Just what is digital, exactly?

I’ve seen a few comments bouncing about Twitter and other places debating the meaning of the word digital, and why it hasn’t caught on in some places at all.

I’ve also seen some people saying that ‘digital’ is an unhelpful term, given the broad range of things it seems to describe.

I’d agree that it isn’t perfect, however, it’s what we’ve got. May as well make the most of it.

My definition of digital is:

The delivery of information, interactions and services over the internet.

However, that’s not all. It is also:

The approaches, skills and behaviour that have been popularised by digital projects.

Hence agility, responsiveness, user focus, and so on are all ‘digital’ even though they don’t specifically require the internet.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but this definition works for me, and hopefully for those I work with.

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Dave Briggs

I'm Head of Digital and Design at Adur and Worthing Councils.

5 thoughts on “Just what is digital, exactly?”

  1. Stuff that’s digital and not information, an interaction or a service over the internet:

    Digital Audio Broadcasting (digital radio)
    Digital Video Broadcasting (digital television)
    Stand-alone smartphone apps
    Satellite navigation systems
    Digital Compact Discs (CDs)

    1. All true, Phil, in the sense of digital meaning “not analogue”.

      However, we’re comfortable I think with words having different meaning in different contexts, and the context I’m talking about here with my definition is in the transformation of public services.

      In that context, the fact that certain bits of consumer technology like CDs are digital in one sense isn’t relevant here.

      Also, I intended ‘information’ to be all encompassing (perhaps I should replace it with ‘content’) so digital TV and radio might still fit in.

      Finally, how many standalone apps are there, that don’t connect to the internet? I can’t think of many.

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