A COMPARISON OF Y2K ATTITUDES IN THE USA AND SLOVAKIA

Y2K is Truly an International TechnoStress

Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D. and Dr. Michelle Weil, Ph.D.

December 1999


Overview

A survey which evaluated Y2K knowledge, concern and preparation, plus items addressing technology attitudes and demographic characteristics was administered to 917 adults in the urban Southern California area in September 1999 and to 363 adults in Bratislava, Slovakia in October 1999.

The authors have been studying people's reactions to technology for nearly two decades. We have noted that as technology plays an ever-increasing role in our lives, we find ourselves feeling more and more frustrated, uncomfortable, and stressed. That experience is called "TechnoStress." In our book, TechnoStress: Coping With Technology @Work @Home @Play, we describe how technology adds stress to our lives on an individual, group and societal basis. From our extensive studies, we identify seven areas of TechnoStress and offer easy-to-use techniques to overcome the stress so that technology stays a benefit and not a liability:

The entire issue surrounding the Year 2000 is the latest manifestation of Societal TechnoStress. Y2K is adding a tremendous stress to people's lives. These surveys provide a cross-cultural view of those stresses in two widely disparate countries.

Demographic Comparisons

The following table displays demographic comparisons between the USA and Slovakia. Major differences between the countries are indicated by colored shading. Three important differences are evident.

  1. The USA adults had more education than the Slovak adults.
  2. More USA adults were not married and had no children and more Slovak adults were married with children.
  3. All Slovak adults were Caucasian.

It should be noted, however, that the two samples were quite similar in gender and age.

Demographic Characteristic

Slovakia

USA


Male

48%

49%

Female

52%

51%


18-25

34%

39%

26-35

28%

29%

36-50

27%

23%

51-64

9%

8%

65 or older

2%

2%


No High School Degree

6%

3%

High School Degree

46%

14%

Technical School Degree

10%

4%

Some College

13%

45%

College Degree

21%

25%

Postgraduate Degree

4%

8%


Not Married, No Children

35%

52%

Not Married, Children

6%

11%

Married, No Children

14%

11%

Married, Children

46%

26%


Asian/Asian American

0%

15%

Black/African American

0%

20%

Hispanic/Spanish Descent

0%

27%

White/Caucasian

100%

33%

Other - Unspecified

0%

5%


Result Highlights

1. Knowledge About Y2K

The table below presents the level of expressed knowledge about the Year 2000 Issue for both countries. Adults in both Slovakia and USA shared equal amounts of knowledge with a near majority only have "A Fair Amount" of knowledge about the Year 2000 Issue with only a few months remaining until the transition.

Survey Dates

Knowledge About the Year 2000 Issue

"Not at All"

"A Little"

"A Fair Amount"

"Much"

"Very Much"

Slovakia

5%

32%

45%

17%

2%

USA

4%

26%

44%

18%

8%

2. Primary Y2K Information Sources

The following table shows the percentage of adults who stated that their primary source of information about the Y2K came from five categories. The table shows that most USA adults get their information from the media, particularly television. In the earlier survey, 69% got their information from television, newspapers, magazines and radio. In Slovakia, however, 95% of the adults used the media as their primary source and television accounted for two-thirds of that percentage, indicating a stronger reliance on television to gain information about the Year 2000 Issue.

Survey Dates

Primary Source of Information About the Year 2000 Issue

Television

Newspapers and Magazines

Friends and Relatives

Radio

Internet and Other

Slovakia

61%

34%

16%

13%

12%

USA

44%

25%

12%

5%

13%

NOTE: Slovakia percentages total more than 100% due to a language translation confusion.

3. Concern About Potential Y2K Problems

The table below shows the percentage of people from both countries who expressed concern about potential Y2K problems at the level of "a fair amount" of concern or more. Differences of 10% or more are highlighted.

First, the average level of concern differed between the USA and Slovakia by only 3% which was not a statistically significant difference. Second, the order of concerned technology was nearly identical although in a different order. The top four areas of concern for both the USA and Slovakia were personal computers, government computers, credit cards and bank accounts. For two items, water utility service and entertainment technology, the USA adults were more concerned than the Slovak adults. This may simply reflect a difference in culture and current status in both these areas. Statistically, there was no significant difference in the rank orders across all 21 areas of concern.

POTENTIAL TECHNOLOGY PROBLEM AREAS

SLOVAKIA Percentage Expressing Concern*

USA Percentage Expressing Concern*

Difference

Government Computers

46%

48%

2%

Credit Cards

47%

45%

2%

Bank Accounts

49%

43%

6%

Personal Computers

54%

50%

4%

Social Security Computers

31%

40%

9%

Internal Revenue Service

30%

39%

9%

Airlines

39%

38%

1%

Medical Insurance

27%

32%

5%

Electronic Mail

32%

39%

7%

Hospitals

30%

30%

0%

Medical Services

29%

30%

1%

Pharmacies

28%

27%

1%

Electrical Services

33%

31%

2%

Fax Machines

26%

28%

2%

Home Security Systems

19%

25%

6%

Voice Mail Systems

20%

26%

6%

Telephone Service

23%

27%

4%

Water Utility Service

15%

26%

11%

Food Supply

13%

21%

8%

Entertainment Technology

8%

20%

12%

Kitchen Appliances

7%

13%

6%

AVERAGE CONCERN

29%

32%

3%


*Percentages are based on people who expressed a "fair amount of concern"," much concern" or "very much concern"

4. Plans to Keep Extra Food and Cash on Hand

The table below shows the percentage of people who are certain and thinking about having extra supplies and cash on hand when the calendar turns January 1, 2000. It is very clear from this table that the USA adults were preparing for Y2K with surplus food and cash much more than the Slovak adults. As the media continues to report the importance of maintaining an adequate supply of necessities, it is expected that more people will stockpile food and cash. Interestingly, the Red Cross is encouraging people to keep enough supplies to last from several days to a week and Japan's government announced that it was asking its citizens to stockpile several days worth of food and water. In addition, many governments are having banks stockpile cash including Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Britain.

Survey Dates

EXTRA FOOD

 

EXTRA CASH

"Thinking About"

"Certain"

"Thinking About"

"Certain"

Slovakia

19%

8%

31%

14%

USA

34%

31%

38%

36%

5. Additional Points of Interest

The following table displays the percentage of Eager Adopters, Hesitant "Prove Its" and Resisters in each country. [NOTE: For further information about Eager Adopters, Hesitant "Prove-Its" and Resisters click here.] It is clear from the table that the USA had more Eager Adopters and that Slovakia had more Hesitant users and Resisters.

Country

Eager Adopters

Hesitant "Prove Its"

Resisters

Slovakia

10%

75%

14%

USA

20%

70%

9%

CONCLUSIONS

Perhaps the most striking similarities and differences that we see between the USA and Slovakia are the following:

  1. The areas in which both country's adults had Y2K concerns were nearly identical.
  2. Knowledge about Y2K did not differ between countries with most people having only "A Fair Amount" or "A Little" knowledge. People in both countries obtain the majority of their knowledge from the media, but the Slovaks were exceptionally tied to information via the television.
  3. Attitudes toward technology differed slightly between the two countries with Slovakia showing more hesitant and resistant users and the USA showing more eager users.
  4. More Americans are planning to stockpile food and money.
  5. Demographically, the Slovak and USA adults were similar in age and gender distributions, but were different on all others. USA adults were more highly educated, more likely to be unmarried and have no children while Slovak adults were less educated and most likely to be married with children.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The data from our cross-cultural comparison study parallel those of other studies. For example, recent USA TODAY/National Science Foundation surveys, completed in September 1999 shows a 11% anticipated "major" problems. In addition, 36% of their sample planned to stockpile food.

The major conclusion from this study is that Y2K is an international societal TechnoStress that is shared by countries as disparate as Slovakia and the USA. Knowledge of Y2K and concern for potential problems were nearly identical. The only notable differences were in: (1) the importance of the media in dispensing Slovak information about Y2K, (2) the USA adult quest to provide additional cash and food for the anticipated Y2K problems and (3) the slightly more cautious attitudes toward technology found in the Slovak adults.


The United States government continues to provide somewhat conflicting messages. John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion says that everything is going fine and the government is ready. However, the CIA recently predicted supply chain ills (Computerworld, October 18, 1999) and the U.S. Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem recently raised flags about supply chains, health care, local governments, small business, oil and gas companies, nuclear power plants and education (reported in CNET, September 22, 1999). Other reports echo similar sentiments, including admonitions by the U.S. and British State Departments that certain countries should be watched carefully for Y2K failures that may knock out power grids, telephone links and other services.


What can you do to prepare yourselves, your families, your schools, your local governments, your small businesses or your companies from potential Y2K problems? Here are some of our suggestions:

For individuals, families and the workplace:

    1. Make a list of all technology in your home and at work. Contact the manufacturer and get their word (in writing or off their website) that their product is Y2K compliant.
    2. Keep copies of bills from any services for whom you anticipate problems. Our recommendation is to keep a notebook with dividers for each service and place copies of statements, bills, correspondence, website declarations, etc. That way you have clear past performance records to compare to any future statements or bills in question.
    3. Prepare, don't panic. Prepare just as you would for an earthquake, hurricane, winter storm or any other possible natural disaster. Remember, there may not be a problem. Store enough food and cash to get you through a few days. Don't withdraw large sums of money. As we get closer to the end of December, make sure your gas tank is on the full side. Don't top off every day, but it is best not to let your gas tank drop below half full.
    4. Make your plans and then let go of the concern and worry. Once people have compiled a natural disaster survival kit, they are able to push their concerns about how they will fare during and after the disaster out of their minds. Help yourself prepare for potential Y2K problems and you will feel relieved, not scared.
    5. If you are concerned about your personal computer, you may want to purchase a computer program that will assess your PC's readiness for Y2K. Those affordable packages receiving the highest ratings include Norton 2000 (Symantec) and Check 2000 PC Deluxe (Greenwich Mean Time-UTA).
    6. Check in with the Cassandra Project every week or so to see what they recommend. In our experience, their view is the most level-headed of the Y2K sites.

For Your Community:

    1. Help others learn about potential Y2K problems and assist them with their Y2K Plan.
    2. Filter the media. As the year progresses, you will hear and see an increasing amount of sensationalized media proclaiming the potential disasters that will strike on January 1, 2000. Read each with an eye toward how much you feel a particular problem might affect your life and then examine your plan to see if you are adequately prepared.

Additional Recommendations:

TechnoStress: Coping With Technology @Work @Home @Play teaches you how to recognize and eliminate the TechnoStress in your personal life, your communication, your family interactions, your workplace environment and your surrounding community and society. Heed our advice and become TechnoStress-Free. Let's all have a successful transition into the new millennium.

© 1999 Michelle M. Weil, Ph.D. and Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.

Read more about our research on a potential International Y2K Crisis

Read about our longitudinal study of changing attitudes toward Y2K in the USA

Return to TechnoStress Home Page

More information on related topics can be found at either Dr. Weil's or Dr. Rosen's web sites.

E-mail Dr. Weil or Dr. Rosen.