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Establishing the human perspective of the information society

Partridge, Helen L. (2007) Establishing the human perspective of the information society. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

The digital divide is a core issue of the information society. It refers to the division

between those who have access to, or are comfortable using, information and

communication technology (ICT) (the "haves") and those who do not have access

to, or are not comfortable using ICT (the "have-nots"). The digital divide is a complex

phenomenon. The majority of studies to date have examined the digital divide from

a socio-economic perspective. These studies have identified income, education and

employment as the key factors in determining the division between the "haves" and

the "have-nots". Very little research has explore the psychological, social or cultural

factors that contribute to digital inequality in community. The current study filled this

gap by using Bandura's social cognitive theory (SCT) to examine the psychological

barriers that prevent individuals from integrating ICT into their everyday lives.

SCT postulates that a person will act according to their perceived capabilities and

the anticipated consequences of their actions. Four studies have explored the digital

divide using SCT. Because of limitations in the research design these studies have

shed only limited light onto current understanding of digital inequality in community.

The current research was the first study exploring the digital divide that (i)

incorporated both socio-economic and socio-cognitive factors, (ii) used a community

context that ensured the recruitment of participants who represented the full

spectrum of the general population, and (iii) was conducted in both the US and

Australia. Data was gathered via self administered questionnaires in two

communities: Brisbane, Australia and San Jose, USA. Completed questionnaires

were obtained from 330 and 398 participants from the US and Australia,

respectively.

Hierarchical regression analysis was used to explore the research question: what

influence do socio-cognitive factors have in predicting internet use by members of

the general population when the effects of socio-economic factors are controlled?

The results of this analysis revealed that attitudes do matter. The US study found

that socio-economic factors were not statistically significant predictors of internet

use. The only factor that found to be a significant predictor of use was internet self

efficacy. In short individuals with higher levels of internet self efficacy reported

higher levels of internet use. Unlike the US study, the Australian study found that by

themselves several socio-economic factors predicted internet use. In order of

importance these were age, gender, income and ethnicity. However, the study also revealed that when socio-economic factors are controlled for, and socio-cognitive

variables included into the analysis, it is the socio-cognitive and not the socioeconomic

variables that are the dominant (in fact the only!) predictors of internet

use.

The research illustrated that the digital divide involves more than just the availability

of resources and funds to access those resources. It incorporates the internal forces

of an individual that motivates to them to use or integrate ICT into their lives. The

digital divide is not just about ICT such as computers and the internet. It is about

people. As such, the key to solving the issue of digital inequality is not going to be

found with corporate or government funds providing physical access to technology.

Instead, the key to solving digital inequality is inside the individual person. The

alternative view of the digital divide presented in this research is by no means

intended to minimise the role played by socio-economic factors. Indeed, the socioeconomic

perspective has helped shed light on a very real social issue. What this

research has done is suggest that the digital divide is more complex and more

involved than has been imagined, and that further and different research is required

if genuine insights and real steps are going to be made in establishing an

information society for all.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16572
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Edwards, Sylvia, Bruce, Christine, Hallam, Gillian, & Baxter, Paul
Keywords: information society, information literacy, digital divide, social cognitive theory, psychology, haves, have-nots, self-efficacy, survey method, internet, Australia, USA
Department: Faculty of Information Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Helen Louise Partridge
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 14:06
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2011 05:49

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