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Usefulness: An Issue Lost in the Digital Divide. A Case Study of LaGrange Internet TV Initiative. Greg Laudeman, Jan Youtie, Phil Shapira The Digital Divide.

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usefulness an issue lost in the digital divide

Usefulness: An Issue Lost in the Digital Divide

A Case Study of LaGrange Internet TV Initiative

Greg Laudeman, Jan Youtie, Phil Shapira

the digital divide
The Digital Divide
  • The concept, originated in the first Clinton administration, that certain populations have less access to computers, the internet, and similar technologies, and that this put them at a economic and social disadvantage
    • Cost and complexity are major barriers
  • Those on the other side of the political spectrum argued it was just the market at work.
deeper issues
Deeper Issues
  • The Underlying Assumption was (is) that technology is intrinsically useful
  • Empirical studies show a more complex picture
    • Whether and how IT is used is based on self-concept and personal values because this determines whether and how IT is useful
  • The divide between “instigators” and “ordinary users”
    • How they conceptualize and use technology
it research beyond the digital divide
IT Research Beyond the Digital Divide
  • Technology adoption model and theories of reasoned behavior and self-efficacy (social learning)
  • Ease of use and perceived usefulness
    • Subjective factors that change over time
    • Usage changes perceptions
  • “Task-technology fit” early, organizational-political issues later
  • Behavioral intentions (to use IT)
  • Expectations of benefits (based on prior use) increase usage
  • IT-relate self-efficacy: Belief about ability and benefits
  • Usability matters early as a constraint
  • Usefulness matter more, later as a motivator
  • Attitude and circumstance effect usefulness more, and more directly, than usability

“No amount of ease-of-use makes up for lack of usefulness.”

lagrange ga
LaGrange, GA
  • 85 miles southwest of Atlanta
  • Approx 12,000 households
  • “Full-service” municipality
  • Invested in telecommunication infrastructure for industry and municipality in mid-1990s
  • TV-based internet access provided free to citizens 2000-2004
why lagrange internet tv
Why LaGrange Internet TV?
  • Business and technical opportunity
  • Easy internet
  • Electronic front porch
  • For the kids
  • Market the community
  • New revenue opportunities
  • Transition to a knowledge-based economy
  • Workforce skills
litv research project
LITV Research Project
  • Household-level research
  • What are the impacts of LITV?
  • Why and how do citizens use LITV?
  • 300 Quantitative survey research
  • 14 Qualitative case study research
  • Conducted between 2001 and 2003
householders type 1
Householders Type 1
  • Perceived LITV as useful
  • Relatively simple information and communications needs
  • Light but consistent LITV users
  • Otherwise diverse
householders type 2
Householders Type 2
  • Perceived LITV as useful, but not useful enough
  • Used LITV intensively for a while then abandoned
  • Primarily professional and children
    • More willing to experiment
    • Social support for internet use
    • Personal goal-orientation
householders type 3
Householders type 3
  • LITV broadly useful
  • But for someone else, general and specific
  • Did not use personally
  • Generally older and less affluent
  • LITV broadly useful
  • Used computer and internet at home and/or at work
  • Did not personally use IT
  • Free and easy internet for civic—not personal—purposes

Easy Internet

Easy Internet

Inexpensive tool

Useful toy

Workforce improvement; for the kids

Marginally useful for skill-building and education

Marketing the community

Long-distance substitute

Transition to a knowledge economy; electronic front porch

Media supplement

  • LITV was valuable to a particular set of householders
    • Modest personal requirements
    • No social ideals
    • Minimal abilities
  • LITV had minimal intended impacts
    • It had some value for a many, diverse householders
    • It had significant no real value for some, idealistic householders
    • It had non-instrumental value to stakeholders
  • Personal self-concept and social circumstance were most important factors in adoption and use
  • The digital divide is really about perceptions of usefulness, not so much about cost or complexity (usability)
    • Much more complex than socioeconomic lines
  • Clearly understand the abilities, needs and social context of users/usage
    • Provide a catalyst for interests, predispositions
  • Make it practical and real
    • Avoid socioeconomic idealism
    • Deal with perceptions
  • Invest in ways that make experimentation possible
    • Leverage experiments for publicity