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Internet Use and Opinion Formation in Countries with Different ICT Contexts

Ellen Helsper

Abstract


Use of the internet has become central to social, civic and economic participation in many societies. Countries with early adopters and skilled users are clearly advantaged in comparison to those whose population remains disengaged. A positive public opinion about the internet and technologies can therefore be a major asset to the development and competitiveness of a country on the world stage. It remains unclear to which extent the processes through which public opinion about the internet is formed are similar around the world. World Internet Project data from Chile, the US and the UK are used to model the processes behind opinion formation in countries which are at different stages of development in terms of internet infrastructure and policy making. The findings show that socio-economic factors are more important in countries at the beginning of the diffusion curve, while individual skills and self-efficacy are more important in countries that are further developed. A proactive digital inclusion policy, as found in the UK, seems to achieve a reduction in the importance of skills and economics but cannot diminish the effects of socialization and exposure to ICTs.

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