No. 37




What Helps One Become a Digital Citizen? *

04 June 2018


RiTo No. 37, 2018

  • Mare Ainsaar

    Mare Ainsaar

    Associate Professor in Sociology and Social Policy, University of Tartu

  • Indrek Soidla

    Indrek Soidla

    Analyst, Institute of Social Studies, University of Tartu

Today’s world is becoming increasingly computerised. Estonia is well-known as a country where the citizens’ communication with the state has been digitalised and many services have been taken online.

However, there is a considerable digital age divide – 80% of the 75+ people in Estonia do not use the internet. This is problematic for communication between the state and its citizens, but also for the state’s ability to retrieve reliable data from surveys that increasingly rely on the web for data collection.

The article gives an overview of a scientific experiment called CRONOS, the aim of which was to include computer illiterate people in the digital world. Respondents of the European Social Survey were asked to take part in a year-long web panel survey, whereas tablets with paid-for internet connection were made available to off-liners together with instructions on how to use them. Nevertheless, only around 10 per cent of the offline sample accepted the offer. The tablet offer was disproportionally more often taken up by Estonian-speaking and younger off-liners, those who value understanding different opinions and a strong state that is able to care for its citizens. Gender, educational level and health were not related to the willingness of going online.

Giving out tablets helped the panel achieve rather good representativeness among those up to 75 years old, and while it also increased participation in the 76+ group, the numbers were too low for a balanced final sample. Overall, men were somewhat underrepresented in comparison to women. However, the slight underrepresentation was rather uniform among men’s age groups, whereas younger and middle-aged women were overrepresented and older women strongly underrepresented.

The authors conclude that at present the using of web surveys as the sole mode of data collection does not allow gathering data representative to the Estonian population yet. This is mainly due to the underrepresentation of older people, which cannot be compensated for by providing tablets. In addition, those accepting tablets are a selective group. In the case of long-term web panel studies (omnibus studies), higher attrition among younger age groups may become problematic as well.

* Peer-reviewed article.