By Eimear Dodd Journalism MA student, @TheCity_Dublin editor, @Irish_TechNews. Image by Pexels from pixabay here.

New research by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has identified a divide in the use of digital technologies within cultural institutions by developed and emerging economies.

Commissioned by Google, A new age of culture: The digitisation of arts and heritage examines digitisation efforts at 243 museums, heritage sites and other cultural venues in 22 countries across the globe.

“Cultural digitisation creates wide-ranging benefits for both institutions and the general public. It is becoming more important to the preservation of important cultural artefacts, particularly those that are under threat from environmental destruction and war.” said Chris Clague, the editor of the report.

He continued: “For the public, it provides access to art and heritage that might not have been possible otherwise, either due to distance, cost or other factors.”

The research was carried out to identify the challenges and opportunities for arts and cultural institutions in the digital landscape. It found that a lack of funding and uneven internet access were two barriers to the wider use of digital technologies by museums, heritage sites and other cultural institutions.

Cultural institutions in each country reviewed were scored across five categories: websites, social media presence, interactive experience capacity, digital access to archives, and digital education initiatives. The scorecard then categorises the countries into advanced, progressing, emerging and nascent based on their performance.

The selected countries were chosen to provide a snapshot of different geographic and economic circumstances. Among the countries reviewed were Argentina, China, France, India, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, the UK and the US.

The research found that cultural institutions have had particular success in developing their websites. All countries except one, Indonesia, scored in the top category.

However, the report identified a number of areas where cultural institutions are struggling. These include social media, digital access to archives and digital education initiatives. Only the United Kingdom scored in the top category in these areas.

The US and the UK were the only countries to score advanced ratings in more than one category on the scorecard.

As part of the research, 2,200 consumers were surveyed about their cultural consumption habits.

Among the survey’s findings, 46% of respondents said that they currently use digital tools to educate their children or other family and friends. Another 37% said they planned to start doing so. The report concludes that a broader digitisation of society is required before institutions can build or adopt more specific tools for education.

The survey also found that rather than decreasing physical visits to museums, heritage sites and other cultural venues, digitisation is increasing engagement. 52% of consumers surveyed said they did not attend fewer exhibitions or events because of digital access.


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