Online trust will soon emerge as a key success factor for businesses that want to succeed online. Trust is an important social lubricant for cooperative behavior. This fact is tried and tested on a daily basis.
On-line trust towards a technology is an attitude of confident expectation in an online situation of risk that one’s vulnerabilities will not be exploited. Simply put, online trust is achieved when you stop calculating the risk you are exposing yourself to when visiting a website or using a technology like the mobile phone.
Research indicates that people do enter into relationships with websites, computers and other new media. People also respond to these technologies based on the rules that apply to social relationships. Interestingly, people identify technologies as polite, rude, assertive, timid, helpful or unhelpful.
Social identity is therefore transferred to these technologies because they are social actors in the sense that they have social presence. This is what prompts people to respond to this social presence.
Mobile phones, computers, websites, ATMs are all participants in our interpersonal social relationships. A good example is the M-Pesa money transfer technology. It occupies an integral social space in Kenya and is therefore defined through social terms. It is friendly to the money recipients and becomes hostile and unhelpful whenever it is inoperative.
As we prepare to embrace e-commerce and online transactions, budding Kenyan electronic entrepreneurs should incorporate the following components of trust into their digital ventures.
They should consider the generality of trust. On-line general trust occurs when I trust the government website (www.kenya.go.ke) to provide timely, reliable and trustworthy information.
Another component is slow trust which occurs over time. It is the kind of trust typically seen in long-term working relationships. In the online context this is defined by the frequent return visits to a website. Case in point is Mamamikes.com that has gained slow trust from Kenyans in the diaspora.
The degree of trust is another element of online trust. This trust runs from basic to guarded to extended. Basic trust is the belief that the website you frequent will be there tomorrow as it is today. Guarded trust is trust protected by formal contracts, agreements, disclaimers and promises. Extended trust is trust based on openness.
Trust is in short supply in Kenya. If we are to securely roll out a new electronic commerce sector we must internalize these components of on-line trust and develop a trustworthy relationship with online Kenyans.