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NIGERIAN UNIVERSITY STUDENTS’ INTERNET USES AND GRATIFICATIONS: A STUDY OF TWO SELECTED INTERNET ACCESS POINTS

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 Aug 05, 2019 |  11:53 am |  2293
NIGERIAN UNIVERSITY STUDENTS’ INTERNET USES AND GRATIFICATIONS: A STUDY OF TWO SELECTED INTERNET ACCESS POINTS

ABSTRACT

Nigerian university students have become receptive to Internet technology. However, literature indicates that there are sparse studies on how and why the students make use of this technology. The few studies on Internet uses and gratifications were conducted in the context of America, Europe and India. This research looks at Nigerian university students’ Internet uses and gratifications with specific attention to two Internet access points - cybercafe and MTN Universities Connect in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and University of Benin, Edo State. Using a survey method, 350 copies of questionnaire were purposively administered and the results of the two-paired sample t-test shows discernible statistically significant differences between cybercafe and MTN Universities Connect uses. Also, the study applied an Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) to compare the gratifications of the two Internet access points. Applying Kaiser Criterion, all factors that had the eigenvalue of > 1.0 were retained. Through varimax rotation method, the factor analysis generated two and three gratification dimensions for MTN Universities Connect and cybercafe respectively. This study is therefore a demonstration of the fact that Internet access point (technology) is a predictor for Internet uses and gratifications.


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1                           Background of the study

Today’s society is regarded as an information-based economy; a place where information is traded like commodity. Information is thus regarded as a major force of civilization, either in terms of technological advancement, human capital development or socio-cultural transformation. The evolvement of Internet has brought about the emergence of an enhanced society, through auto-aided human capacity or what Castells (2004:8) describes as informationalism, “a technological paradigm based on the augmentation of the human capacity of information processing and communication made possible by the revolutions in microelectronics, software and genetic engineering. Computers and digital communications, especially the Internet are the most direct expression of this revolution” (italics mine). Internet, being one of the twenty-first century world’s greatest technological revolutions, is an augmentation of “human capacity”; it provides a wide range of possibilities in the new world order where information has become an essential commodity. Through its numerous and vast electronic resources, the Internet provides a pool of opportunities to individuals, groups, organizations and institutions. The Internet can therefore be described as one of the most versatile technologies in human history because information about virtually all aspects of human endeavors can be retrieved from it. More so, there is virtually no aspect of human life that has not been affected, either negatively or positively, directly or indirectly by the Internet. Educational institutions which are the hub of knowledge and information are equally taking advantage of this great revolution of the 21st century.

Before the Internet revolution in the 1990s, libraries all over the world depended mostly on print materials as means of storage, dissemination and retrieval. But today, digital library as against the traditional library has become more relevant to the contemporary society because of its numerous resources and flexibility through the Internet technology. The resources of digital library are situated in the cyberspace and are available to multiple users operating and accessing it from different locations both synchronously and asynchronously. Virtual or digital library can therefore be described as the library without borders or library without walls because the Internet, which is a major drive of a digitalized library, has shriveled the limitations of time, space, speed and access.

In Nigeria, serious application of information technologies to library processes did not start until the early 1990s after individual efforts at library automation at University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, and the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in 1970s and 1980s had failed largely due to lack of technical know-how (Alabi, 1987). Since then, tertiary institutions in Nigeria have been striving hard to catch-up with their contemporaries in developed countries. However, there are varied opinion on the extent and pace of adoption of Internet by Nigerians.

While some people believe that Nigerians are progressively embracing the new opportunities provided by Internet revolution, others are of the opinion that the extent of adoption and utilization of Internet is abysmally low compared to what is obtainable in developed countries. For instance, Akintunde (2006) opines that many libraries in Nigeria are still down with the traditional patterns of information management where the librarians are in charge of every point of service delivery. In other words, libraries in Nigeria are yet to fully explore and capitalize on the potentialities of Internet technologies as many of them still operate in a traditional way. Instead of approaching the old problems of information overload in a new way by exploring and harnessing the many possibilities associated with new technologies, many libraries in Nigeria are still unfortunately limited by space. No wonder, as at the early beginning of the 21st century, only few tertiary institutions in Nigeria were connected to the Internet (Agboola, 2000).

Though, the deregulation in the telecommunications sector has increased the quality of services and access, but Nigeria still lags far behind many developed countries in terms of Internet access. The inevitable implication of the above situation is an observable ‘digital divide’ (the disparity between those who have access to information technologies and those who do not) in the tertiary institutions in Nigeria. However, this phenomenal digital divide is much more complex than accessibility and connectivity. The developed nations have advanced beyond defining digital divide on the basis of access. According to Cho, Dezunga, Rojas and Sha (2003) though an increasing number of citizens use the Internet for communication, entertainment, shopping, and information, simple “connectedness” focusing on Internet access and time spent online is no longer sufficient to gauge a “divide” that characterize the digital world; it is a sociological phenomenon reflecting broader social, economic, cultural, and learning inequalities. In essence, while the issue of access is necessary, it is not a sufficient measure of divide that permeates the digital world.

In an attempt to computerize their operations, libraries in Nigerian universities are faced with different problems which include inadequate manpower, and lack of spare parts; a development that has limited the operations and activities of these libraries (Ogunshola and Abayode, 2005). These numerous problems are largely due to their overdependence on government funding (Chesenga, 2000). The reduction of government funding should however propel schools and library administrators to embrace Internet-based learning. Accordingly, Internet-based learning is a swift reaction to consumer demand and reduction of funding by the government because the cost of publishing, purchasing, and storing printed materials is exponentially high (Jagboro, 2003).

Covi and Cragin (2004) observed that students and lecturers in tertiary institutions in Nigeria have increasingly demanded and favored access to electronic sources and networked information from their respective libraries. Similarly, a study found that lecturers perceive the Internet to be more useful than university library (Ojedokun and Owolabi, 2003). Oyewusi and Oyeboade (2009) in agreement with the above finding observe that researchers in Nigeria prefer Internet resources to library resources because the former provides up to date information and allows faster retrieval of information from numerous sources. In addition, the Internet can provide information which most libraries cannot provide from their shelves (Adomi, Omodeko and Otolo, 2004).

Agboola (2000) points out that the greatest impetus to library automation in Nigerian university libraries so far has come from the World Bank. However, recent developments show that corporate organizations in Nigeria are becoming increasingly interested in ICT development in Nigerian tertiary institutions. For instance, MTN Nigeria, one of the leading telecommunication companies in Nigeria, has initiated a programme called the MTN Universities Connect, a virtual library project that caters for the virtual needs of the university community. Olatunji (2009) while quoting Ambassador Hamzat Ahmadu, the Chairman of MTN Foundation said that the Universities Connect was fashioned and designed to bridge the digital and knowledge divide by giving students wide access to online and world class research materials. This programme is one of the ways through which MTN Nigeria enriches lives and an evidence of her interest and commitment towards building a conduit that will balance the existing digital and knowledge divide that characterizes the Nigerian tertiary institution environment.

MTN Universities Connect Library is one of the Internet access points in four federal universities in Nigeria, including Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (Kaduna state), University of Lagos (Lagos state), University of Nigeria, Nsukka (Enugu state) and University of Benin (Edo state). Other Internet access points in most universities in Nigeria include University ICT centres, personal computer, wireless, and cybercafe. However, among these various Internet access points, cybercafe is becoming the most preferred because they are open for long hours, reasonably economical, provide technical assistance to users, usually flexible and provide diverse services to customers (Sairosse and Mutula, 2004).

1.2                            Statement of the problem

Internet, just like most technologies, is a two-edged sword - it can be used both positively and negatively. In fact, the very attributes of Internet that heralded its positive use can equally be thwarted in a negative dimension. As medium of communication, Internet technology has changed the pattern of relationship in the society, created a new form of addiction and made geographical distance irrelevant (Castells, 2001) but research about this medium has been sparse compared to its rate of diffusion (Choi, Watt, Dekkers and Park, 2004).

Most studies on how and why students make use of the Internet technology are mainly in the context of developed countries. For instance, Stafford, Stafford and Schkade (2004) conducted it in the American context while Kargaonkar and Wolin (1999) and Roy (2008) conducted it the context of Europe and India respectively. In America, Stafford, Stafford and Schkade (2004) identify process, content and social gratifications, while Roy (2008) identify “relaxation” as one dominant factor through out the Internet uses and gratifications in India. While the above studies focused on the students’ uses and gratifications of Internet at the broader level, the current study was conducted at a narrower level, with emphasis on two different Internet access appoints - MTN Universities Connect Library and cybercafe. Perse and Courtright (1993) had used similar approach to study the normative images of mass media and interpersonal communication channels.

In Nigeria, the evidence for the growing importance of the Internet in the university system is the increasing rate of acquisition of computers and other information technologies (including VSATs), for use by staff and students (Olakotun, 2007). Considering this ever- increasing importance of the Internet among university students in Nigeria, it becomes imperative to understand the range of activities and associated motivations related to the technology.

1.3                           Research questions

In order to investigate the relationship between the Internet access points and its uses and gratifications, the following research questions were put forward:

RQ1. What are the demographic characteristics of Cybercafe and MTN Universities Connect users?

RQ2. What are the gratification motives for using MTN Universities Connect and cybercafe and does it vary by access point?

RQ3. What use do the students put MTN Universities Connect and cybercafe to and is there difference in their uses?

RQ4. To what extent are students satisfied with the Internet resources of cybercafe and MTN Universities Connect and is there difference?

RQ5. What is the most preferable Internet access points among the students and why the preference?

1.4                            Research objectives

The broad objective of this study was to uncover Nigerian university students’ uses and gratifications of cybercafe and MTN Universities Connect library with emphasis on the Internet facility. Through this, the study provided deeper insight into the relationship between the individual Internet user and the Internet access point he or she uses. However, the study’s specific objectives were to:

1.                                    Identify the demographic characteristics of cybercafe and MTN Universities Connect users.

2.                                    Identify students’ uses of cybercafe and MTN Universities Connect.

3.                                    Examine the differences between the Internet gratification motives for MTN Universities Connect uses and cybercafe.

4.                                    Find the extent of students’ satisfaction of cybercafe and MTN Universities Connect.

5.                                    Determine preferred Internet access point and why the preference.

1.5                        Significance of the study

This study’s findings and recommendation would be found useful to information experts, librarians, researchers equally, and those who want to invest in ICTs, to gain a better understanding on how best to approach and explore the potentials of Internet in an information-driven environment like the university. Answers to who is using the Internet, and how frequent do students go online, are imperative for policy makers, government, corporate organizations and other stakeholders who want to embark on a mission that would ameliorate the information challenges in Nigerian universities. It is also a step to assess the value of MTN Universities Connect, an ICT initiative by MTN Nigeria in comparison with cybercafes. The findings will therefore help in the design and improvement of policies aimed at fostering the adoption, acceptance, and patterns of usage of the Internet services provided by the MTN Universities Connect libraries in Nigerian federal universities and other similar projects that are geared towards enhancing students’ access to Internet facilities. Once we understand factors that motivate students to utilize the Internet resources in academic environment, we can design incentive packages that encourage educational use of the infrastructure and discourage use that distracts students from their academic goals and desires.

Furthermore, the research on students’ uses of Internet resources in Nigerian universities has important implications for local, state and local policy and funding initiatives. The study will therefore help potential investors on how best to fashion and develop their ICT policies in the context of the needs of the students. The findings will also help to harness the current trends in the Uses and Gratifications Theory in the context of new media (Internet) taking into consideration the various Internet access points. It will therefore provide a new insight into the Uses and Gratifications theory in Nigerian context thereby shaping future researches in this area. Hence, understanding the Internet gratification motives of MTN Universities Connect library and cybercafe is critical in the appreciation of the impact of Internet technology on Nigerian universities students.

Finally, this study provides additional value to the age-long theory of uses and gratification in the context of new media (new media)..

1.6                    Scope of the study

This study explored the ways and patterns university students in Nigeria utilize the Internet resources of MTN Universities Connect library and cybercafe, taking into cognizance the various gratifications that precipitate their uses and gratifications. The study investigated cyber cafe and MTN Universities Connect users in tertiary institutions in two universities in Nigeria - Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State and University of Benin, Edo State.


REFERENCES

Abdulkareem, M. Y. (2010). Characteristics and information-seeking behavior of cybercafe users in some Nigerian cities. Journal of Library and Information Science. 2(5).

Achimugu, P, Oluwagbemi, O, Oluwaranti, A, and Afolabi B (2009). Adoption of information and communication technologies in developing countries: an impact analysis. Journal of Information Technology. 9(1), 37-46. Retrieved from http://www.iiti.net/v09/iiti.v9n1.037-046.pdf

Adaramola, Z (2011). Increase competition has helped bring ICT access to billions - ITU, Daily Trust, Janaury 31, pp 43.

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Agboola, A.T. (2000). Five decades of Nigerian universities libraries: a review. Libri, 50, 280-289.

Ahiakwo, C.O. (1998). The role of internet connectivity in Nigeria. Retrieved from http://www.isocnig.org.ng/ConferencePapers/paper 17. htm

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