Giving Voice to Self-Employed Workers Born Before 1980: Experiences and Perceptions of Communication Technology

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University of Alabama Libraries

This qualitative descriptive study explored the experiences and perceptions of older, self-employed workers born before 1980 regarding computer self-efficacy related to communication technology before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings of this study provided insight into their perception of age as an influencer on their use of communication technology. In addition, how they sourced their confidence and skills to use communication technology was investigated. Finally, how they perceived their efficacy in using communication technology during a time of disruption, such as the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the reliance on remote communication technology, was examined. This study focused on 12 older, self-employed workers born before 1980 who gave descriptions of their perceptions and experiences. As study participants, each worker engaged in semi-structured interviews, which resulted in six themes that constitute this study's findings. These six themes are Ability, Conception, Motivation, Confidence, Lifelong Learning, and Attitude. The discussion of these findings consisted of these six themes viewed from the perspective of the concept of computer self-efficacy, theorized from self-efficacy theory. Key findings include that some participants would view age as a positive influence or noninfluence when they reflected on their lifelong experiences using communication technologies, yet some were still aware and impacted by a societal age-based digital divide. The study found that older, self-employed workers were self-directed learners and that they described the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the necessity of remote work as motivating them to successfully increase their current communication technology use and adopt new types of communication technology.

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Age, Communication Technology, Lifelong Learning, Self-Employed