The Digital Generation: Introducing the Participation Imperative Framework

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It's a natural inclination to imagine that the difference between young people and their elders is simply that they're young. But at times of rapid technological or social change, quite often, nothing could be more wrong. Instead, patterns of behaviour and culture that you might assume are the caprices of youth will last a lifetime and will become the conservative norm that the youth of the future will rebel against.


Serving the Digital Generation: Innovation for a new breed of customers is Telco 2.0’s attempt to characterise future customers and explore what operators should be doing to better serve them. Statistically speaking, the customer of the future is already with us, in the form of Chinese, South Korean and Japanese youngsters, and is a user of at least one of many social networks, games, and virtual world applications that have sprung up in the last few years. In the report, we analyse a whole range of such services in order to understand the business models and product features that have succeeded.


We identified a number of major factors and new opportunities that constrain and liberate the customer of the future. On one hand, parental paranoia, rapid urbanisation, and proliferating surveillance systems have led to a public space that is ever more restrictive for the young; on the other hand, the digital world has created huge opportunities to escape this and to pursue what we describe as the ’Participation Imperative’. We have developed a framework to help service providers clarify these user needs and how to serve them.


An Introduction to the Participation Imperative Framework

People have a psychological need either to build their identity or to participate vicariously in the identity of others (often through a group identity). In the report, we analysed the innovation processes of operators and other providers, as well as the outputs of this process – products and services – based on the degree to which they help the customer of the future:

  • To interact with a peer group

  • To personalise and exert control over their environment

  • To express creativity

  • To maintain privacy/anonymity or seek notoriety

These, in turn, require certain enabling factors:

  • A directory - find other people

  • Feedback - comments, discussion, personalisation, hackable APIs

  • Portability - working across multiple PCs, mobiles

  • Transaction and payments - virtual currencies

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