Tag Archives: Australia

. Indigenous Australians’ information behavior and internet use in everyday life: An exploratory study.

Reviewed By: Emilee Harrison, Ashleigh Torres, Robin Rogers, Mathew Chase, Ashley Montes

Link to article: http://www.informationr.net/ir/22-1/paper737.html

Synopsis

In “Indigenous Australian’s Information Behaviour and Internet use in Everyday Life: An Exploratory Study,” the authors discuss the beginning stages of an “information behaviour research project undertaken with a rural Indigenous community in South Australia” (Du & Haines, 2017). The study explores the following research questions:
1. What types of information do indigenous people need in their daily lives?
2. How do indigenous people choose information sources?
3. What interactions do indigenous people have with the Internet?
4. How do indigenous people perceive the role of the Internet for the community? (Du & Haines, 2017)

Du and Haines provide a literature review of the relevant literature and previous studies that have been conducted on similar topics (2017). They also provide the research design of their study including how they intended to conduct ethical research, how the data would be collected and how it would be analyzed (Du & Haines, 2017). The results of the study are shown and discussed throughout the latter half of the article. The results are displayed in tables along with each source of information that is within the study carefully described and talked about in detail. The authors also conclude the article and discuss the need for further research (Du & Haines, 2017). In this discussion, Du and Haines include that they were able to conduct this research by “accessing local people and seeking their thoughts and insights” (2017). At the end of this article, the authors include a copy of the survey questions they included on their questionnaire for the audience to see and use in conjunction with the article itself (Du & Haines, 2017).

Methodology

The authors, as they were not indigenous themselves, sought to achieve an ethical research standard that required trust and respect with the Ngarrindjeri community through regular consultation with the Elders as well as exchanging honorary gifts of print-out copies of research results and weekend computer training. Du and Haines (2017) actively recruited Ngarrindjeri participants through snowball sampling by distributing promotional materials at local community centers, workplaces, and on social media. Recruited participants were asked to recommend people who might be interested in participating in the study. Twenty-one total participants were recruited (10 men; 11 women). Data collection was designed using a dual-method qualitative framework. First, participants answered a questionnaire regarding their everyday information behaviors and Internet interactions. Second, the questionnaire followed up with semi-structured interviews to deepen and clarify understanding of participants’ Internet experiences and attitudes in relation to their community needs. Narrative interviewing was employed as the primary technique to reveal participant insights, which were audio recorded and transcribed for analysis (Du & Haines, 2017). Participants who declined to be audio recorded instead had the researchers take interview notes during the session. As the participants were fluent in both Ngarrindjeri and English, both the questionnaire and the interviews were provided in English. Field observations and notes by researchers through time spent with the community also supplemented the data collection.

Findings

The author’s found that the Ngarrindjeri rely on multiple sources (Du & Haines, 2017) to find information relevant to their daily lives such as weather, news, and work related information (Du & Haines, 2017). Researchers organized the resources used by the community into four main categories: internet, interpersonal, mass media, and physical organizations (Du & Haines, 2017). Although Internet and Interpersonal are the most common, researchers found that participants tended to rely on multiple sources for information (Du & Haines, 2017). Participants consider interpersonal resources more reliable because the information is local (Du & Haines, 2017). Particular value is placed on information from Elders and from friends and family (Du & Haines, 2017).
Many participants said they would try interpersonal resources first, and use the internet if that did not work (Du & Haines, 2017). Reliance on social activities for information is consistent with the community’s tradition of sharing indigenous knowledge through basket weaving led by the Elders (Du & Haines, 2017). When they use the internet, non-home internet access accounts for more than half the participants’ internet usage (Du & Haines, 2017). Desktops and mobile phones are the most commonly used devices (Du & Haines, 2017). The “main barriers” to internet usage are “low computer literacy, costs, and the slowness of internet access” (Du & Haines, 2017). The authors found that participants regardless of age tended to believe the internet could be a valuable tool to “communicate local knowledge to a broad community, [and] to encourage cultural sharing” but were concerned about “inappropriate online dissemination” (Du & Haines, 2017).

Unanswered Questions and Future Research

The study conducted by Du and Haines brought to light some interesting unanswered questions and areas of future research as well. Some future areas of research can include if certain members within the indigenous tribe thinks about having some of their knowledge that they are willing to share available in online platforms. Similarly, other indigenous peoples in Australia and New Zealand have developed online platforms that makes certain types of information available to those within the tribe and the public, such as photos or recordings (State Library of Queensland, “Indigenous Knowledge Centres,” 2016). While some Elders in the study did mention this possibility and were hesitant about this aspect of certain types traditional knowledge being accessed to the larger public, it would be interesting to see what other Elders and people in the community would have to say about this aspect, especially in terms of knowledge/information they would like to share. Also, the study itself did not tackle the issue concerning traditional indigenous knowledge either, so there are many types of unanswered questions relating to traditional knowledge, technology, and culture as well.
This study also had some unanswered questions. Some unanswered questions from this study include if any type of solutions were given to the community concerning information gaps, such as a lack of knowledge on how to use certain types of technology, as well as there being few service providers in the community. Also, it was mentioned that about 11% of people in the study use physical organizations, including libraries (Du & Haines, 2017). Since library use was not widely accessed by people in the study, it would be interesting to note any reasons why this may be the case, especially if the library offers the use of their internet/computer resources and other resources as well. Is it the distance, the lack of trust in the institution, the lack of resources pertaining to indigenous needs, or any other factors that may influence their lack of use, especially since people in rural and remote areas tend to use the library to their advantage? This is not only an unanswered question pertaining to the study, but a possible area for future research as well.

Conclusion

There are a number of unanswered questions in this study, primarily pertaining to what barriers are preventing indigenous persons from taking advantage of library resources and what attempts at outreach and restructuring of library systems have been done in order to better meet the needs of these potential patrons.
Given that 21% of indigenous Australians report living in remote or very remote locations it is reasonable to suspect that distance may provide them with a barrier when it comes to accessing information resources through the countries library networks. While the National Library of Australia does have a subsection which focuses on Indigenous culture, that does not mean that it is necessarily accessible to the indigenous communities through the country as it is located in Canberra (National Library of Australia, 2017).
It should also be noted that the sample size for this study was very small, at only 21 people, which means that when the study indicates that 11% of responses reported using library services that amounts to fewer than three participants. The indigenous population of Australia is estimated to be about 669,881 or 3% of the country’s total population, which indicates that further research would be beneficial in order to gain a more thorough understanding of usage practices and community needs (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

References

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Estimates of aboriginal and torres strait islander Australians. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3238.0.55.001

Du, J. T., and Haines, J. (2017). Indigenous Australians’ information behavior and internet use in everyday life: An exploratory study. Information Research, 22(1). Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/22-1/paper737.html

National Library of Australia. (2017). Collections: Indigenous. Retrieved from https://www.nla.gov.au/what-we-collect/indigenous

State Library of Queensland. (2016). Indigenous Knowledge Centres. Retrieved from

http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/about-us/indigenous-knowledge-centres