Enrique Dans, has been a Professor of Information Systems at IE Business School since 1990, he is one of the reference persons- also called influencer – that regularly, from his web page, his publications and articles in general and specialized press, provides his vision on the recent trends and how they affect the business world and our daily life. This year he published the prologue of the book we review at Connections by Finsa, Los nativos digitales no existen (digital natives do not exist). We talk with him about digital skills and technological transformations.

  • The premise is clear, we are not yet digital natives… When do you think we will be?

To consider new generations as digital natives is quite absurd, because this idea leads to the idea that some parents loosen up their duty to educate. Nevertheless, we think this is so, and the only reality is that technology is getting easier and, children, not having to “unlearn” previous tools – as happens to adults – seem easier to manage, so we conclude that they come with the technology included in their genetic code. This inhibition of the parents towards the digital knowledge actually turn them into digital orphans, who learn like savages without protocol rules nor basic protocols to adequately handle themselves online.

  • Therefore, do you we overrate our digital competences?

To be digitally competent means not just to be able to use technologies, but to do so in a proper way, to know its protocols, to understand how to behave, and to be interested in being updated. Managing passwords, for example, appears clear: someone uses a ridiculously easy password, someone uses the same one for everything and some other is unaware of the occasional security issues in companies of which he uses services. As much as he/she uses technology, this person should not consider himself an expert, because he/she is not. He/she is just a monkey playing with a gun, it could end up hurting himself.

Enrique Dans: "se puede vivir al margen de la tecnología, pero supone una limitación en la vida de quien se lo propone"

  • Does to be surrounded by screens and gadgets help improve these digital competences?

For somebody, but not for somebody else. In the current world people of the XXI century co-exist with people, for whatever reason, still in the XX century, and the latter still think that technology is slightly less than frivolous or a waste of time. Any person who refers to social networks or any other gadget as “new technology” – even though they have been popular for more than a decade – have a serious issue, because they handle this environment as if they were short-term, as if they respond to a prompt necessity.

What does this lead to? If somebody uses Google, looks for something and take the first result as the absolute truth, instead of the result of an algorithm, it is not a technology issue: it is a matter of lack of education or common sense. As the computer programmer Aaron Swartz said “it does no longer make sense to go around saying you don’t get the Web”.

  • What are, on the other hand, the dangers of turning into a digital zombie?

Technology does not create addiction or any other issue these people talk about because they don’t get it. Technology assumes many functions, this is why when someone sees another person using the mobile every few minutes, that person does not understand he/she might be reading the news, communicating, looking at a map, taking a picture… Well, dozens of uses that would have required a specific devise in the past and could not be performed simultaneously now can.

We never talked about addiction to a camera, or to maps or to the telephone… but if all these uses are concentrated in a single terminal it looks like we are addicted. The percentage of psychological problems resulting from the use of technology is low, it does not result higher than the rate of psychological disorders already existing in the past, but someone believes that we are becoming zombies who need to move away from technology – or drive our children or employees away.

Enrique Dans: "La inhibición de los padres hacia el conocimiento digital convierte a los hijos en huérfanos digitales"

  • However, many people advocate for digital disconnection. Can one live apart from technology nowadays?

One can live apart from technology, but it represents a restriction in the life of those who decide to. Human beings, throughout their evolution, have always learned how to live at their best in a given environment, using the characteristics of this environment on their favor.

For instance, if we can now count on means to see where we are going, but we insist in continuing to guide ourselves with the sun and the stars in case eventually the GPS fails, it is equally absurd, because these elements, progressively boosted and improved, are going to be part of our environment in the future. It is like if somebody put an effort in keep on writing cuneiform on a clay table in case, one day, we run out of paper and ink..

  • How do you think the digital transformation in our society is being carried out? 

    It is developing in a very spontaneous way, practically without support structures, especially because educational institutions and many other businesses seem to have given up the integration of technology into their methodologies, and they think they can keep educating or working the same way they used to in the last century.

    The use of technology seems to represent a personal preference, as if it was a whim or an option, when actually it is generating deep changes in the way we do things, in how products and services are thought, in the essence of competitiveness among businesses or in the way we handle it as a society. This leads to the fact that most of the problems we have today as a society come from the incapacity of the business leaders and politicians to understand technology and its effects.