A Study of Technological Sophistication and Technophobia in University Students From 23 Countries

Michelle M. Weil, Ph.D.

Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.


Excerpts from article published in:

Computers in Human Behavior

Volume 11, No. 1, pp. 95-133, 1995


Overview

Over a two-year period, from 1992 - 1994, data were collected from 3,392 first year university students in 38 universities from 23 countries on their level of technological sophistication and level of technophobia. Technological sophistication was measured by the use of consumer technology (video-cassette recorder, microwave ovens, automated banking, computer/video games), university computing (classroom computer use, word processing experience, programming experience and use of library computers) and computer ownership. Technophobia was assessed by instruments measuring computer anxiety, computer cognitions and computer attitudes.


This web page summarizes some of the major results. For more detailed information, contact Dr. Larry Rosen for a reprint by e-mailing him at lrosen@csudh.edu

Results

Demographic Data

Table 1 summarizes general characteristics of the samples from each country.

Table 1. Number of Universities, Sample Size, Mean Age, and Gender Distribution from 23 Countries (N=3392)

COUNTRY

Number of Universities

Sample Size

Mean Age

% Male

% Female

USA

6

473

21.99

28%

72%

Yugoslavia-Croatia (1)

1

179

21.15

18%

82%

Thailand

1

121

18.80

44%

56%

Spain

2

195

20.70

20%

80%

Singapore

1

52

19.00

8%

92%

Saudi Arabia

1

93

21.86

100%

0%

Poland

1

28

23.21

25%

75%

Northern Ireland

1

73

19.74

21%

79%

Mexico

1

50

27.84

36%

64%

Kenya

1

98

20.31

75%

25%

Japan

3

428

19.47

57%

43%

Italy

2

166

20.78

14%

86%

Israel

1

136

26.12

11%

89%

Indonesia

1

60

18.90

70%

30%

India

1

80

16.20

9%

91%

Hungary

2

232

21.17

35%

65%

Greece

1

63

20.25

44%

56%

Germany

3

235

23.06

42%

58%

Egypt

1

93

18.89

50%

50%

Czechoslovakia (2)

2

134

17.11

42%

58%

Belgium

1

82

19.10

23%

77%

Australia

3

278

21.20

20%

80%

Argentina

1

43

25.93

14%

86%

(1) When data were collected, the sample was obtained from Zagreb, then a city in Yugoslovia, now part of Croatia.

(2) When date were collected the two participating universities were in Czechoslovakia. Now they are in the Czech Republic

Technophobia

Given that the measurement tools were developed for an American audience, they were subjected to an assessment of reliability for each separate country sample. For the Computer Anxiety Rating Scale (CARS) the Cronbach alpha averaged .90 with 20 of the 23 countries showing alpha coefficients above .80. For the Computer Thoughts Survey (CTS), the alpha for the entire sample was .85 with 14 of the 23 countries showing alphas above .80 and four more with alphas between .60 and .79. These data led the researchers to accept the reliability of the CARS and CTS. The General Attitudes Toward Computers Scale (GATCS) was not shown to be reliable. Only in the United States was the alpha coefficient above .60, so this measurment scale was discarded for the current study.

Based on prior validation studies, the distributional characteristics of the CARS and CTS were shown to reflect three distinct levels of comfort with computers and technology for university students - no technophobia, moderate technophobia and high technophobia. The following table displays the percentage of students with "high" levels of technophobia for each country. [NOTE: Graphical depictions of all tables can be found in the original Computers in Human Behavior article.]

Several points are worth noting from Table 2. First, a group of countries including Indonesia, Poland, India, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Mexico and Thailand show large percentages (over 50%) of technophobic students. In contrast, there are five countries which show under 30% technophobes (USA, Yugoslavia - Croatia, Singapore, Israel and Hungary). The remaining countries were in between these two groupings.

In each country, three demographic characteristics were correlated with the two technophobia scores (CARS and CTS). Age was only significantly correlated for four countries. Gender was correlated with technophobia for 12 countries with 8 showing males as less technophobic and 4 showing the reverse. When correlated with computer/technology experience, 19 of the 23 countries showed that more experience was related to less technophobia.

Table 2. Percentage of Students in each country who possessed high levels of technophobia

COUNTRY

Percentage of High Level of Technophobia

USA

29%

Yugoslavia-Croatia

26%

Thailand

51%

Spain

34%

Singapore

18%

Saudi Arabia

62%

Poland

89%

Northern Ireland

41%

Mexico

53%

Kenya

62%

Japan

58%

Italy

38%

Israel

12%

Indonesia

100%

India

82%

Hungary

23%

Greece

48%

Germany

33%

Egypt

48%

Czechoslovakia

30%

Belgium

30%

Australia

31%

Argentina

40%

Technology Utilization

Computer/Technology experience was assessed in the university, in game playing, with household and consumer technology and in computer ownership. These results are shown in Tables 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Table 3 displays the percentage of subjects who had used a computer at least once as a student, had written a computer program, had used a computerized library card catalog and/or search system and had used word processing at least once. The table shows wide diversity between the countries with some country's students using quite a bit of campus technology and others using very little. The second and third columns from the right, depicting library computer usage, show this trend clearly with countries like USA, Singapore, Israel, Germany and Australia showing library computer use and others such as Yugoslavia-Croatia, Thailand, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Mexico, Kenya, Italy, Indonesia, India, Hungary, Greece, Egypt, Czechosolvakia, Belgium and Argentina showing little use of these tools.

Table 3. Computer/Technology Experience in the University

COUNTRY

Use of Computers as a Student

Written Computer Program

Computerized Library Use

Card Catalog

Literature Search

Word Processing Use

USA

92%

71%

69%

68%

80%

Yugoslavia-Croatia

90%

74%

10%

13%

37%

Thailand

46%

36%

8%

8%

16%

Spain

45%

43%

16%

12%

29%

Singapore

83%

60%

77%

73%

79%

Saudi Arabia

31%

23%

3%

8%

22%

Poland

41%

57%

4%

4%

7%

Northern Ireland

69%

34%

41%

48%

32%

Mexico

56%

46%

20%

14%

56%

Kenya

67%

67%

12%

12%

20%

Japan

85%

68%

34%

35%

55%

Italy

25%

32%

8%

7%

33%

Israel

65%

42%

81%

80%

57%

Indonesia

28%

57%

5%

2%

39%

India

49%

46%

0%

1%

38%

Hungary

86%

69%

5%

5%

18%

Greece

46%

25%

2%

5%

6%

Germany

68%

35%

50%

33%

42%

Egypt

27%

13%

3%

10%

36%

Czechoslovakia

98%

98%

10%

12%

36%

Belgium

62%

56%

25%

24%

57%

Australia

33%

37%

19%

21%

19%

Argentina

92%

66%

87%

83%

73%

The data in Table 4 show that most students in most countries have had some experience with computer and arcade games. In most samples, nearly all subjects had used these games at least once.

Table 4. Computer/Technology Experience Playing Games

COUNTRY

Computer Games

Arcade Games

USA

94%

96%

Yugoslavia-Croatia

93%

46%

Thailand

76%

71%

Spain

85%

84%

Singapore

92%

77%

Saudi Arabia

75%

67%

Poland

82%

43%

Northern Ireland

89%

80%

Mexico

88%

90%

Kenya

54%

36%

Japan

84%

84%

Italy

80%

76%

Israel

82%

65%

Indonesia

73%

63%

India

94%

94%

Hungary

93%

80%

Greece

90%

40%

Germany

73%

27%

Egypt

5%

0%

Czechoslovakia

92%

51%

Belgium

89%

65%

Australia

79%

76%

Argentina

96%

92%

The data in Table 5 show the percentage of subjects in each sample who had used a video-cassette recorder, a programmable microwave oven and an automated banking at least once. These results show that the majority of students had used a video-cassette recorder at least once (and in fact most had used them many times). Microwave oven and automated banking use showed a different pattern with a few countries using these household and consumer technologies and most not using them.

Table 5. Consumer and Household Experience With Computer/Technology

COUNTRY

Video-Cassette Recorder

Programmable Microwave Oven

Automated Banking Machines

USA

98%

92%

82%

Yugoslavia-Croatia

88%

23%

5%

Thailand

60%

7%

74%

Spain

87%

47%

62%

Singapore

98%

56%

86%

Saudi Arabia

63%

12%

4%

Poland

86%

25%

0%

Northern Ireland

90%

56%

71%

Mexico

92%

76%

60%

Kenya

56%

8%

1%

Japan

80%

26%

86%

Italy

76%

21%

11%

Israel

89%

50%

100%

Indonesia

66%

10%

3%

India

100%

32%

10%

Hungary

82%

30%

23%

Greece

73%

19%

19%

Germany

66%

33%

68%

Egypt

36%

27%

5%

Czechoslovakia

58%

22%

5%

Belgium

60%

37%

46%

Australia

46%

37%

54%

Argentina

98%

86%

93%

The data in Table 6 show the percentage of students who owned a personal computer (or used one that their family owned) and those who did not plan to own one within 5 years. The first column indicates that computer ownership is higher in some countries than others (and the United States is only sixth highest). The final column paints a dismal picture for some countries where large percentages of students are certain that they will not own a personal computer, even in five years.

Table 6. Computer Ownership

COUNTRY

Computer Ownership

Not Plan to Own Within 5 Years

USA

34%

19%

Yugoslavia-Croatia

19%

36%

Thailand

9%

43%

Spain

52%

19%

Singapore

42%

17%

Saudi Arabia

13%

8%

Poland

4%

82%

Northern Ireland

27%

64%

Mexico

24%

18%

Kenya

4%

68%

Japan

12%

42%

Italy

20%

48%

Israel

65%

19%

Indonesia

14%

8%

India

9%

3%

Hungary

12%

55%

Greece

8%

53%

Germany

40%

62%

Egypt

4%

72%

Czechoslovakia

25%

52%

Belgium

42%

48%

Australia

12%

40%

Argentina

33%

37%

Two-Dimensional Country Representation

Using a stepwise discriminant function analysis with multiple discriminator variables, it was found that two variables were sufficient to provide maximal discrimination between the 23 countries. These two variables included a composite computer/technology experience measure based on an average of all 10 computer/technology experience items and a technophobia measure based on an average of the Computer Anxiety Rating Scale and the Computer Thoughts Survey with the latter reverse scored. The first function, as seen by the beta weights, clearly represented computer/technology experience while the latter represented technophobia. This two-dimensional representation is depicted in the figure below.

Figure 1 reveals seven separate subgroupings of countries:

  1. Low-to-Moderate Technophobia and Much Experience: Israel, Singapore
  2. Moderate Technophobia with Much Experience: USA, Australia
  3. Low-to-Moderate Technophobia with Little-to-Moderate Experience: most European countries including Yugoslavia-Croatia, Spain, Hungary, Germany, Belgium and Argentina.
  4. High Technophobia with Moderate Experience: Japan
  5. High Technophobia with Little-to-Moderate Experience: Indonesia, India, Poland
  6. High Technophobia with Little Experience: Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Kenya, Egypt, Greece and Italy
  7. Moderate Technophobia with Moderate Experience: Mexico, Northern Ireland

Summary

Based on data collected from 3,392 students at 38 universities in 23 countries, vast differences were found in both technological sophistication and negative reactions to computers and technology. Overall, a simple two-dimensional function, using computer/technology experience and technophobia, was sufficient to discriminate clear subgroups of countries. Upon careful evaluation of data from each country, it was found that found factors may explain these differences. First, both dimensions may be partially explained by the availability of technology. Under this explanation, either the lack of available technology or the abundance of technology can inspire discomfort of the unknown and known, respectively. Second, characteristics of the culture itself may lead to the students' reactions to technology. Third, the political structure of the country may inhibit or encourage the use of technology by its allocation of funds. Fourth, the way and manner in which technology is introduced into the educational system may influence students' reactions to technology.

The full article where these findings are published summarizes each of these factors for each country in the study. Implications of this detailed investigation suggests that a culture that values technology, integrates technology early in the formal educational system and has a supportive political climate promotes comfortable technology utilization. In contrast, a country with a lack of clear cultural or political identification with technology, little or no early educational exposure to technology and/or a "top/down" infusion of technology leads to technological confusion, fear and a sense of isolation.


More information on related topics can be found at  Dr. Rosen's web site.

E-mail Dr. Rosen.