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How much is a digital life worth anyway?

By Colin Slater | 5th August 2015

How much is a digital life worth anyway?

A recent PwC survey suggests that UK consumers have digital ‘assets’ worth anything up to £25 billion, ranging from things they’ve paid for, like downloads, to things with no monetary value but which are still irreplaceable if lost, like photos. What does this mean for businesses?

This article, written by Colin Slater from PwC, explores why consumers are so blasé about their digital assests. 

We would never dream of leaving our belongings outside our house. So why are consumers so blasé about their digital assets; and what should businesses do about protecting their own?

Although we may not even be aware of it, we are all living double lives – one in the real world, and one online.

In fact, the lines are more blurred than that because many of us are already running a huge proportion of our ‘real’ lives digitally. This might be through shopping, working, banking, enjoying entertainment or simply interacting with our friends.

It’s fun, it’s convenient and it’s often cheaper.

UK consumers have digital ‘assets’ worth anything up to £25 billion

But the rules and norms by which we manage our digital lives are still evolving. In some ways, we’re struggling to keep up with what technology now allows us to do. You only have to look at how much we now keep online to see what this means in practice. A recent PwC survey suggests that UK consumers have digital ‘assets’ worth anything up to £25 billion, ranging from things they’ve paid for, like downloads, to things with no monetary value but which are still irreplaceable if lost, like photos.

The risk of losing these assets is very real – whether by theft or simply by accident. We would never dream of leaving our physical belongings as exposed as most digital assets are: 1 in 5 of us use the same password for everything and – perhaps surprisingly – the ‘digital natives’ who’ve grown up with the internet are far more blasé than the older generation about protecting their possessions and their privacy online.

What does this mean for businesses? First, and most important, cyber security is as much an issue for organisations as it is for individuals. The digital world represents a whole new realm of risk, from people, to processes, to public perception. Companies need to be as careful about their data and their digital assets as they are about their tangible ones. Second, consumers are getting savvier about the potential value of their own data, and how they can use it to get better deals. Any company in consumer goods needs to get with this particular programme, or risk losing ground to those who do.