Your Digital Identity

Digitalisation is affecting all our lives. . .

From shopping to tax application forms. As corporations and other organisations begin to see the merit in adopting innovation, it’s far more important to have a digital identity of some kind. Digital identity is the online equivalent of real identity. It comprises all of the digitally accessible data associated with a single entity, and is mainly used for identification purposes. It’s not just about making life easier – now, it’s a case of needing an online footprint to help simple tasks like keeping track of finances. It’s not just about individuals, either. Brands and companies have had to adopt digital business strategies in order to survive. However, not everyone has boarded the train to cyberspace, and that’s where problems arise. The question is, how does an increasingly digital society account for those who don’t have an online presence?

The disruption of digitalisation. . .
In 2014, half of the UK’s population already used online banking. Now, it’s so popular that digital-only banks are on the rise. They’re even challenging established retail banks – who, incidentally, are also trying to embrace innovative technology. Even traditional financial institutions will see innovation in store, as Artificial Intelligence begins to address customer queries. Aside from banking, many retailers have opened online stores to keep up with digitalisation and offer convenience to their customers. Much like banking, there are digital-only retailers – the most obvious examples are eBay and Amazon. Last year, Mintel’s US Online Shopping Report found that over two thirds of Americans shop online once a month. The use of online retail services is only going to grow. Digitalisation hasn’t just disrupted the high street though. Governing bodies are now updating their administrative infrastructure in order to deal with citizen information with greater efficiency. It’s much easier to store data in one digital space rather than thousands of filing cabinets. There’s many reasons why having a digital presence worthwhile, if not necessary. . . but it’s not hard to see why people shy away. Take the Tesco hacking scandal, where 20,000 Tesco Bank customers had money stolen from their accounts. The uncertainties concerning data protection and information ownership can’t be ignored. It’s definitely creepy when Facebook’s ad suggestions are the same as the last few websites you visited. Never-the-less, for the sheer convenience of online transactions and admin, most of us seem to put up with it. Some don’t, however, and this could cause some real problems.

What are the implications of having no digital identity?
Without a digital identity, individuals and corporations are shutting themselves off from much of modern society. Retailers continually move online, as well as banking companies and government administrative bodies. If you’re digitally non-existent in an increasingly digital world, you can’t progress within it – you’ll always be a few steps behind. The Internet allows for real-time worldwide communication, convenient and instant purchases, the huge accessibility of information and so much more. Without a digital presence, that world is closed off. Imagine applying for jobs without the Internet – even with access to a list of vacancies, it’s hard enough to find employment. However, it’s not just those without digital identity that will suffer from their own reluctance. Businesses that rely on digital custom are challenged with convincing technophobes that the perks of online services are worth the risks. For governing powers, the problem is less to do with making money and more to do with knowing who actually exists. For instance, criminals who avoid sharing any type of data in cyberspace are much harder to track. There’s been so much focus on cybercrime that standard real-world crime may see an opportunistic upsurge. Even so, most people have a digital footprint even if they don’t know it. You might post a photo of your technophobe grandparents on social media, for example, which enters their physical identity (at least) into cyberspace.

Digitalisation – the positives for business

By using their online presence, retail businesses can extend their influence and reach more potential customers. Tapping into the digital identity of a customer is a fantastic way to understand them better, which helps to create successful targeted marketing. Unfortunately, there’s a fine line between helpful suggestions and looking like you’re stalking your customers. People without a digital identity are wary of exactly that kind of super-personal market research. For established firms with a dual digital and real presence, the fact that some people don’t exist in cyberspace isn’t hugely worrying. For a business that relies entirely on online custom, however, it really is. These companies now have to offer the best possible service if they are going to lure potential customers into the digital sphere, which is good for all customers.

Digitalisation is a mass movement that is clearly changing society. It isn’t something that is going to go away, leading commentators to question the problems thrown up by the stubborn laggards in the adoption curve. Following repeated hacking scandals, it’s hardly difficult to understand the reluctance that some people (and companies) have when it comes to creating an online footprint. However, in the age of big data, digitalisation is more important to our lives than ever before. The refusal of some people and organisations to engage with connective technology in general is providing a barrier to the growth of digital-only companies, and it isn’t doing much for the online strategies of other ‘real’ businesses either. However, it’s easier said than done to have absolutely no digital presence. In an increasingly digital world, it’s going to be incredibly hard to avoid it entirely.

To what extent does your business rely on digital identity? Are you someone with no digital identity? Is it necessary to have an online footprint? Share your thoughts and opinions.