School of Information Systems, Curtin University
Dr. Heinz V. Dreher and Naomi Dreher
This research project aimed to examine the social impact of the Internet by investigating its use by people from two generations: Generation Y and ‘seniors’ (born pre-1960s).
Their approach was designed to address three interrelated issues: the relationship between Gen Y and their community; the profusion of technical knowledge embraced by young people; and the lack of technological literacy among the seniors.
Curtin University received grants from the auDA Foundation for two studies in 2007 and 2011.
Their 2007 study revealed that technological illiteracy, at first believed to be mainly in the Silent Generation (born between 1925 and 1945), actually extends into the earliest years of the Baby Boomer generation (those born before 1960 and who became adults before the emergence of desktop computers in 1985).
The 2007 study yielded data on the +65s, whilst the 2011 survey gathered data on the Gen Y group.
In the 2011 study, research findings showed that almost all of the Gen Y participants use the Internet on a daily basis (over half reported to use it hourly). Three-fifths of the +65ers use it on a daily basis.
Overall the members of Gen Y surveyed were more sophisticated users of mobile phones than the participating +65 counterparts. Whilst the +65s used their mobile phones for emergency and convenience, the Gen Y participants used their phones for daily communication as well as entertainment and media sharing.
Almost all of Gen Y surveyed use some kind of social networking site, whereas less than one-fifth of the +65 group use social media. Many of the senior generation did not use a social network because they were wary of information privacy or because they did not see a use for it.
How were obstacles overcome?
Data collection for the 2007 study was through a semi-structured questionnaire used in interviews with respondents. Whilst the +65s participated with interest, the researchers found that Gen Y was not so easily engaged. The poor response rate forced them to rethink the data collection method to better suit the lifestyles and preferences of this group. They decided on a web-based survey instrument with the incentive of a draw for $20 iTunes vouchers, which was an effective way to obtain 221 usable responses.