The role of trust in enhancing Internet use in a high-risk society

Published date11 May 2015
Date11 May 2015
AuthorAlmamy Touray,Taina Savolainen,Airi Salminen,Erkki Sutinen,Yue Dai
Subject MatterInformation & knowledge management,Information systems
The role of trust in enhancing
Internet use in a high-risk
Almamy Touray
Department of Computer Science & Information Systems,
University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
Taina Savolainen
Business School, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland
Airi Salminen
Department of Computer Science & Information Systems,
University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland, and
Erkki Sutinen and Yue Dai
School of Computing, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland
Purpose – This paper aims to determine the key trust antecedents that inuence Internet users’ trust
level toward Internet service providers (ISPs) in a high-risk society. It also investigates trust-building
process, major causes of its violation, their potential implications and restoration.
Design/methodology/approach – A mixed-method approach was used in collecting data in Kenya
in 2014 by using questionnaire and interview techniques. The former was administered to 250 (with 81
per cent response rate) randomly selected Internet users at Kenyatta University while the latter focused
on key decision-makers from four randomly selected ISPs in Nairobi.
Findings – The results show that Internet users’ perceptions of ISPs’ ability to be trusted in Kenya
depend more on their competence in terms of service delivery (ability) and desire to protect users
(benevolence) than upholding acceptable standards (integrity). The results also indicate a lack of trust
manifested in poor communication and greed for prot among ISPs as major causes of trust violation.
Originality/value – This paper proposes two frameworks that can enhance Internet use by providing
a better understanding of trust in a high-risk society.
Keywords Africa, Internet use, High-risk society, Kenya, Developing countries, Mixed-method,
Revised trust framework, Risk mitigation, Trust
Paper type Research paper
We are grateful to the Nokia Foundation, the Finnish Science Foundation for Economics and
Technology (KAUTE), the University of Jyväskylä’s graduate school of Computing and
Mathematical Sciences (COMAS) and the department of Computer Science and Information
Systems for jointly sponsoring this research. We would also like to extend our immense gratitude
to the host institutions, Kenyatta University and Telecommunications Service Provider
Association of Kenya (TESPOK). Last but not least, we would like to thank Mark and his family
for their support in a number of practical arrangements during the entire data collection period in
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Role of trust
Received 22 September 2014
Revised 15 March 2015
Accepted 16 March 2015
Journalof Systems and
Vol.17 No. 2, 2015
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JSIT-09-2014-0066
1. Introduction
Many researchers (Kyobe, 2011a;Avgerou, 2008;Bankole et al., 2011;Sahey and
Avgerou, 2002 and Walsham and Sahey, 2006) perceive information and
communication technology (ICT) as a platform for development. However, it is
imperative to acknowledge that the Internet is one of the most important innovations
that has transformed the ICT domain. It is one of the technologies required to support
information processing to execute applications and deliver services (Leahy and Yermis,
2003;Moeh et al., 2008 and Raji et al., 2006). The Internet is also a tremendous,
undisputed force for economic growth and social change (Dalberg Survey Report, 2013).
However, its potential is still largely untapped particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa
(Dalberg Survey Report, 2013), and access to the technology in Africa as a whole is
progressing at a limited pace (Alshameri and Banjura, 2014). For instance, Africa’s
number of Internet users is just six per every 100 inhabitants (International
Telecommunication Union [ITU], 2013), which is far less than the world average of
about 46 per cent. In addition, the number of households with Internet is just 7 per cent
(ITU, 2013), and this gure is estimated to increase in 2014 by just 4 per cent (ITU, 2014).
Furthermore, Africa’s Internet penetration rate in 2014 is 19 per cent (ITU, 2014), which
is also far less than the corresponding world average of about 49 per cent. These
statistics demonstrate a major obstacle in terms of Internet use on the continent.
It is imperative to briey dene two important key concepts that are used in this
paper, namely, developing country and high-risk society. A developing country has
lesser income and purchasing power, as well as insufcient basic amenities compared to
the developed world. Essentially, we consider a high-risk society as an environment
where there is a great deal of distrust. It is important to note that other areas of high risk
exist in circumstances of political instability, famine, natural disasters, etc. However, we
focus on high-risk society in the context of trust building. We chose Kenya as our case
country due to its location in a high-risk region (African Development Bank [ADB],
Trust is a vital element that has the potential to overcome the digital drought in
Africa while distrust is one factor that impedes Internet use in developing countries
(Popola, 2013). Building trust can, therefore, help enhance digital adoption in Africa, the
signicance of which is widely recognized (Zeffane, 2010). Trust can impact one’s sense
of security which is a critical issue in today’s digitalized world (Six, 2005). It develops
incrementally over time and involves interaction between actors such as Internet service
providers (ISPs) and users (Connell et al., 2003). Trust can overcome privacy concerns
because people are most often guarded about their privacy when they lack trust in
others (World Economic Forum, 2011), and it is important during situations of perceived
high risk (Johnson et al., 2003 and Joubert and Van Belle, 2013) such as on the African
continent (African Development Bank [ADB], 2013). It is vital to note that trust is
combined with risk, as the former involves taking risks and making oneself vulnerable
to trust placed in others (Xu and Ba, 2003).
Evidence suggests that the conduct of service providers is one reason that inuences
consumers’ decision to use Web-based applications (McKnight et al., 1998). They
indicated that trust plays a central role in helping consumers overcome perceived risk
and insecurity. It can optimize service providers’ chances of retaining their customers
(Casielles et al., 2005). An additional study shows that societies which exhibit high trust
do better economically (Fukuyama, 1995). Researchers (Serva et al., 2005) highlight the

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