Park, Hyojung, & Lee, Taejun (David) (2018). Adoption of e-government applications for public health risk communication: Government trust and social media competence as primary drivers. Journal of Health Communication. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2018.1511013

The role of the government and its agencies is critical in public health and emergency situations. The key to effective risk communication lies in the government’s ability to inform citizens about emerging risks in a timely manner and help them make informed decisions. As social media and other new communication technologies facilitate rapid delivery of information and real-time interaction, governments try to find ways to improve the effectiveness of their risk communication by utilizing such communication technologies. When the government launches a new application for risk communication and management, its success depends on citizens’ acceptance of the new tool and their use intention.

Building upon a framework of the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology, this study explores the determinants of citizens’ intentions to use the government’s mobile application for public health risk communication. The results suggest that social media competence and trust in government information are primary determinants of willingness to accept the new application and intention to use it. Trust in government information appeared to influence the acceptance of the application both directly and indirectly through performance expectancy and effort expectancy. More confidence in the use of social media led to higher levels of performance expectancy, effort expectancy, and facilitating conditions, all of which subsequently contributed to willingness to accept the application. The acceptance of the application further influenced intention to use the application and the likelihood of positive recommendations.

An online survey was conducted with a quota sample of 700 Korean citizens. Respondents were first asked about their trust in the government as an information source, social media competence, and risk-related perceptions and behavior. They then read a short description about the government’s initiative to develop an e-government application for delivering up-to-date health risk information and providing its citizens with necessary knowledge in the event of public health emergencies. Participants completed the rest of the questionnaire based on what they feel and believe about the government’s application described in the instructions.

Key Findings

  • Citizens with higher levels of trust in the government are more likely to expect that a new application developed by the government will save them time and effort in obtaining risk information and provide useful resources to meet their needs.
  • The more benefits and the fewer risks people see in the new risk management application, the more likely they are to use it and support others’ use of it.
  • Social media competence prompts favorable perceptions of the new application, which positively affect acceptance and usage of the application.
  • Health risk information seeking is also a decision factor for adoption of the application.

Implications for Practice
The government and its agencies should make citizens aware of an emerging public health risk and its potential impact, especially when it is an unknown or underestimated risk. While developing applications that meet public expectations for informational benefits and time efficiency is important, it is also necessary for the government to build trust and improve citizens’ ability to use new tools in order for new information technology initiatives to fully benefit citizens. To encourage greater adoption of a new health-risk management application, the government needs to consider investing in education on digital and technological skills through easy-to-follow training programs and demos. Government communication professionals should also ensure the provision of information and services on health risk management in an accessible and understandable manner.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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