Themen: Vermessung der Netzwelt Vertrauen und Sicherheit im Internet 


DIVSI Milieu Study on Trust and Security on the Internet

28. Juni 2013

The “DIVSI Milieu Study on Trust and Security on the Internet” that DIVSI asked the Sinus-Institut to conduct provides new, valuable insights for anyone who has to do with the Internet – no matter whether he or she comes from the world of politics, the business community or the general public. The study’s findings also challenge a number of assumptions that have been considered valid up to now.

The degree of differentiation and the precision of the DIVSI Milieu Study are unparalleled in research conducted in this area up to now. For this reason, the central findings of the study form a very broad basis that can be used to identify measures designed to enhance trust and security on the Internet.

The DIVSI study breaks down Germany’s population into three groups based on their attitudes toward the Internet and their usage of it:

  • Digital Outsiders: This group is either completely offline or very insecure about the Internet, which it has hardly ever used.
  • Digital Natives: Members of this group have grown up with the Internet and have completely integrated it into their daily lives.
  • Digital Immigrants: This group does indeed use the Internet on a regular basis, but only very selectively. It also takes a skeptical view of many developments, particularly in terms of security and data protection.

Key findings

The study found that about 40 percent of Germany’s population belong to the group of Digital Outsiders. This finding challenges the previously held view that about 80 percent of the country’s population is online and about 20 percent is offline. This, in turn, raises doubts about the related views regarding the state of the digital society in Germany. The results of the DIVSI study suggest that twice as many people in Germany live completely or almost completely without the Internet. This means that nearly 27 million of the approximately 72 million members of the digital society in Germany are Digital Outsiders.

The DIVSI Milieu Study also found that about 41 percent of all Germans belong to the group known as Digital Natives. These are people who have grown up with the Internet and have completely integrated it into their daily lives. Digital Natives can no longer imagine a life without the Internet. For this reason, their motto could be: “I surf. Therfore, I am.”

The remaining 20 percent of the German population could be called Digital Immigrants. On the one hand, they use the Internet only when they expect to gain a direct benefit – let’s say in planning a vacation or hunting for a bargain on a particular item. On the other hand, members of this population group have, to some extent, specific concerns about the Internet and take steps to ensure that they will not become dependent on that technology.

The DIVSI Milieu Study on Trust and Security on the Internet provided significant findings.

In the past, discussions have assumed that the digital society in Germany is split between onliners and offliners. But a breakdown solely between online and offline does not accurately reflect the reality. The crucial point is how people actually use the Internet. Drawing on this assumption, the study concludes that there are two boundaries, not one, running through the digital society.

The first boundary separates Digital Outsiders from Digital Immigrants on the one hand and from Digital Nativeson the other. Digital Outsiders are either offline or are very insecure about using the Internet. For these people, the Internet represents a digital barrier blocking off a world from which they feel excluded and to which they have no access.

The second boundary separates Digital Natives on the one hand and Digital Immigrants and Digital Outsiders on the other. Digital Natives view the Internet as a normal part of their environment, a place in which they roam freely and naturally. The digital world represents a fundamental part of their life. They have a very positive attitude toward it, and they cannot believe that some people do not feel equally at home on the Internet as they do.

In addition to these central findings, the DIVSI Milieu Study reached another, very important conclusion. There are two aspects to this finding.

First, people’s behavior on the Internet and their attitudes toward trust and security are primarily based on differing concepts about responsibility. While one group demands more government support in efforts to ensure secure usage of the Internet, the other group stresses the importance of individual responsibility. Specifically, the DIVSI Milieu Study found that nearly three out of four Germans (74 percent) expect the government and business community to actively ensure online security. By contrast, the majority of Digital Natives (26 percent) thinks the issue of security should be left to individual users. This group feels competent enough to recognize the Internet’s risks and is able to deal with them. Freedom, usage and flexibility take absolute precedence over government regulations, something that is categorically rejected by some of them.

Second, the population is also shaped by various views about the question on how secure the Internet can actually ever be. The DIVSI Milieu Study found that about one-third of all Internet users in Germany believe that total security on the Internet could be achieved. Surprisingly, many Digital Natives feel this way. On the other hand, about half of users think it is impossible to have total online security. The remaining respondents had no clear position on this question.

The study’s findings reveal on thing: To increase trust and security on the Internet, German political leaders face a major challenge of satisfactorily meeting diametrically opposed security needs. These needs arise from the following key points:

  • Nearly three out of four Germans demand that the government takes steps to ensure online security.
  • A majority of Digital Natives, who would be most strongly concerned by such government action, reject such steps and do not have, to a certain extent, any understanding of the problems and needs of other population groups in terms of the Internet and its use.

As a result, finding a common ground among these diverse points of view will be a major socio-political challenge. In Joachim Gauck, DIVSI has a patron who can help build a bridge between the various population groups in Germany’s digital society.

See the full study

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