Developed environment, same opportunity and contrasting perception of trust between heavy and light users

Presenters: Gwangjae Kim (Hanyang Cyber University and Visiting scholar, N&MRC) and Jee Young Lee (N&MRC).

We examined the relationship between an internet environment developed by strong national policy and the level of user trust in cyberspace in South Korea.

The Korean Government has implemented digital inclusion policies for several decades. As a result, the access gap has narrowed significantly, and the Korean Government’s policy is considered by many countries to be an exemplary case of a strong government drive in this field. However, paradoxically, critics of the current information and communications technology (ICT) environment and outcomes in cyberspace have gradually increased. That is, while the ICT environment has developed dramatically, concerns regarding its negative aspects are also being raised.

A highly developed ICT environment may not be enough to guarantee strong user trust in cyberspace. In other words, there may not be a strong correlation between ICT outcomes driven by policy, and trust in the ICT environment. If so, previous studies that propose a correlation between development levels and trust may be inaccurate.

This study attempts to examine this relationship by conducting secondary data analysis in which a national survey dataset is used. The data was collected by the National Information Society Agency (NIA) in South Korea in 2013, and Korean adult samples aged 20 and over were selected for the study.

We first divided a subsample by types of online activities, which were categorised into ‘production’, ‘transaction’ and ‘communication’ activities. Production activities included ‘post or reply to something online’, ‘upload photos or videos’, and ‘share posts/photos/videos of others’. Transaction activities included ‘online banking’, ‘online purchasing or booking’, and ‘requesting public documents online’. Communication activities included, ‘email’, ‘online communities’, ‘social networking sites (SNS)’ and ‘instant messaging (IM)’. Responses were then categorised into no engagement (non-users), low engagement (engage in activities less than once a week) and high engagement (engage in activities more than once a week), for further analysis in the study.

The results reveal that the more experienced users are at operating in online space, the less they trust information in cyberspace. In contrast, less experienced users perceive the information in cyberspace as more trustworthy. This was especially evident in transaction oriented groups. Therefore, this study suggests digital literacy can lead to a digital trust divide not only between users and non-users, but also among users. The reality of the ICT environment is shown to differ from the traditional view that increased use and the development of the environment correlate with increased trust.

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