The Unplugged: design innovation as a service for people

Who are the ‘Unplugged’? Havas Media distinguishes 4 main segments of people disconnected from the Internet, rising up to 9,5 millions of citizen (20 % of French population).

This is our responsibility as innovators to bring meaning to the technological path, and catch back the excluded. All the more that Internet has become ubiquitous. Connected society is a knowledge sharing society, and in essence humanistic.

Who are the unplugged?

Dominique Delport (@domdelport), CEO of Havas Media France, presented an exclusive research last Tuesday, with an unused angle on the Internet market: the ‘Unplugged’ – French disconnected people.

Who are the ‘Unplugged’? Havas Media distinguishes 4 main segments:

  • « Minitélistes », 2m individuals, 4% of French population (over 15): a majority of them is over 65, they have grown with the Minitel (pioneering online service), and are reluctant to adapt to new technology;
  • «Excluded », 1,9mindividuals: they are under financial pressure, they may have been connected for a while, but they can’t afford it anymore. They have children who feel isolated because they can’t connect at home;
  •  «Disconnected 2.0», 1,7m individuals: they’re looking for relief, voluntarily cutting the cord from Facebook and Twitter, they’ve learned to master the online demand, and save time for themselves;
  • « Anxious », 3,6 individuals, 7.1% of French population : it includes two different types of anxiety, a fear of privacy loss, and Big Brother comme back; and those who step aside the Internet, anticipating an unbearable intrusion.

The main learning is that unplugged people represent 9,5 millions of citizen (20 % of French population) which obviously means the digital divide is far from diminishing. Moreover, its impact is tougher: in time of crisis, the population who is bound to arbitrate upon consumer expenses, might also be cut from the opportunity of online promotions and rebates. It harms the older population (75% of people over 70 are not connected) and the youth population as well, 20% of which has a monthly revenue below €1200.

Whether it is a groundswell or a rippling wave, a sustainable sign of advertisement overload or a temporary social ‘fatigue’, it surely raises the question for Havas Media of helping its customers advertisers on reshaping their consumer messages, and adapting their brand communication to this significant section of the population.

Meaningful innovation

Technological acceleration, explosive density through a growing profusion of functionalities on digital handset, social media ‘shout’, no one can escape the vertigo and uncertainty it causes, and some anticipate the next coming of technological singularity.

This is our responsibility as innovators to bring meaning to the technological path, to cherish humanistic innovation, and enable the majority of society to benefit from it.

I’m a fan of collaborative and social innovation, and the different forms it embraces:

  • Low-tech” or “fugal” innovation like crowd operated innovations (Lewatmana, a real-time information network based on SMS), Juggad innovations, Grass root innovations  and Honey Bee Network are innovations designed by the people for the people. ‘Community-led solutions for sustainability’ like ‘Plenty’, a new kind of local money, or ingenious mechanical tools crafted by individual self-starting capacity, innovation from the bottom-up capture creativity directly from the field. Reverse innovation (@vgovindarajan) is another facsinating approach in this domain.
  • Collaborative consumption is a terrific play ground for Social Innovation: “swapping, sharing, bartering, trading and renting are being reinvented through technologies and peer-to-peer marketplaces in ways and on a scale never possible before” states Rachel Botsman.

Though I have worked as a forerunner in bringing to market the latest network technologies such as ADSL, IPTV, Video On Demand, Smart TV, transmedia video player, Social TV and Social Culture components, I never thought of them as ‘infrastuctures only’, but considered them as services, and even ‘emotional connections’! I’m a strong believer in technologies which have a meaning in people’s life, and create a positive tangible impact. Next topics like 4G LTE, NFC, Connected Objects, Smart Cities, Big data, are not an end in itself, but a mean for a better world, a basis for knowledge sharing, intense cooperation, and fairness. Connected society is in essence humanistic.

Designing with, rather than for

It is all the more important now that the Internet has become pervasive and as Bertrand Cathelat, enthusiastic sociologist of the Web, puts it: “virtureality is here: virtuality is coming into reality” and the majority of our acts or services  involve a digital dimension. We have reached a point where digital is a social norm, and where there is no off-line anymore. One cannot bear digital exclusion. Digital exclusion would be like a modern resurgence of illiteracy.

To keep in mind the objective of designing innovation as a service for people, strategic marketing of services is a good framework: thus, in many services, customer is part of operating the service, innovate implies mastering the user participation. Collaborative design relies on a similar assumption.

To bring back the ‘excluded and anxious unplugged’, imagination is required: do we have to think of public places for Internet use and knowledge sharing like public libraries? shall we invent ‘Internet scribes’ or ‘fact checkers’ linking unplugged people to the digital world, as we discussed during the Havas presentation? Imagination is greatly at work in the 27th French region set-up by Stephane Vincent (@la27eregion): France has 26 geographical regions, the 27th is a fantastic lab for innovation initiatives related to public tranformation, a sandbox to experiment social design in the field, and further extend successful pilots!

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2 responses to “The Unplugged: design innovation as a service for people

  1. Pingback: Creative cooperation across borders | Rapid innovation in digital time

  2. Pingback: Digital innovation awards, Netexplo at Unesco | Rapid innovation in digital time

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