Friday, April 26, 2013

Cyberpsychology, Cyberspace,Cyber Security, Consumer behaviour and ICT in Context: Exploring Cyber behaviour in Cameroonian ICT Users

This week in Cameroon from the 22nd to the 26th April was held the CYBERSECURITY FORUM hosted by the Common wealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO).The theme of this forum was: Bringing Safety, Resilience and Security into Cyberspace. The key topics were:
-          Critical information infrastructure protection: customizing global standards to national contexts
-          Safe surfing for young children
-          Ensuring security while preserving privacy
-          Implications of online identity theft: from financial loss to emotional trauma
-          Building norms of behaviour: Through multistakeholder partnerships across borders
These topics are of interest to social scientists and researchers. In the same vein, on Saturday in two of Cameroon’s major towns, Yaoundé and Douala will be held almost simultaneously: Africa GDG Yaoundé Barcamp 2013 and Africa Android Challenge. The former is organized by Google Developer Group (GDG) Yaoundé and the later by Google Developer Group (GDG) Douala and GDG Africa Barcamp. These information and communication  technologies (ICT) events are of  interest to ICT and Kulture as they are environments which enable a shared-knowledge of ICT issues and in one way or the other promote ICT knowledge and ICT awareness.
Photo GDG Douala
This article is based on experience, that is the first person lived experience of phenomena. We assume that a priori knowledge which is strictly speaking experiential (lived-experience) but not in the empirical sense of hard science (physics, chemistry, and biology) is as valid as empirical knowledge or a posteriori knowledge. The article takes thus root in a few observations made in cyber cafes, interaction with friends, family and colleagues, and in the streets of Cameroon with respect to cyber behaviour, consumption of ICT products and services and cyberspace in Cameroon. Let us remind the reader that cyber behaviour is how individuals think, feel and act implicitly and explicitly within cyberspace. It is a particular type of behavior in terms of its nature and determinants. Cyber behaviour can inform the social scientist, about the attitudes, cognitive processes, personality, and psychopathology of the ICT user. In turn results got through research can help policy makers, ICT specialists, computer science teachers, teachers to be more aware of the ICT users need, which have to be addressed. 

Cyberspace is an imaginary space where the number of dimensions is four or more, where absorbing sensory take place, where intellectual creation may be achieved and enjoyed, where people share emotional and cognitive cues virtually. It is also an economical survival kit for the information societies Pierto and Sanz (n.d). It is important to mention that the virtual nature of cyberspace is just nominal that is a word play, for; the brain in reality does not differentiate between an action which is thought and one which is performed. In other words, when one thinks they are doing something the brain behaves as they were really doing that thing. The same cerebral areas are activated. So it is difficult to say whether the love a man/woman experiences as a result of online dating is different from the love they might experience in ‘real’ one to one dating. What difference is there between a fantasized world and a virtual one: a subjective world and a virtual one? For more information on the nature of experience in virtual environments see Gaggiolla et al (2003).

Again, we argue that because of cultural factors the boundaries of cyberspace are becoming porous extending and permeating what could be called 'real life'. As we emphasize that the perception of reality is subjective. Access to the internet is still not a reality in the Cameroonian society but the access to the mobile phone is.Thus we believe that the (cyber) behavior that Cameroonian ICT users have with their mobile phones could be a corner stone into the research of cyberspace within the Cameroonian context. In other words, cyberspace is not just as virtual as it seems or better what is the limit  between virtual and reality? How virtual and real is reality? It is usual to notice, in Cameroon people spending hours over night talking over the phone, how real is this? How virtual is this? It is from these perspectives we believe that as Prieto  cited in Spielburg (2004, p.562) believes that cyberspace is a technocultural realm. From its etymology to its scientific institutionalization cyberspace is unavoidably human space , a place where human beings are and want to be.So what could be more virtual on earth as cyberspace but more real than the fact we are the creators of our realities. Yet , there is no technology which is not cultural and there is no culture which is not spacio-temporal and human.We are the ones making cyberspace, what it is. We are the ones giving to this concept its reality. Thus we have all reasons to think that the boundaries of cyberspace extend far beyond the simple electronical circuits constituting machines (computers, mobile phones, fixed line phones). Cyberspace can thus be considered as the environment where cyber behavior takes place.In our present context cyber space is everywhere

The following observations were made:
      - In spites a frank increase in the number of ICT (mobile and internet users) users in Cameroon as demonstrated concretely by the almost radical increase in the number of Facebook accounts and a greater increase in the use of smart phones there still seems to be a retard in the rise of the ICT industry in Cameroon.
-  The difference in the cyberbehaviour and attitudes of individuals with respect to the use of ICT for development versus ICT for entertainment is significant even if they are not independent behaviours.
- The organization of ICT events such as the Barcamp Cameroon and GDG promote ICT but do not enhance the need for ICT consumer behavior.
- Cameroon ICT users have a particular mindset with respect to ICT’s which might hinder the formation of new attitudes likely to enhance innovation and the use of ICT’s (internet and mobile)
- Women in Cameroon seem to use more internet than men
- Issues of cyber security in Cameroon apart from focusing on children should also address women issues (e.g online prostitution)
- Cameroonians seem to have a preferential, functionalist and utilitarian perspective to ICT’s
- There is reason to believe that cyberspace has become a means by which people can realize their fantasies.In what follows will be an elaboration of the hypotheses put forward. We hope that from this observations some in-depth research be made on the cyber behaviour of Cameroonian ICT users

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2005 and the target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015 are reasons for ICT and Kulture to foster its objectives of promoting and enhancing ICT awareness and ICT knowledge in women and children using ICT’s. However, even as research shows that women use of ICT’s is increasing. ICT as a practice has always been a male thing.ICT penetration in Africa is a reality (ICT,2012). ICT penetration is determined by about 46 indicators  (ITU , 2010 ; ITU , 2012).There is an increase in the number of ICT (mobile and internet) users in Cameroon as demonstrated concretely by the increase in number of Facebook accounts and a greater increase in the use of smart phones. Irrespective of this there still seems to be a delay in the rise of the ICT industry in Cameroon. It is likely that when one goes to any cybercafé in Cameroon that about 7 users out of 10 users surfing the net are on Facebook. Most Cameroonians also have a mobile phone. And a greater quantity are getting smart phones The fact that about 51 percent of Cameroon’s population is made up of youths (UNFPA Cameroon 2010, p.15) and the fact that research shows that youths everywhere are the most ICT inclined confirms the observation. ICT sector in Cameroon is confined to the rudimentary sale of ICT goods to the public. The sale of ICT services (e.g internet, and so on) is terribly low. Is it that the needs of Cameroonians with respect to the consumption of ICT services are not significantly assessed such that only these services are the only one offered? Or are there some particular psychosocial factors involved? Mobile telephony seems however to provide services but all only aimed at increasing a particular output behavior that is enabling more individuals to make vocal calls. It seems Cameroonians like calling. Albeit these, the ICT industry is still very poorly developed in Cameroon and this in both the sales of ICT good (e.g. phones and PC of good quality) and services. Internet access is still very difficult both in universities and out of it. If it is available it does not allow constant access to information of a varied nature. Internet providers are rare and their internet services out of reach to the common Cameroonian (youth). 

The difference in the cyber behaviour and attitudes of individuals with respect to the use of ICT for development (ICT4D) versus ICT for entertainment is significant even if they are not independent behaviours. ICT4D can be taught of as a set of governmental/global policies aimed at facilitating the penetration and usage of ICT in developing countries this to enhance on the subjective well being of their populations in areas as diverse as health, economy, human rights and education. ICT for entertainment refers to the use of ICT for entertainment. It could be playing music online or via a memory card, watching movies online or via a memory card, playing video games online or via a memory card, chatting in social networks such as Facebook, or any other behavior likely to be not considered as work.It is very frequent when been in taxis, buses, schools, hospitals,  to  see individuals using their mobile phones to do one or more of the mentioned activities. Playing music from memory cards is one of the most frequent entertainment activity practiced by Cameroon ICT users. Listening to the radio or watching TV too has become also popular with the FM band been made to have a longer range We make the hypothesis that the attitude and behaviour of people with respect to the consumption ICT4D services is significantly less than ICT for entertainment. The reason for these differences might be as a result of the social perception and cognition of ICT and the poor ICT penetration and mastery by the local population. How ICT was initially presented to Cameroonian ICT users seem to have become a rigid schema. For instance, people find it difficult to think or see that internet can be used in so many different ways and not just for emailing or chatting. Students seem to have an almost compulsive tendency to Google and after Googling they would Facebook, email or they would just Facebook for hours. These behaviours are in line with attitudes which show that entertainment is highly searched by these users. These behaviours are not surprising psychoanalytically speaking. What is surprising is the urge to use ICT to ‘communicate for fun’ not pragmatically. The present telephony companies (MTN and Orange Cameroon) seem to have understood these and reinforce the behavior by nonstop promotions which elicit consumption behavior especially the one to call.
Barcamp Cameroon and GDG promote ICT knowledge and ICT awareness by providing a framework which acts as a platform for interaction between professionals of the ICT sector and the public. However, there is still too much of a distance between the public and the ICT world and even ICT students seem not to be really interested in these events. We might assume that these events do not enhance the need for ICT consumer behavior well enough. It is a fact that almost everyone in Cameroon has heard about internet but people are not made to use internet. It is well documented that there are psychological and sociological factors to consumption. Is the cultural personality of Cameroonians a hindrance to the ICT industry in their context? Or is there a specific Cameroonian mindset?
Cameroon ICT users have a particular mindset with respect to ICT’s which might hinder the formation of new attitudes likely to enhance innovation and the use of ICT’s (internet and mobile). There is a popular adage in Cameroon which goes: Cameroon is Cameroon. In cyberspace or in reality this seems to be a reality. Is the functionality of ICT’s influenced by cultural determinants? We might think so since even the more literate have a phobia for technology and the information culture. There seems to be a non technology culture in Cameroon. We emphasize that not that the consumption of ICT is not done but reasons or motivation for the consumption of ICT products and services is unsual.Initially the consumption of a good or service should/ought to led to the creation of more services or more goods because there are more needs which will increase the consumption. The consumption of ICT in Cameroon revolves basically around using mobiles for calling and internet for emails and for Googling (exclusive to students and a few curious). ICT is not only these things. This behavior cannot lead to the development of the ICT sector. Innovation has to be fostered by developing ways of assessing the consumer needs of people with respect to ICT.ICT in education seems not to have really began, ICT in health, ICT in environment, and ICT in culture  are sectors where ICT specialist, investors, computer science teachers, teachers, researchers would want to look into. An ICT event is not as popular as a football event even though a football event requires ICT. The paradox is just breathe taking. We believe that the role of computer science teachers is crucial to the development of the ICT sector in Cameroon as through the instruction of computer sciences they can foster skills, motivation, and creativity in the field. Elements necessary for innovation. Cameroonian computer science teachers need to be encouraged to participate massively in ICT events such as the Barcamp and GDG events and so with their students if possible. They ought to be involved in the design of the sessions this in order to meet the needs of the students in primary and secondary and university level. 
There is growing evidence that women are using ICT more than men. It is not just because women are numerically greater than men it is more of a need for them to express themselves and unleash their inhibitions confined by cultural scripts and norms through relatively uncensored ICT media. In Cameroonian cybercafés women are the primary consumers internet. Their passion for chat rooms is revealing of their psychologies. It is likely that if more services are created or goods directed to satisfy one or more of the psychological needs the ICT sector in Cameroon will boom. This is because of the unique psychological characteristics of women. Their involvement in development is imperative.
Issues of cyber security in Cameroon apart from focusing on children should also address women issues (e.g online prostitution, online rape and abuse). The CTO highlighted the fact that cyberspace could be noxious to children’s physical and mental health. We have reasons to believe that women have also to be protected against the emotional trauma resulting from online abuse, and online rape. Many friends of mine, female, have revealed that male users often behave in all manners which lead to a clear conclusion of a rape. For instance sending photos of their penises or been graphic about sexual activities. The violence which women endure in chat rooms is worth noting. It contributes to weakening their self-esteem and strengthening representations of the woman as a sexual object thereby facilitating their engagement in sexual risky behaviours. The disinhibitory effect of been online (Suler , 2004) enables some male users to become real sexual predators and some women real sexual addicts. Online prostitution could be considered a modern form of prostitution practiced by girls and women of all socio- economic, and educational level. It seems that not only women are been used to scam but they are been scammed more than men. Cyber security is also about safeguarding the identity of individual users and women constitute a non neglieable part of these users.
Cameroonians seem to have a preferential, functionalist and utilitarian perspective to ICTs We have highlighted the fact that the cultural personality of Cameroonians, their mindset could have an influence on the ICT sector. It would be interesting to know which mechanisms are involved in their cyber behaviour.Online survey could be made to assess this and more in-depth research done to reveal more factors involved in the behaviours we mentioned earlier.
There is reason to believe that cyberspace has become a means by which people can realize their fantasies. This hypothesis is not just a Cameroonian reality. It seems the boundaries between virtual and real are becoming inexistent. In so far as much as perception of reality is a subjective thing it is true that what people do in the cyberspace is intimately linked to their psychology.
Cyberpsychology is an investigation into human machine interaction (Norman, 2008). It is also a new area in psychological research an action that uses cyberspace as an instrumental means towards an end, that analyzes and identifies the underlying dimensions that structure and make sense in cyberspace that study the cognitive and social processes that facilitate or impede the evolvement of cyberspace, that discloses pragmatically designed principles leading to success in cyberspace, that pays attention to personality disorders or social conflict arising in cyberspace, that introduces quality filters for searching and evaluating internet resources (Pietro and Sanz n.d).The study of cyber behavior  in cyberspace - the part of human society and culture that exists in networked computer systems rather than in any particular physical location (Downing et al 2009) - is central to cyber psychology. From the first person perspective we tried to assess cyber behavior and consumer behavior with respect to ICT of Cameroonians. The major thesis surrounding this paper is that the ICT industry in Cameroon has pains emerging albeit the potential. We identified specific psychosocial factors  which might be responsible for this.ICT and Kulture believes that financing research in the ICT sector is strategic and pragmatic.

Downing, D.A, Covington, M.A., Covington, M.M., & Covington, C,A. (2009). Dictionary of Computer and Internet Terms.Tenth Edition. New York: Barron. ISBN-10: 0-7641-4105-8
Gaggiolla, B. M., & Delle F, A. (2003). Quality of Experience in Virtual Environments. Being There: Concepts, effects and measurement of user presence In synthetic environments G. Riva, F. Davide, W.A IJsselsteijn (Eds.).Amsterdam: Iso Press.
ITU (2010) Partnership On Measuring ICT For Development Core ICT Indicators,  International Telecommunication Union Place des Nations CH-1211 Geneva Switzerland.
ITU (2010) World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report 2010 Monitoring The WSIS Target A mid-term review
ITU (2012). Key statistical highlights: ITU data retrieved from
Jose ´ M. Prieto Cyberpsychology  In Spielberg ( Ed) ( 2004) Encycleopedia of Applied psychology. Volume I pp 562 Elsevier
Suler, J. ( 2004).The Online Disinhibition Effect. Cyberpsychology & Behavior Volume 7, Number 3 Retrieved from
Norman, K., L. (2008). Cyberpsychology: An Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.978-0-521-86738-2
Pietro . J,. Sanz.P.() Cyberpsychology
UNFPA Cameroun Rapport annual 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please type in your comment here...