iTHINK | Why digital mindset matters


Getting people to adopt a digital mindset can be a huge struggle. Of course, you can’t force people to go digital. Some like to do it the analog way, at least for some activities that we modern humans do.

But in this day and age, a digital mindset is generally necessary and in the long run, inevitable. Still some people resist. As a communications professional working for a bank that’s going digital, I find this a challenge.

If you look at the history of technology and innovation, it is not a unique one. From the first human who discovered fire and accidentally barbecued the behind of his hunting buddy, or the time when the first wheel, made of stone mind you, came rolling down the hill, scaring the neighboring tribe below — convincing people to adopt new technology has not always been easy.

For really disruptive technologies, people may react with discomfort, awe, excitement, or suspicion, sometimes all at the same time. With the slew of technologies bombarding us today, it can get overwhelming, too.

Banking innovations

There’s hope, however. Over time, people realize the genuine benefits of technologies that matter. Take for example, the ubiquitous and taken-for-granted ATMs, or automated teller machines. Almost everyone knows what an ATM is, and most of the time you don’t even have to explain what it means.

The ATM, when it was introduced in the 1980s in the Philippines by my current employer, was a curious novelty that not everyone loved immediately. Some people wondered if the thing was secure. Would it eat my money and run away, never to be seen again? Is there someone inside making sure that the money was counted correctly and deposited to the right account? Can I trust a machine with my money at all?

Today, no one is debating whether or not an ATM is useful. Banks have since introduced a host of other innovations such as the cash accept machine (CAM), online banking, and mobile Internet banking when mobile Internet became viable.

Now the banking industry is again being disrupted. There are technology-led start-ups encroaching on what used to be the banking industry’s playground. Digital payments, crypto currencies, artificial intelligence, open APIs (application programming interface), etc., are creating a ruckus.

How do we communicate and persuade Filipinos that there is a better way to do banking? Like using the mobile app or the website to transfer money, pay bills, check investments, limit the use of debit or credit cards, etc?

Generational or behavioral differences?

It’s easy to blame generational differences for the slow adoption of a digital mindset. We can say the millennials are very quick to adapt. They are the ones who don’t like to use “old technologies” used by their parents. They crave novelty and independence. No wonder they’ve taken easily to social media, online games, and all other appliances of this digital ecosystem over the Internet.

Then consider the Gen Xers. Most of them see the technologies they love being replaced by new ones. Some of them adapt quickly and keep up with the millennials. But some are more cautious of their use of new technology. They become more selective, more picky about what technology to let into their lives.

Then we have the older generations. The grandpas and grandmas who have had their fill of excitement, tech breakthroughs, and experiences in their younger years. They are astonished by what kids these days are doing and their facility for social media. New tech is not for them, they say. Let the young ones frolic in them.

That may be partly true. But, as our chief operating officer said, when you talk about the use of technology, there are those who oppose technological progress across generations. There are millennials who are suspicious of new technology and new ways of doing things, and there are senior citizens who are as equally facile with social media and the latest video games as the younger ones.

Digitally enlightened

They may be outliers for sure, but in the end it may be better to segment people by behavior. This insight changes how communication professionals like me craft the right communications for target audiences.

In my view, the resistance comes from a perceived impracticability and lack of time. Why should we bother when the old way still works well?

And it’s where communications play a key role in influencing digital behaviors — practical and sensible digital behaviors that lead to efficiency, convenience, and better use of everyone’s precious time. It’s here where mindset comes in.

Technology and communicating the benefits of technology work hand in hand. Creating this critical mass of digitally enlightened users largely depends on the confluence of innovation, security, as well as thoughtful and intentional technology adoption aided by strategic communications.

The author is the head of corporate affairs and communications at BPI