Lejiņa L., Mārtinsone K., Ļevina J.
Currently, the development and the usage of information and communication technology incorporating the Internet is increasing sharply. Yet, the diffusion of the usage of technology is not equal worldwide. As a possible explanation of this inequality the impact of the culture had been considered. In this paper, the differences of cultural dimensions and the indicators of the usage of Internet in post-soviet and old European countries are explored. As the theoretical framework of this research Hofstede`s model of cultural dimensions is used. The results revealed that there were differences between post-soviet and old European countries, firstly, in cultural dimensions, namely, masculinity and long-term orientation, and secondly, in the indicators of the usage of Internet.
The usage of information and communication technology (ICT) expands rapidly yet unequally across countries all over the world. Evidently, the economical wealth of the country is a factor in this inequality, nevertheless, according to Hofstede, culture has a crucial role in the acceptance and usage of technology (Hofstede, 2001). There is little evidence showing a relationship between culture and the usage of ICT worldwide (Musambira, Matusitz, 2015).
Currently, cross-cultural researches are exceedingly evaluated in psychology, as culture had been admitted to be an essential variable for the researches of all aspects of human nature (Matsumoto, Yoo, 2006). Due to the increasing process of globalization, knowledge and use of cross-cultural diversity becomes a necessity. For cross-cultural researches Hofstede`s model of cultural dimensions is widely used, particularly because the measurements of these cultural dimensions are considered to be stable in time (Hofstede, Hofstede, Minkov, 2010). Nonetheless, these considerations had been criticised by several authors (e.g. Ailon, 2008), which had also drawn attention to the impact of globalization on culture and therefore on cultural dimensions. Evident contributor to the globalization is ICT, especially the Internet, therefore, it can be argued about the relationship between culture and the Internet.
There are several conceptions of Europe – political (e.g. European Union) and geographical (as a continent, incorporating in European countries also, e.g. Norway, Russia, Turkey), to name a few. Throughout the paper, the term post-soviet countries will refer to the countries which were a part of the Soviet Union, and the term old European countries will refer to the countries which had joined European Union before 1991.
No previous studies have reported evidence of comparison of post-soviet countries and old European countries, which can be contrasted on the base of different developments in history, transformations and social values. Therefore, the aim of this paper is, first, to investigate the differences in the ranking of cultural dimensions between post-soviet and old European countries, and second, to determine the difference in the usage of Internet between post-soviet and old European countries, thus, the relationship between culture and the usage of Internet can be possibly established.
Cultural dimensions. As Hofstede states, culture is “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others” (Hofstede, Hofstede, Minkov, 2010, 6). A follows, culture of the society has an effect on the values and succeeding behaviour of individuals of the society. Hofstede`s latest model for comparing national societies contains six independent dimensions which are based on the differences between national cultural values: individualism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity, long-term orientation, and indulgence.
Individualism/ collectivism is identified by the extent of the integration of the individuals in the groups (Hofstede, Hofstede, Minkov, 2010). In individualistic cultures (e.g. the Netherlands, United Kingdom), the connections between individuals are loose, the focus is on individual needs and goals, challenge, autonomy, and independence. Conversely, in collectivistic cultures (e.g. Portugal, Greece), individuals are involved into strong in-groups, the needs and goals of which prevails the interests of the individuals. Since individuals of individualistic cultures are encouraged to express their own views, innovate and adopt new ideas and products, previous studies have found that highly ranked countries in individualism also rank high in the ICT adoption and penetration (Erumban, De Jong, 2006; Hofstede, 2001) and in the Internet use (Lejiņa, Mārtinsone, Ļevina, 2016; Musambira, Matusitz, 2015).
Power distance refers to the extent less powerful individuals of society accept and expect the uneven distribution of power (Hofstede, Hofstede, Minkov, 2010). In cultures with large power distance (e.g. Russia, France), inequality is accepted by the less powerful people, meeting their needs of a dependence. In cultures with low power distance (e.g. Estonia, Luxembourg), there is a presumption that inequality among people should be decreased. As a result of unequal distribution of resources along with access to the Internet, previous studies have reported that countries with high power distance score show low score in the Internet use (Matusitz, Musambira, 2013) and low rate of ICT adoption and penetration (Erumban, De Jong, 2006; Hofstede, 2001).
Uncertainty avoidance is characterized by the extent of tolerance of society towards ambiguity, uncertainty and by the efforts of trying to avoid them (Hofstede, Hofstede, Minkov, 2010). In cultures with strong uncertainty avoidance (e.g. Belgium, Spain), uncertainty is perceived as a threat which raises anxiety therefore should be escaped. Still, familiar hazards can be accepted. In cultures with weak uncertainty avoidance (e.g. Denmark, United Kingdom), uncertainty is acceptable and it does not cause stress and anxiety, contrary, what is different raises curiosity. Since individuals of cultures with high uncertainty avoidance tends not to tolerate life-changing novelties, a number of researchers have reported that countries ranking high in uncertainty avoidance rank low in ICT adoption (Erumban, De Jong, 2006) and in the Internet use (Matusitz, Musambira, 2013). Nevertheless, this effect is missing when the usage of product becomes traditional (Hofstede, 2001).
Masculinity/ femininity refers to the distribution of the emotional roles between genders (Hofstede, Hofstede, Minkov, 2010). In masculine cultures (e.g. Latvia, Lithuania), emotional gender roles are diverse. In feminine cultures (e.g. Germany, United Kingdom), it is accepted for men and women to have the same qualities. Individuals of masculine and feminine cultures can likely use the Internet for different purposes (Erumban, De Jong, 2006), hence, no significant differences were found in previous researches between masculine and feminine cultures in the quantitative use of the Internet (Musambira, Matusitz, 2015) or in the ICT adoption (Erumban, De Jong, 2006).
Long-term orientation is defined by the focus on the values rewarding in the future (Hofstede, Hofstede, Minkov, 2010). In long-term orientation cultures (e.g. Belarus, Kyrgyz Republic), as they have future perspective, thrift, perseverance, adaptiveness, pragmatism, and self-discipline are valued. In opposite, in short-term orientation cultures (e.g. Ireland, Georgia), with their focus on the values related to the past and present, traditions, national pride, thinking of oneself, spending, and quick results are appraised. However, few studies have investigated the relationship between long-term orientation and the Internet use. A recent study by Lejiņa, Mārtinsone and Ļevina found that highly ranked countries in long-term orientation also rank high in the Internet use (Lejiņa, Mārtinsone, Ļevina, 2016).
Indulgence/ restraint is the most recent cultural dimension characterized by the attitude towards the fulfilment of desires related to enjoying life (Hofstede, Hofstede, Minkov, 2010). Happiness, importance of leisure and having friends, and freedom of speech is highly appreciated in cultures with high indulgence scores (e.g. the Netherlands, Denmark). On the contrary, restraint cultures (e.g. Moldova, Azerbaijan), value moral discipline, maintenance of order, and strict social norms. There has been little quantitative analysis of the relationship between indulgence and the Internet use.
Taken together, several studies (Musambira, Matusitz, 2015; Matusitz, Musambira, 2013; Erumban, De Jong, 2006; Hofstede, 2001) have documented the relationship between cultural dimensions and the usage of ICT, including the Internet. In the light of the observations mentioned above, the following questions of research are formulated:
Question 1. Is there a difference in the ranking of cultural dimensions between post-soviet and old European countries?
Question 2. Is there a difference in the usage of Internet between post-soviet and old European countries?
Methods. The subjects of further analysis are nations that were considered as post-soviet and old European countries and were incorporated individually in both data sources, described further. That produced data on 23 countries – eleven post-soviet and twelve old European countries. Two tertiary sources were used to gather data: World Values Survey (Hofstede, Hofstede, Minkov, 2010) and ICT Indicators Database (International Telecommunication Union, 2015). Dimensions of culture, based on World Values Survey, are (a) individualism, (b) power distance, (c) uncertainty avoidance, (d) masculinity, (e) long-term orientation, and (f) indulgence. It should be considered that data about individualism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and masculinity was available and included in the analysis only from four (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia) of eleven post-soviet countries. Data about indulgence was from ten out of eleven post-soviet countries, excluding Armenia, and about long-term orientation – from all eleven post-soviet countries, included in this analysis. For the analysis of the Internet use, the indicators drawn from the ICT Indicators Database are (a) Internet users (percentage of individuals using the Internet), and (b) households with Internet access (percentage of households with Internet access), all for year 2014.
Results. To answer the first question of research, a Mann-Whitney test was used, investigating the differences between post-soviet and old European countries in the ranking in cultural dimensions (Table 1).
Differences between post-soviet and old European countries in the ranking of cultural dimensions
Results indicate that old European countries were ranked higher in masculinity than post-soviet countries (p < .05), and in indulgence (p = .000). No significant differences were found between post-soviet and old European countries in the ranking of individualism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation.
To answer the second question of research, a Mann-Whitney test was used, in order to investigate the differences between post-soviet and old European countries in the usage of Internet (Table 2).
Differences between post-soviet and old European countries in the usage of Internet
|Households with Internet access||−3.26||.001|
Results show that there are statistically significant differences in the indicators of the usage of Internet between post-soviet and old European countries. The indicators of the number of Internet users and households with Internet access are higher in old European countries (p = .002; p = .001).
Discussion. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the differences between post-soviet and old European countries in the cultural dimensions and in the usage of Internet. Results show the tendency of post-soviet countries to rank lower in masculinity and indulgence than old European countries. No significant differences were found in the ranking of individualism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation. If mentioning the usage of Internet, there was observed tendency of post-soviet countries to rank lower than old European countries in both selected indicators of the usage of Internet. Taken together, these results suggest that, using the particular sample of subjects for analysis, there are differences between post-soviet and old European countries in two out of six cultural dimensions as well as in the usage of Internet.
As previous researches suggest (Musambira, Matusitz, 2015; Matusitz, Musambira, 2013; Erumban, De Jong, 2006; Hofstede, 2001), high ranking in individualism, long-term orientation, and indulgence and low ranking in power distance and uncertainty avoidance are linked with the high ranking in the Internet use. Therefore, contrary to expectations, this study did not discover affirmation to the previous findings. The results of this study indicate that post-soviet countries which are ranked lower in the Internet use than old European countries, do not differ in individualism and long-term orientation, rank lower in indulgence, not differ in power distance and uncertainty avoidance, if compared with old European countries. Consequently, on the basis of these results, it can be thus suggested that culture tends not to play a relevant role in the usage of Internet, and this can be considered as an important issue for future research.
These findings may be somewhat limited by the use of tertiary data as well as the small size of the sample of measurements of the cultural dimensions. Notwithstanding these limitations, these findings raise intriguing questions worth of discussion in the future regarding the nature and extent of relationship between cultural dimensions and the Internet use. The current findings add to a growing body of literature on relationship between culture and the usage of ICT.
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