use of Mpesa. Social media is also another popular way that people engage with the digital space. So the word ‘digital’ is an encompassing but at the same time a very vague term and some people use it more firmly than others,” he explains.

Salmon says that there is the misconception that ‘digital’ is something that has come to make our lives easy.

“Things are just more convenient, not easier. The digital space has also brought with it a lot of choices, so indecisive people can easily get stuck. You have to know what the technology you are acquiring is for and then develop a strategy towards gainfully using it, as opposed to letting every digital wind blow you away,” he says.


Safaricom E-commerce

Achieng Onguru.

Achieng Onguru. PHOTO | COURTESY

Achieng works with the commercial team, specifically managing social media, brand experience and strategic marketing for Safaricom’s ecommerce platform, Masoko.

“This entails figuring out interesting ways for the brand to show up and gain visibility on a day to day basis and also driving online sales hard and heavy,” she says.

To Achieng, the word digital means the future of communicating, interacting and transacting on different media but mainly on the internet.

“I’m generally a curious person and also very social, so when the digital revolution happened in Kenya, I was really excited. I was working in traditional media at an advertising agency, but I quickly made a cross over because I found that understanding this new space elevated my creativity. I was drawn by the fact that digital is very interactive and gives you the chance to be extremely creative in how you communicate. I studied design communication but not even this prepared me for the digital experience,” she says.

The biggest misconception, according to Achieng, is that digital is just about being present on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, writing status updates and trending daily. Digital requires a deep understanding of different audiences, their behaviours, their needs and cultivating a relationship with them so that you eventually get them to consume your content and either engage, share or convert.

“Marketing, communication and advertising courses will prepare you for a career in the digital world. There are also some courses that Google offers like the Digital Skills for Africa Online Study but for optimisation of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram there are several online courses that can give you a deeper dive into how these platforms are used in communication and marketing."

"However, most important is a keen interest in these spaces; are you passionate about brands and ide-as? Do you spend time on these platforms not only for social reasons but also trying to learn how they actually work? Are you an avid reader about new developments and technologies? These are the soft skills that will serve you,” says Achieng.


Digital Designer

Designer and artist Jacque Njeri during an interview at Nation Centre, Nairobi, on September 5, 2018.

Designer and artist Jacque Njeri during an interview at Nation Centre, Nairobi, on September 5, 2018. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO

Jacque’s job primarily includes designing applications, websites, interfaces and processes (ensuring that people in a team work cohesively).

“Digital is something that is done with the help of tech, software and aided by the internet; anything related to, or innovation brought forth by the aid of technology, software, machines, internet and cloud technologies,” she says.

“Designing apps means the intended user is at the centre of what I am creating and I have to constantly think about who this user it, how best to make the apps easy to navigate for the users and solve a problem with that app. Analysis of the demographic that I am working for: their age, what they are interested in and also consider the amount of data the app will consume.”

Joining the university at a time when the digital space was just setting root in Kenya, around 2009, gave her the opportunity to explore this space, further.

“I studied design at the University of Nairobi and my school further enforced the importance of dis-covering the digital space and using that to better our work so that is how I ended up diving too deep,” she says.

The only challenge, Jacque notes, is that many people get tempted to skip the learning curve and assume that, just because you have digital, the software will do everything else for you.

“They cannot be faulted entirely because digitalisation means shortening the process. Deadlines without errors have become easier and cheaper, so for example, in photography, instead of learning about light, camera angles and postures, someone chooses to just take 500 random shots and then select just 10 out of those shots. There are more options yes, but it should not take people away from actually taking time to learn,” she says.

Though we are a digitally advanced society, in good measure, Jacque is looking forward to a time when we will have a complete embodiment of everything digital from health, communication, security and everything else working together as one unit for the betterment of the environment, society.

Irrigation officer, Lodwar

Ekeno Ekiru.

Ekeno defines digital as electronic means of generating data and then processing it for better use.

“I use digital to research on current trends on engineering especially the technological advances in the industry. I also use digital to connect with friends, to network, socialise, and pass information to the public, especially government and other stakeholders, if this information is meant for public consumption.

Ekeno says that digital is important as it enhances communication. Job applications for many organisations are nowadays done online which has cut down on paper work and the time that it take applications to arrive.

“Digital has made the world a global village so that for example something can happen in Australia or the US is instantly live-streamed for an audience in Kenya. Businesses have thrived through digital marketing, research and advertising. Social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook and Twitter have become tools for conveying information and also connecting people and business platforms, including easing the mobilisation of people for public forums,” he says.

Marketer, CIM student, Strathmore University

Jimmy Brian.


Jimmy uses digital tools for edutainment and learning which he gets from video games and mobile apps. For him, digital means computers – both hardware and software, social media and the internet.

“Digital also affords me improved communication through applications such as skype, and WhatsApp calls make it very easy to communicate internationally compared to the past when these did not exist. Facebook and Twitter have completely made the world a global village,” he says.

He believes that digital advances have greatly revolutionised the world due to the continuous innovation and inventions that we witness.

“Many digital platforms and appliances are built in such a way that you do not necessarily need a masterclass to know how to use them. For me, digital just means made easy, made fast and made efficient,” he says.

As a marketer, Jimmy uses digital to sell products at no cost on platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp groups, He can also sponsor posts and reach a larger audience.

“I use the digital space to do my personal branding because these days, most employers check online before they give someone a job. I also use the digital space to grow my networks – there are many people who I have met online and ended up doing business with them. For example, I got my first job as an undergraduate student, through someone I met online,” he says.


Victor Wechuli.

Victor Wechuli. PHOTO | COURTESY

Victor understands digital as the use of technology (phones, computers and smart devices) to ex-change ideas, information, skills and knowledge with people around the world.

“I use digital to acquire knowledge on matters relating to finance, health, sports and news in general. I also use digital to communicate with family, friends and colleagues at work,” he says.

For Victor, digital is important because it has enabled people to connect and communicate quickly and at affordable rates. Digital has also removed barriers between people; and given people the ability to acquire knowledge at just the click of a button.

“Digital has improved security especially with the use of CCTV cameras which has helped reduce theft and crime in various businesses, homes and in government,” he says.

From the expert
Daudi Mucheru, Digital Operations Manager at Nation Media Group notes that behind the scenes of all that we consume and/or use as digital, is a lot of work, money and infrastructure which go into making the digital world function as it should.

“A lot is happening digitally, whether people realise it or not; be it information sharing, transactions, entertainment and communication. And the expectation from digital users is that whatever they are looking for online, works, is secure and if anything goes wrong, the backlash goes back to the digital people, because the new norm for the consumers is smooth operations” he says, while noting that digital evolution has come with careers that were hitherto, unimaginable.

“Over the last 20 years, there has been an explosion of careers within the digital field. People are now specifically looking to set up more hardware infrastructure, people who build programmes, applications and as the field develops further, more careers are coming up to refine and narrow the areas of focus,” he notes.

He also observes that “a lot of the professions in the digital arena come from self-learning, online learning and a personal initiative and aptitude to learn and grow because there aren’t many schools that train in all the existing as well as emerging disciplines in digital.”

And if your interest is in the digital world, Daudi recommends continuous learning to build your capacity.

“Employers will not just look at your papers, they will also take you through practical tests and look at your portfolio to ascertain your ability to do the work,” he concludes.