The Internet is Good For You!


The Internet is a strange thing. In the early life of the Internet there was a lot of rhetoric about how bad the Internet would be for all sorts of things – relationships, social life, civic engagement, etc. Now we know that 1) the Internet is here to stay and 2) the effects of the Internet aren’t really good or bad, but that affordances of the Internet (or any technology) can impact particular social processes/mechanisms in ways that change outcomes.

This week there is a tremendous effort in Azerbaijan to raise money for a young woman with cancer. The Internet and social media allow for word to spread about the campaign, give information on how to donate, and promote the campaign through photos. Moreover, the social aspect of social media allows people to share the campaign with their friends, show that they are themselves participating (and thus showing everyone – hey! I’m a good person!), and additionally give a little FU to the government medical system that is unable to pay for this young woman’s treatment.

Because of this, as well as my graduate course I’m teaching about pro-social outcomes of technology use, I wanted to test to see the Internet and social media’s influence on particular pro-social outcomes (of civic engagement specifically) in Azerbaijan.

I did some analysis with the 2012 Caucasus Barometer and here is what I found.

Donating to charity (even via SMS) is popular in Azerbaijan with 18% of adults having done it in the last 6 months. Education, economic status, and being male mattered a lot here, but Internet frequency did too! Surprisingly perhaps, being a member of a social networking site had no effect.

Volunteering (without compensation) is complicated in post-Soviet environments, yet it is also fairly popular in Azerbaijan with 22% of adults having volunteered in the psat 6 months. We know that those that do volunteer are younger and better educated. So I tested (binominal regression) the impact of Internet frequency on volunteering, controlling for urbanness, sex, age, economic status, and education. The most important determinant of volunteering was being male (men 1.5 times as likely to volunteer as women), then economic status and education (both were 1.25x as likely to participate if you were higher in these things), but regardless, Internet frequency mattered too, with frequent Internet users being 1.09x as likely to volunteer.

One form of civic engagement (which some may argue is actually a form of protest or dissent) is sending a letter to a newspaper or TV or radio station. We already know that the people that tend to do this are more politically and civically engaged, so I controlled for urbanness, sex, age, economic status, and education. And I found that more frequent Internet users were 1.27 times as likely to sending a letter or call a media station. Social networking site users were 1.2X as likely to do this as well. Importantly though, less than 5% of Azerbaijani adults actually did this!

Cultural capital is often measured by participating in cultural activities. The Internet matters here too. Frequent Internet users were 1.25X as likely to go to the theatre or cinema than less frequent Internet users. But really what mattered here was living in Baku. Bakvuians are 6x as likely to go to these things, unsurprisingly, although regional city dwellers went too. Economic status and education mattered here too. But only 11% have done this in the last 6 months.

So looks like the Internet is a “good” thing in terms of these outcomes in Azerbaijan.


Social Networking Sites in Armenia – Facebook for Elites, Odnoklassniki for Everyone Else


(This is a continuation of a post I made in 2010 about this issue. This analysis based on the 2013 Alternative Resources in Media dataset.)

So, the social networking site that one spends time on isn’t arbitrary. Research tells us that generally people go where their friends are, but also that there are demographic differences in site choice. A study of MySpace versus Facebook in 2007 is the classic case of this. For a variety of reasons, wealthier and more educated people were on Facebook and poorer and less educated people were on MySpace. Nowadays in the U.S., Facebook has sort of taken over the social networking space and a lot of those demographic differences have gone away.

In the 2010 analysis posted above, Facebook in Armenia was quite elite while Odnoklassniki was not. Some reasons include that Odnoklassniki was more accessible on for free or cheap on mobile devices, the Russian language interface was more accessible to those without English skills (at the time Facebook was mainly an English language platform), Odnoklassniki was more about fun (and porn), and Facebook wasn’t great on a mobile device.

Fast forward to 2013, and things have changed. Facebook has grown a lot globally. The Facebook mobile platform is very user-friendly. Russian and Armenian versions of Facebook work quite well. More Armenians are online as well.

So I looked once again at use. Let’s first look at the overall picture before going into the demographic differences.

(Note that this is PRIMARY SNS, they could have accounts on the other site.)
First you can see that a third of all Armenian adults are on a social networking site and 70% of all adult Armenian Internet users are on a social networking site. The Odnoklassniki versus Facebook breakdown is that 10% of all Armenian adults are on Facebook, but 20% of all Armenian adults are on Odnoklassniki. Of Internet users, less than a quarter are on Facebook while nearly half (45%) are on Odnoklassniki. The comparative breakdown is a third of SNS users on Facebook and two-thirds on Odnoklassniki.

snschoice

In terms of the time that is spent on the social networking site, there weren’t tremendous differences. About a third are on the SNS several times a day and most of the rest of the users are on the SNS at least once a day.

freq

So who is on each site?

(This is based on an ANOVA):

There is no difference in age between Facebook and Odnoklassniki and other SNS users in AGE. However, non SNS users are much older. It is the same story with ECONOMIC WELLBEING – non SNS users are poorer than SNS users. The same is for RUSSIAN skills – the only difference is with non-SNS users and users.
ENGLISH skills – Facebook users (and other SNS users, but they’re weird, so let’s ignore them) have statistically significantly higher English skills than others.
Facebook users are also statistically significantly higher in EDUCATION than everyone else.
No differences in SEX.

So, we can summarize that Facebook users are more elite – English speaking and better educated. Thus, not a big chance from 2010.

(This is based on a multinominal logistic regression):
Looking at this 2013 data, the determinants of being an Odnoklassniki user are the following. In this analysis, all the different factors consider each other, so for example, the influence of higher education on English language skill is cancelled out, so each variable is really telling its own story.

First, Sex – men are more likely to be on Odnoklassniki than women. Next, Russian language skills – those with better Russian are more likely to be on Odnoklassniki than those with poor Russian. Then English skills matter. Then education.
Determinants of being on Facebook are first English skill. Better English means more likely to be on Facebook. Next, higher education. Russian language skill matters next.

For both Odnoklassniki and Facebook, age and economic status didn’t matter much. However, younger and wealthier people are more likely to be online. So it appears that once you’re online, your choice of social networking site is more about language skills and education.

So, with that, what are people doing on social networking sites?

Remember that Facebook users are more “elite” – so the activities they do will likely be more elite as well.

In terms of communicating with friends, posting photos, and entertainment no big differences between the sites. However, Facebook users are more interested in getting and sharing information. Odnoklassniki users are also playing more games than Facebook users.

snsactivities

When asked what the most important activity on a social networking site, Facebook users were much more likely to say getting information.

mostimportant

When asked about sharing political and social information, Facebook users are much more likely to share than Odnoklassniki users. But the majority of all social networking site users aren’t sharing (they say!).

sharing


Tech inequality in Georgia


Link to full document.

While politicians love to cite percentage of Internet users as a meaningful metric for Internet development, this may not be the case. In this example from late 2011 in Georgia, we use that the sociodemographic differences between those that do not know what the Internet is, those who never use the Internet, and those that use the Internet daily are stark.
Moreover, there are tremendous differences between what daily Internet users are doing online and what those that infrequently access are doing.
Capital-enhancing activities like reading blogs, reading news, or searching for information are much more likely when the user is online daily.
So what are these weekly and monthly Internet users doing? NOT MUCH.

Thus, be skeptical when you read or hear about X% of people in a country are online. That may include the old man who got online at an Internet cafe once 4 years ago. It might include the woman who only uses the Internet when her son opens Skype for her on a holiday to speak with distant family.
These individuals are not experiencing the benefits of the Internet that the daily users are. And given that those with daily access tend to be those already advantaged in Georgian society, the Internet may contribute to greater inequality as those with resources continue to gain access to more resources: a Matthew Effect.


Technology Inequality in Azerbaijan


Link to full document.

While politicians love to cite percentage of Internet users as a meaningful metric for Internet development, this may not be the case. In this example from late 2011 in Azerbaijan, we use that the sociodemographic differences between those that do not know what the Internet is, those who never use the Internet, and those that use the Internet daily are stark.
What are Azerbaijani Internet users doing? If around half of daily users are noting these popular activities, where are the other half going?

Thus, be skeptical when you read or hear about X% of people in a country are online. That may include the old man who got online at an Internet cafe once 4 years ago. It might include the woman who only uses the Internet when her son opens Skype for her on a holiday to speak with distant family.

Azerbaijan is still in the early adopter stage of Internet diffusion. Thus it is unsurprising that elites are doing elite things online. As time goes on and more Azerbaijanis get online, it will be interesting to see what activities they engage in. If Azerbaijani later adopters are anything like those in Armenia and Georgia, we’ll see a tremendous gap between what elites are doing online and what everyone else does.


Technology Inequality in Armenia


Link to full version.

While politicians love to cite percentage of Internet users as a meaningful metric for Internet development, this may not be the case. In this example from late 2011 in Armenia, we use that the sociodemographic differences between those that do not know what the Internet is, those who never use the Internet, and those that use the Internet daily are stark.
Moreover, there are tremendous differences between what daily Internet users are doing online and what those that infrequently access are doing.
Capital-enhancing activities like reading blogs, reading news, or searching for information are much more likely when the user is online daily.
So what are these weekly and monthly Internet users doing? NOT MUCH.

Thus, be skeptical when you read or hear about X% of people in a country are online. That may include the old man who got online at an Internet cafe once 4 years ago. It might include the woman who only uses the Internet when her son opens Skype for her on a holiday to speak with distant family.
These individuals are not experiencing the benefits of the Internet that the daily users are. And given that those with daily access tend to be those already advantaged in Armenian society, the Internet may contribute to greater inequality as those with resources continue to gain access to more resources: a Matthew Effect.


Azerbaijani government steps up its digital game


Azeri opposition daily links new internet project to presidential election
BBC Monitoring International Reports – Sunday, September 30, 2012
An influential Azerbaijani opposition newspaper has linked the launch of a new social networking website, www.butalife.com, to the 2013 presidential election.

The owner of the website is Ilham Abduyev, brother-in-law of powerful Azerbaijani Emergencies Minister Kamaladdin Heydarov, the Yeni Musavat newspaper reported on 21 September. Abduyev is also the owner of the azerbaijans.com and qarabag.net websites, which contain information about Azerbaijan and its breakaway region of Nagornyy Karabakh.

Second in Azerbaijan

“The name of Abduyev is rarely in the limelight and he is known as the person leading the emergencies minister’s ‘intellectual team’ and who is mostly engaged in creative activities. However, there is no doubt that the launch in Azerbaijan of an online social network calculated for the international audience could not be implemented without direct approval and financial support of Kamaladdin Heydarov,” the report said.

The newspaper described Heydarov as the second most powerful man in the Azerbaijani politics and said that given the uncertain financial prospects of the project there is likely to be a political aspect to it.

“The social networks are currently an important tool in the politics as well and politicians are using them to mobilize the electorate or organize protests of the disgruntled. Heydarov does not lack political ambitions and his name was often mentioned in the mass media as a contender for the post of prime minister or even president,” Yeni Musavat said.

2013 presidential election

However, the report noted that Heydarov is unlikely to oppose Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and cited an anonymous source in the government as saying that the website will be used in the 2013 presidential election to support the incumbent. “The emergencies minister is thus trying to prove that he is ready to mobilize all his resources for the third presidential term of Aliyev,” Yeni Musavat said.

The newspaper further quoted the source as saying that the Azerbaijani authorities are bringing in online PR campaign specialists from abroad in preparation to use the internet and social networking websites in the forthcoming presidential election campaign.

“The recent instructions by the NAP [New Azerbaijan Party] Political Council for the young members of the ruling party to become members of Facebook and to actively use it as part of this plan,” Yeni Musavat said. The newspaper added that currently the opposition supporters are very active on Facebook and other social networking websites and the authorities are lagging behind.

Abduyev’s remarks

Meanwhile, lent.az news website published on 13 September the text of an address by Ilham Abduyev concerning the launch of Butalife.

The website will be a “window from Azerbaijan on to the world” and the main objective is to “gain an international status and turn into one of the most trusted places in the world for social debate”, Abduyev writes in the address.

He added that the website will also be different from other social network by using online TV and news feeds from the most popular international media, offering blogging microsites and sections for examinations, tests and business.

BBCM note: There are no restrictions on Azerbaijanis using international social media sites such as Facebook , Twitter. According to the socialbakers.com website over 10 per cent of the Azerbaijani population (880,620 people) are Facebook users.


Please help support our research project


I am incredibly lucky to have some amazing research collaborators and friends. For the project that I’m about to describe, I’m working with three women who rock my world. Two of them are also academic mommies of young kids (together we have 5 kids under age 6), two are non-native English speakers working in English at a near native proficiency – which is awesome, and all three are great and funny friends who work exceptionally hard and are passionate about creating positive change in the region. Two are also well known gender and digital activists in the region while the other two are American academics with over a decade of involvement in the region. We are all deeply concerned about inequalities in the region, especially for women.

We are all also interested in the role that technology can play in helping to better the region.

So, with that gushing out of the way, I want to share with you our (Sarah Kendzior, Jale Sultanli, and Arzu Geybullayeva) research proposal.

Last year in running the normal analyses on the Caucasus Barometer to see what percentage of the population has access to certain technologies, I noticed that ONCE AGAIN Azerbaijan lagged behind Armenia and Georgia. This seems strange because they’re, on the whole, wealthier – and wealth is the primary predictor for technology ownership.

What I soon realized is that one of the reasons that Azerbaijanis are less likely to own and use technologies is that there are huge gender discrepancies.

I was really saddened by this and after sharing my findings with these wonderful women, we began chatting through social media channels and privately (sometimes in person, sometimes digitally) about these issues. We were all worried about this problem and what it means for Azerbaijan today and in the future.

We talked about trying to pull together a research proposal but we were all quite busy. I’ve been starting a new academic position, Jale moved to an entirely new country while working on her PhD, Sarah has been transitioning out of academia, and Arzu, as usual, has her hands in many projects. Sarah and I are also working on a few other projects regarding Internet in Azerbaijan (as we have in the past), but none with a gender lens.

But then we saw that Freedom House was hosting a contest for projects related to Internet freedom with public voting. I immediately emailed my lovely friends and suggested that this could be the opportunity that we’ve been waiting for to explore the question of what is going on with women and the Internet in Azerbaijan.

So we worked on our proposal and now we need your help.

Our idea is to run a series of focus groups in Azerbaijan to talk to women (and men) about what’s going on with women and the Internet. We’ll also conduct some interviews. After our analysis we’re going to disseminate the findings in an advocacy campaign.

You can vote on our project once a day for this entire week. Here’s the voting site. Please share.

I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work on such an important project with such amazing collaborators. We greatly appreciate your support.

Here are some images I made to promote it.

kids

kids

kids