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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Age-related mobile digital divide in citizen science: the CSMON-LIFE experience


The amount of available Citizen Science data has increased significantly in the last two decades and has been used in several biogeographic studies as well. Citizen Science data are mostly collected through digital platforms, and especially mobile Apps. While the adoption of novel Information and Communications Technology (ICT) approaches potentially allow for a wider participation, recent studies have highlighted that the ability of making an intensive use of smartphones and mobile apps could decrease with users’ age. At the same time, data quality and commitment of volunteers in citizen science activities often increases with the age of volunteers. During the CSMON-LIFE (Citizen Science MONitoring) project volunteers provided their year of birth, thus allowing for inferences on the relation between age and data quality and retention rate. In this manuscript, a further investigation is carried out for understanding the potential effect of the digital gap that exists especially between young adults and old adults on participation to citizen science activities. In the case of CSMON-LIFE, older age classes are under-represented, if compared to the overall Italian population. While the difference cannot be with absolute certainty ascribed to one factor alone, it can be hypothesized that a relevant contribution to the limited participation of old adults could be due to the intensive adoption of mobile Apps. Furthermore, it seems that choice of mobile devices among volunteers is quite different from that made by the average population based on availability in the Italian market, possibly evidencing an overall higher education of citizen scientists. Therefore, it can be said that digital divide can have a negative effect on the participation of volunteers belonging to the older age classes, even if this effect will probably slowly disappear in the future.


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