Digital Natives: The Most & Least Wired Countries Revealed

Digital natives as a percentage of each country's total population.
Digital natives as a percentage of each country's total population. (Image credit: Via Georgia Tech)

Kids these days. Always on their computers and cellphones "surfing the net."

While it may seem like young people are always using the Internet, it's perhaps surprising that only 30 percent of people ages 15 to 24 worldwide are "digital natives," meaning they've been active on the Internet for at least five years, new research shows.

The award for the most wired youth goes to South Korea, where more than 99.6 percent of young people actively use the Internet, according to a report published Oct. 7 by the International Telecommunication Union, a branch of the United Nations that focuses on information and communication technologies. [The 20 Most and Least Wired Countries]

In the United States, nearly 96 percent of people ages 15 to 24 are digital natives, according to a statement from Georgia Tech, whose researchers were involved in the study. That puts the U.S. behind Japan and several European countries like Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Timor-Leste, a small country in the southwest Pacific also known as East Timor, had the lowest percentage of digital natives, with less than 1 percent.

But the more important number is the proportion of young digital natives to each country's overall population, said Michael Best, a researcher at Georgia Tech a co-author of the study. "That's because a country's future will be defined by today's young people and by technology," Best said in a statement. "Countries with a high proportion of young people who are already online are positioned to define and lead the digital age of tomorrow."

When using this figure — the percentage of digital natives out of the country's total population — the United States did a bit better, coming in sixth overall (13.1 percent). The top place in this category goes to Iceland, at 13.9 percent. Malaysia comes in fourth with 13.4 percent. Malaysia, a middle-income country, has a "strong history of investing in educational technology," according to the release.

Countries with the lowest percentage of digital natives compared with total population are Timor-Leste, Myanmar and Sierra Leone. All of the bottom 10 countries are Asian or African nations, many of which are in the midst of conflict and/or have low Internet availability and thus low Internet usage, the statement noted.

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Douglas Main
Douglas Main loves the weird and wonderful world of science, digging into amazing Planet Earth discoveries and wacky animal findings (from marsupials mating themselves to death to zombie worms to tear-drinking butterflies) for Live Science. Follow Doug on Google+.