The Effect of Civic Knowledge and Attitudes on CS Student Work Preferences

There are many ways to participate in the development of civic technology, or technology for social change. While some studies have been performed in the career choice awareness of computer science graduates, there are few studies about their interest in participating in the development of government-driven civic technology (govtech). By comparison, volunteer work such as civic hackathons or CS education for social good have been better explored in literature.

What remains mostly unexplored is what kind of attitudes and knowledge computer science students have about civics and if this knowledge affects their career choices. To address this gap, we performed a survey-based research study on students’ civic knowledge, attitude and self-efficacy, and their willingness to work on civic technologies. In summary, our research question was: Do civic knowledge, attitude, or self-efficacy affect the work preferences of students?

The initial findings of our study indicate that civic knowledge or attitudes – including attitudes related to social issues and equality – do not have a significant effect on the choice to work at a non-profit. When it comes to working for the government, trust in civic institutions and attitudes towards country were significant coefficients.

Our findings suggest that educational and awareness efforts alone might not be enough to make civic work an interesting career choice to computing professionals after graduation. However, at the same time the students were interested in creating civic technology as volunteer work.

The findings are not yet conclusive and more data needs to be collected before the results can be used to support decision-making for practitioners. However, the initial results presented in this paper can inform future studies in the field.

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An open access preprint of the paper is available in arXiv.


We present an investigation in the connection between computing students’ civic knowledge, attitude, or self-efficacy and their willingness to work on civic technologies. Early results indicate that these factors are related to a willingness to accept government work in technology, but not non-profit work focused on civic technologies.


Antti Knutas and Andrew Petersen. 2019. The Effect of Civic Knowledge and Attitudes on CS Student Work Preferences. In Proceedings of the 19th Koli Calling International Conference on Computing Education Research (Koli Calling ’19). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 37, 1–2. DOI: 10.1145/3364510.3366159 (preprint in arXiv)