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Measuring the Perceived Impact of Internet on Individuals in Rural India

Author :-   Prof Rekha Jain​, IIMA. IIMA Working Paper No. 2016-03-61, March 2016
Abstract :-   

Internet has greatly influenced the way individuals socialize, create and exploit economic opportunities and knowledge resources. However, previous studies on assessment of impact have largely been empirical and limited to examining the factors influencing adoption and usage of Internet only from a social and economic perspective. These have not considered the role of knowledge enhancement and exchange. In addition, few studies measure impact in an integrated manner and are based on theory. Consequently, the constituent dimensions of impact, their inter-relationships and their intensity have not been articulated. To develop a construct for measuring impact of Internet use, we have used two theoretical and complementary domains: Social Capital and Social Cognitive Theory. Since Internet is considered a network for social exchanges, a study of Perceived Impact of Internet would need to take into account the aspect of social capital consequent to adoption and usage of Internet. On another dimension, usage of Internet could lead to increase in economic capital due to enhanced opportunities for business or profession. Internet is also a source of knowledge that could enhance economic or social benefits by creating opportunities for businesses or professional growth. Thus what constitutes impact is a complex construct broadly manifested along social, economic and knowledge dimensions. Further, most studies of Internet impact have not examined the role of outcome expectations and self-efficacy, two important constructs from theory of Social Cognition, in driving Internet use. Our study is driven by the need to develop a theoretical model for measuring impact by identifying the underlying dimensions that constitute impact and creating a construct for measuring the same. Lack of studies of impact of Internet in developing countries, especially in rural areas was another driver. We have used a survey based instrument administered to Internet users covering two of the poorer districts in Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh, India. Principal Component Analysis was used to identify the latent perceptual dimensions that constitute impact. Subsequently, we used linear regression to posit the strengths of each identified dimension in contributing to Perceived Impact. The model highlights the importance of using Internet for overcoming vulnerabilities in a rural context, negative disconfirmation with respect to having Enhanced Scope of Work through Internet use and social context of knowledge creation and cognition. The negative disconfirmation could be attributed to possibly low self-efficacy or not completely fulfilled outcome expectations from available services. Lack of content in local language, poor presence of local websites, low presence of associates and partners on the Internet, and inadequate quality of Internet connectivity contribute to this.