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A Cross-Country Comparative Analysis of E-Government Service Delivery among Arab Countries

Akemi Takeoka Chateld School of Information Systems and Technology, Faculty of Informatics, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. E-mail: akemi@uow.edu.au Omar Alhujran School of Information Systems and Technology, Faculty of Informatics, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. E-mail: oa213@uow.edu.au

ABSTRACT Much of the existing e-government research focuses on developed countries. Although a relatively small number of studies explored Arab e-government development, they did so in a single country context. This article provides an insight into the current state of Arab e-government developments. A cross-country comparative analysis of e-government Web sites and portals was conducted on 16 Arab countries to assess their development stages in e-government service delivery capability. Further comparative analysis was performed between the top Arab e-governments and the global top e-governments in developed countries with regard to e-democracy, often the highest level egovernment service delivery capability identied in the literature. The results conrm a wide digital divide that remains between the Arab countries and the leading developed countries. Importantly, however, the results also show a wide digital divide even among the Arab countries studied, particularly in the development of advanced e-government service delivery capabilities. These results have important implications for developing countries in managing both economic and non-economic resources effectively for successful e-government development. C 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Keywords: e-government; developing countries; service delivery capabilities; development stages; Arab countries; e-democracy

1. INTRODUCTION Electronic government (e-government) refers to the rapidly emerging global phenomenon of the use of information and communication technology (ICT) as the new way forward in public administration. E-government development very often aims to improve public service delivery capability, as well as public administration governance, transparency, and accountability through the development of e-government service delivery capability. However, e-government development projects often involve a complex network of stakeholders,
Syed Nasirin and Anastasia Papazafeiropoulou are the accepting Guest Editors for this article.
Information Technology for Development, Vol. 15 (3) 151170 (2009) Published online 15 June 2009 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com).
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including international donors, private-sector ICT vendors, and ICT investment partners, giving rise to large-scale complex projects. The failure of e-government projects is high in developing countries (Dada, 2006). A 2003 survey conducted by the United Nations (UN) of its 191 member nations showed large variances in e-government service delivery capability development (UN, 2003). The survey results found that the leading e-governments, such as the United States, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, South Korea, and Australia, successfully developed advanced e-government service delivery capabilities. These advanced capabilities range from the provision of secure nancial transactions (i.e., online payment of parking tickets and income tax) to the provision of electronic democracy (or e-democracy) that enables the public to participate in online public consultations and policy making. In this article, the term e-democracy represents a new public service delivery capability. It does not imply that the online provision of e-democracy to the public automatically makes a state or a government democratic. In contrast to the leading e-governments, however, most other e-government Web sites and portals remain informational, offering limited online capabilities. Similarly, existing academic literature on e-government is based on surveys and case studies, reporting many innovative practices, but also some large-scale project failures in developed and developing countries (Lee, Tan, & Trimi, 2005). Much of the existing e-government research focuses on developed countries, however. Although a relatively small number of studies explored Arab e-government development, they did so in a single country context (Abusin, 2007; AL-Shehry, Rogerson, Fairweather, & Prior, 2006; Ciborra and Navarra, 2005). In consequence, little is known about the current state of Arab e-government developments. The major aim of this article, therefore, is to provide an insight into e-government development stages of e-government service delivery among 16 Arab countries. In this article, we also compare these Arab countries to the global top six e-governments in developed countries, particularly with regard to e-democracy: the highest level advanced e-government service capability identied in the literature. The structure of this article is as follows. The next section discusses a normative model of e-government maturity, identifying four distinct stages of e-government service delivery capabilities. In the third section, we discuss the global digital divide in the context of e-government research. In the fourth section, our research methodology is discussed, and in the fth section, our research results are presented. In the sixth section, we discuss some key insights to the results found in this research. In the nal section, we present our conclusions, discussing this researchs contributions and limitations, and suggest future research directions.

2. E-GOVERNMENT SERVICE DELIVERY CAPABILITY DEVELOPMENT STAGES E-government service delivery capabilities can be assessed by identifying and analyzing e-government development stages. A review of the literature nds different e-government stage models, with respect to the number of stages ranging from two to six, and with regard to different aims and perspectives for each progressive stage. However, nearly all of the stage models intend to identify e-government service delivery capability development (Chandler and Emanuels, 2002; Howard, 2001; Layne and Lee, 2001; Moon, 2002; Reddick, 2004; Siau and Long, 2005; UN, 2003). Although a detailed discussion of these different stage models is beyond the scope of this research, it should be noted that the recent research
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compared and contrasted the different e-government stage models for metasynthesis (Siau and Long, 2005), and user-centric public value proposition (Chateld and Alhujran, 2007). For our research purpose, it is important to underscore that a normative model of egovernment maturity is useful as a benchmark measure to evaluate the progressive development of e-government service delivery capabilities. However, there are large variations across the different stage models in the literature. Furthermore, although the stage models were neither rigorously validated nor grounded in theory, they make primary theoretical contributions that are similar to those made by Nolans stage model (King and Kraemer, 1984). For example, normative models of e-government maturity make explicit the importance of the dynamic interplay between external and internal forces and between socioeconomic factors (i.e., government size) and technological factors (i.e., in-house new ICT capability maturity), all of which contribute to shaping e-government capability development. Based on prior research on e-government development stages from a user-centric perspective, we identify the following four progressive stages of e-government maturity: one-way information ows; two-way interaction; payment transaction; and e-democracy (Chateld and Alhujran, 2007). In discussing the four stages, we do not assume their automatic linear progression. Rather, we argue that technologically, organizationally, and politically, it requires greater economic (e.g., funding and sustainable budget) and non-economic resources (e.g., strategic leadership and project management skills) to successfully move from a lower stage to a higher stage. It is technologically quite feasible for governments to launch an ofcial e-government Web site or portal, offering one-way information ows from government to the public (e.g., government information services and forms download) (Stage 1); or two-way interaction between government and the public (i.e., sending e-mail inquiry and uploading completed forms) (Stage 2). However, it is far more complex and difcult to provide more advanced service capabilities, such as secure payment transactions (i.e., online payment of drivers license renewal fees) (Stage 3) or e-democracy (i.e., online public consultations, policy making, and e-voting) (Stage 4). These advanced service capabilities require strategic management of the complex interplay among technological, organizational, cultural, and political factors that are found in large-scale, multiyear IT projects involving diverse stakeholders. In the following section, the four e-government service delivery stages and their associated online capabilities are discussed and that information will be used later to evaluate and classify Arab e-government service delivery capabilities.

2.1 One-Way Information Flows The rst stage of e-government service delivery capability development is characterized by one-way information ows from the government online to the public. The government launches an e-government Web site or Internet portal for its citizens and businesses. The Web site/portal provides the online access to government information services through the Internet. Citizens and businesses can access their governments Web site or portal through an Internet service provider. Although the portal or Web site access is made available online, this rst stage of e-government service delivery offers rather rudimentary and limited information-processing capabilities, which are characterized as one-way information ows from the government to the public. Prime examples of capabilities at this stage include searching a government database and downloading and/or printing a selective set of government forms, policies, or documents that are made available online by the government.
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2.2 Two-Way Interaction In contrast to the previous stage, e-government service delivery capability at this stage of development facilitates two-way interaction, or a two-way information exchange between the government and the public. Citizens can contact government services via e-mail, complete forms online at an e-government Web site/portal, or upload completed forms and send them over the Internet from government kiosks. A user-centric stage model of e-government development assumes greater public value creation opportunities at this stage, for both the public and the government.

2.3 Payment Transactions The previous two stages suggest the provision of overall improved government access that is made possible through a new online channel over the Internet. Perceived public value of e-government service deliveryfrom a user-centric model of e-government development includes the convenience and speed of government services, because an e-government online channel means the availability of government services anytime24 hours a day, 7 days a week (or 24/7 service delivery)and anywhere through the Internet without waiting for a long time. Waiting in line is a problem often associated with public administration face-to-face service. However, this stage differs from the previous two stages because e-government service delivery capability at this development stage offers online nancial payment transaction capabilities. Online secure payment and information privacy issues are raised, making it difcult for many governments to move to this stage from the previous stage.

2.4 e-Democracy This stage of e-government service delivery capability enables the public to participate in the process of public consultations and policy making. Greater public engagement is expected to have a positive impact on public governance: greater transparency and accountability. Hence, e-democracy in the form of greater public participation in online consultations is believed to move the government forward, by making representative democracy more effective and by enabling good public governance. The governments leadership in promoting greater public participation is critically important for this stage. Here, it is assumed that effective public access to government information through the earlier stages is a precondition for achieving success in greater public engagement at this e-democracy stage. The UN adopts an e-participation index as a proxy for measuring capability maturity in e-democracy among its members. E-participation is a weighted average score based on the provision of structures and processes that facilitate e-information, e-consultation, and e-decision making. On the one hand, the 2003 UN Survey of its member states shows that e-information is reasonably well supported in terms of a Web comment form and a calendar/directory of upcoming government events (57% and 55%, respectively) (UN, 2003). On the other hand, e-consultation and e-decision making are relatively rare, even in developed countries. With regard to e-consultation, a formal online consultation facility was found in only 14% of member countries, and online feedback on policies and activities is even lower (9%). Similarly, e-decision making received poor results; for example, only 25% of member countries provide an online poll/survey, and 26% provide an open-ended
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TABLE 1. UN Survey Results on E-Participation E-Participation Is there a calendar/directory of upcoming government events? Is there a Web comment form? Is a response timeframe indicated for submitted forms/e-mails? Is there an online poll/survey? Is there a formal online consultation facility? Is there an open-ended discussion forum? Does the online construction allow feedback on policies and activities? Is there a direct/clear statement or policy encouraging citizen participation?
Source: UN, 2003.

No. of Countries 96 99 12 43 24 45 15 13

% of Countries 55 57 7 25 14 26 9 8

discussion forum. Table 1 summarizes the UN Survey results on e-participation capabilities among the member states.

3. DIGITAL DIVIDE The term digital divide is very often dened narrowly to refer to the gap between persons who have physical access to digital ICT, and those who do not. More broadly, however, the digital divide has multiple dimensions beyond the access to existing ICT infrastructure (Bertot, 2003). For example, prior research identied the dimensions along socioeconomic (rich/poor); gender; geographical (urban/rural); racial (dominant majority/minority); and cultural (positive/negative attitudes toward the Internet, its Western roots, and its cultural value implications) factors. What is clear in the literature is the importance of economic resources that are required to build effective ICT infrastructure. However, what is not clearly articulated in the literature is the digital divide along the other dimensions of knowledge-based resources (i.e., literacy and computer skills) at an individual level, and competence-based organizational resources (i.e., effective strategic leadership). There is the need for a better understanding of these dimensions of the digital divide: the invisible gap between persons who have knowledge- and competence-based resources and those who do not.

3.1 Global Digital Divide in the Context of Research on e-Government for Development In the context of research on e-government for development, the concept of the global digital divide can be useful in evaluating e-government development stages along the existing economic divisions in the world (e.g., a comparative analysis of e-governments in developed countries versus those in developing countries). Figure 1 shows a scatter diagram of the global top 10 e-government countries, and the bottom 10 countries, of a total of 173 member states that participated in the annual e-government readiness self-assessmentan annual survey conducted by the United States (UN, 2003). A list of the top and the bottom 10 countries is shown in Appendix A. In Figure 1, the x-axis represents gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, and y-axis shows
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Figure 1 A scatter diagram of the global digital divide.

the e-government readiness index. E-readiness is a weighted average score of three factors selected by the UN as salient: Web measure, telecommunication infrastructure index, and human capacity index. A scatter diagram in Figure 1 shows the global digital divide along the traditional dimension of the national governments economic resources as measured by GDP per capita. The scatter diagram shows two clear clusters of e-governments. The top 10 e-government nations are clustered toward the top right corner of the scatter diagram (demonstrating the importance of economic resources). The bottom 10 e-governments are more tightly clustered at the bottom left corner (also demonstrating the likely impact of economic resources). This scatter diagram is consistent with the assumption in the digital divide and e-government research literature about the importance of economic resources.

3.2 Global Digital Divide in the Context of e-Democracy Although there is a wide range of denitions of e-democracy, what is common in these denitions is the assumption of normative goals of e-democracy: to enhance democratic structures and processes and to enable citizen engagement in public consultations for policy making through the application of new technology (Coleman and Norris, 2005). There are some efforts to operationalize e-democracy (e.g., the UN e-participation index discussed earlier). Figure 2 shows a scatter diagram of the global top 10 and bottom 10 e-governments with the most, and the least, e-democracy capability maturity (respectively). The 20 countries and their statistics are listed in Appendix B. It must be noted that the 20 countries shown here are not identical to those shown in Figure 1. Unlike the previous scatter diagram, Figure 2 does not have two clear clusters. The bottom 10 countries all having a zero e-participation index and are clustered closely in the bottom left corner of the scatter diagram. The global top 10 countries with respect to the provision of e-democracy capability are widely scattered along the x-axis. This suggests that, although economic resources are important for the development of advanced e-government service delivery such as e-democracy, it is not the only determinant. The e-participation index is computed on each nations selfreport. Therefore, further research is required for an independent assessment of e-democracy
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Figure 2 Global digital divide in the context of e-democracy.

delivery capability. In this article, we explore e-democracy delivery capability in the context of developing countries, with particular attention to Arab countries.

4. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY To provide insight into the current state of Arab e-government developments, we addressed issues of the digital divide on two fronts. First, we addressed issues of a digital divide within the Arab countries in terms of existing e-government service delivery capabilities. To address these issues, a cross-country comparative analysis of e-government Web sites and portals was conducted across 16 Arab countries to assess their development stages in e-government service delivery capability. Second, we addressed issues of a digital divide between the top Arab e-government developments and the global top e-governments in developed countries, particularly in terms of e-democracy discussed in the previous section. We approach this second question by comparing the provision of e-democracy capabilities by the top Arab e-governments to that of the leading global e-governments in developed countries. As discussed earlier, we have selected e-democracy here because it often represents the highest level of e-government service delivery capability in the normative models of e-government maturity. National government Web sites and portals were assessed independently by two experts, using the four stages of e-government service delivery capability development discussed in Section 2. In other words, an analysis of e-government development stages focuses on what functionalities are offered to users who visit the portal and Web sites. The two experts of Web site analysis researched and compiled independently a list of Arab e-government portals, or relevant Web sites if portals for a single entry point did not exist. Next, we evaluated independently 16 Arab national e-governments using the explicit evaluation criteria shown in Table 2. For example, we evaluated the provision of a secure e-payment gateway; the provision of end-to-end services; the availability of an SMS gateway; quality and quantity of e-government services provided to the public; and the provision of edemocracy facilities (e.g., e-polling, e-voting, online policy discussion forum). Finally, the
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TABLE 2. Criteria Used to Evaluate Arab E-Governments E-Government Development Stage One-way information ows Evaluation Criteria Are there e-government Web sites and/or e-government portals? Is contact information provided in the Web sites? Are the government policies and documents available online? Is the search capability provided? Can the citizens download and/or print a selected set of government forms? Can citizens upload forms and reports? Can they contact government agencies via e-mail? Is there an SMS gateway? Can citizens conduct secure online payment transactions through the e-government portal and/or e-government Web sites? Is there evidence of the provision of the following e-democracy capabilities? E-voting (pilot and at polling stations) E-petition Online discussion forums Online poll/survey Feedback on policies and activities

Two-way interaction Payment transaction E-democracy

two experts compared, discussed, and validated the evaluation results, having achieved consensus in more than 90% of the Web site functionalities. We resolved a few cases of disagreements where there was ambiguity, and we reevaluated the ambiguous cases. Furthermore, the expert judgments were cross-validated using the secondary data sources including the e-participation index published by the UN (2005). For the purpose of the portal and Web site analysis, users are dened as citizens, businesses, government employees, and other government agencies. Based on our preliminary research, we have decided to focus exclusively on national level e-government developments, excluding the state and municipal levels of e-governments. This focus is justiable as the great majority, if not all, of the Arab countries have invested in e-government developments heavily at the national government level.

4.1 Evaluation of e-Government Service Delivery Capabilities The four development stages of e-government service delivery capabilities discussed in Section 2 are used to evaluate and classify the development stages of the Arab e-governments: one-way information ows, two-way interaction, payment transaction, and e-democracy.

4.2 Research Samples

4.2.1 Developing Countries in the Arab World. A total of 20 Arab countries portals or Web sites were reviewed independently by the two experts. However, due to a lack of relevant information, Libya, Somalia, Palestine, and Mauritania were omitted for further analysis, and hence are not reported in this article. Table 3 lists our sample of 16
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TABLE 3. Resource Characteristics of 16 Arab Countries GDP per Capita (in US$ 2006) 43,500 37,000 31,600 31,400 24,200 32,900 49,700 25,300 29,400 21,600 14,100 13,800 900 4,900 5,500 4,000 1,900 7,700 8,600 4,400 4,200 2,300 Literacy 2005 Internet Users (% of) Literacy Literacy (% of) (population) 2003 Male 2003 Female (population) 99.0 99.0 99.0 99.0 99.0 99.0 77.9 89.1 89.0 83.5 75.8 78.8 50.2 91.3 87.4 76.9 40.4 70.0 74.3 51.7 57.7 61.1 99.0 99.0 99.0 99.0 99.2 99.0 76.1 91.9 89.1 85.1 83.1 84.7 70.5 95.9 93.1 89.7 55.9 78.8 83.4 64.1 68.3 71.8 99.0 99.0 99.0 99.0 96.6 99.0 81.7 85.0 88.6 81.7 67.2 70.8 30.0 86.3 82.2 64.0 24.4 61.0 65.3 39.4 46.9 50.5 68.8 69.0 75.4 62.0 69.4 72.4 53.7 21.9 24.7 28.9 7.9 11.8 1.0 10.7 18.1 5.8 0.1 5.8 9.4 13.8 6.3 6.8

Country Developed countries United States Denmark Sweden UK South Korea Australia Arab gulf and Yemen UAE Bahrain Qatar Kuwait Oman Saudi Arabia Yemen Arab heartland Jordan Lebanon Syria Iraq Arab North Africa Algeria Tunisia Morocco Arab East Africa Egypt Sudan

Source: CIA, 2006; UN, 2003.

Arab countries and their demographics. The relevant information was gathered from the CIA Factbook (2006) Web site for each country, including information on economic and non-economic resources: GDP per capita as a measure of national wealth; average national literacy; male average literacy; female average literacy; and number of Internet users relative to the entire population. The existing Arab region classication scheme (Aladwani, 2003) was used to group the 16 countries geographically. Our sample includes six countries from Arab Gulf countries and Yemen; four Arab heartland countries, three Arab North-African countries, and two Arab East-African countries.

4.2.2 Developed Countries. Table 3 also lists six leading e-government countries in the world to serve as the benchmark group against which the Arab e-government developments were compared and contrasted. We selected the United States, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, South Korea, and Australia based on the e-government readiness index computed and published by the UN (UN, 2005), which is used to rank order its member nations. Figure 3 shows a scatter diagram of the six leading global e-governments versus the six leading Arab e-governments.
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Figure 3 Leading global e-governments versus leading Arab e-governments.

5. RESULTS The results of this research show that a wide digital divide still exists between Arab countries and leading developed countries. More importantly, however, the results also show a wide digital divide even among the Arab countries studied, particularly in the development of advanced e-government service delivery capabilities. These results are summarized and presented in Table 3. For the benchmark group, we identied the United States, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, South Korea, and Australia as the worlds e-government leaders, according to the 2005 UN Survey (UN, 2005). Our cross-country comparative analysis shows that the benchmark group countries have a single-entry-point national e-government portal. They also provide the public with advanced e-government service delivery capabilities in payment transactions. Furthermore, they all offer some kind of e-democracy capabilities to citizens. We will discuss e-democracy capabilities in detail in the next section. In the remaining section, we classify the 16 Arab countries based on where they are in terms of their e-government service delivery capability, using the normative e-government stage model discussed in Section 2: one-way information ows, two-way interaction, payment transaction, and e-democracy.

5.1 Clustering Arab E-Governments There is a wide digital divide, even across the Arab sample. Based on the stages of e-government development (e.g., at a payment transaction stage), the 16 e-governments are clustered into one of the following three groups: Arab e-government leaders; Arab e-government up-and-comers with some promising or innovative e-government service delivery capabilities; or Arab e-government laggards, which are far behind other Arab counterparts in terms of their online service delivery capabilities available to the public. In other words, the criterion for clustering the Arab e-governments is their overall service delivery capabilities that are offered to the public on their Web sites or Web portals.

5.1.1 Arab E-Government Leaders. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Qatar are identied as the Arab e-government leaders. They all have a single-entry-point
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national e-government portal and provide payment transaction capabilities to users of e-government services. In addition, they all offer some level of e-democracy capabilities to their citizens. However, they have not reached the levels of payment transaction and e-democracy capabilities offered by the top three e-government countries: the United States, Denmark, and Sweden.

5.1.2 Arab E-Government Up-and-Comers. The majority of the Arab countries are clustered into this group: Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Oman, and Syria. Within this group, however, we noted further divisions. Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia are more advanced than the others in the group in terms of overall e-government service delivery capabilities. Moreover, they have a set of clear ICT and e-government strategies in place, which are accompanied by a strong commitment of the government leadership to provide better e-government services to their citizens and businesseshence creating greater public value. 5.1.3 Arab E-Government Laggards. This group of the Arab countries includes Sudan, Yemen, and Iraq. This group lags far behind the other Arab countries in terms of e-government service delivery capabilities, such as two-way interactions, payment transactions, and e-democracy. Moreover, the group in general has fewer e-government Web sites with limited services and information content.

5.2 Development Stages of E-Government Service Delivery Capabilities Based on prior research on a user-centric e-government development model (Chateld and Alhujran, 2007), we discuss the Arab e-governments in one of the following four stages of development discussed in Section 2. Table 4 lists the two samples and their e-government service delivery capability development stages observed in the study.

5.2.1 One-Way Information Flow Capabilities. The majority of the Arab countries are currently at this information stage of e-government development. The 10 countries in our sample are at this information stage: Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Tunisia, Algeria, Syria, Morocco, Sudan, Yemen, and Iraq. Of the 10, only Lebanon and Morocco provide a portal that serves as a single entry point to all government agencies, whereas the others have only government Web sites. On their ofcial Web sites, these countries provide useful information about their services, contact details, and links to other governmental Web sites. 5.2.2 Two-Way Interaction Capabilities. Of the 16 Arab countries, six countries (listed in Table 5) provide two-way interaction between government and citizens (G2C) and/or between government and businesses (G2B). 5.2.3 Payment Transaction Capabilities. Among the Arab countries, only three governments (listed in Table 6) provide online payment transaction capabilities to their citizens and/or businesses. 5.2.4 E-Democracy Capabilities in our Arab Sample. Of the 16 Arab countries, seven (listed in Table 7) offer some e-democracy capabilities.
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TABLE 4. E-Government Service Delivery Capabilities of the Samples One-Way Information Flows United States Denmark Sweden UK South Korea Australia UAE Bahrain Qatar Jordan Lebanon Kuwait Egypt Saudi Arabia Oman Tunisia Algeria Morocco Syria Sudan Yemen Iraq Two-Way Interaction Payment Transaction E-Democracy

World E-Government Leaders (top six) Arab E-Government Leaders

Arab E-Government Up-and-Comers Arab E-Government Laggards

5.2.5 E-Democracy Capabilities in Our Sample of Developed Countries 5.2.4.1 United States. Through the ofcial internet portal for the U.S. government (Firstgov.gov), U.S. citizens can nd, view, and comment on regulations and other actions for all federal agencies. Chat with the government service is also provided through the U.S. government portal. By using this service, citizens can ask the government a question about federal agencies, programs, benets, or services. Furthermore, citizens can contact their elected ofcials directly from the portal and share with them thoughts on current events, issues of interest, and government policy. Furthermore, the U.S. government has developed an online system called Thomas (http://thomas.loc.gov/) through which citizens can access the text of a proposed bill or a public law, and debates in the Congressional Record, and send e-mails to members of the House of Representatives and Senate on particular issues. In the 2004 election, the U.S. federal government tested a pilot e-voting system for 100,000 overseas voters (Gefen, Rose, Warkentin, & Pavlou, 2005). 5.2.4.2 Denmark. Denmark was one of the rst countries in the world to provide e-democracy services to citizens online. During the elections for European Parliament
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TABLE 5. Evidence of the Arab Countries Two-Way Interaction Capabilities Examples from E-Government Portal/Web Sites Through the government portal, citizens can download forms and government documents. Also, a search facility is provided. Businesses can also benet from a variety of online services (e.g., online company registration, modifying of companys information, and registration in the online suppliers record). Citizens can use the e-government portal to search and download forms. Examples of the provided online services for individuals include: booking for smart cards appointment, submit meter readings, view personal information, and getting the national exam results. The e-government portal provides citizens, businesses, visitors, and government with a variety of online services, such as renewal of expired drivers licenses and renewal of expired or damaged health cards. Many ministries and government agencies have established an online presence by providing informational Web sites. On their Web sites, the ministries also provide citizens and businesses with the ability to search databases and download forms and documents. In addition, businesses benet from online registration provided by the government, for example, the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (http://www.aqabazone.com) electronically enabled Enterprise Registration and Permitting, which allows investors to acquire their licenses and permits online. Citizens can use the e-government portal to renew their smart national identication (ID) cards, enquire about their civil ID number, and access other ministries online services. The e-government portal provides citizens, businesses, visitors, and the government with a convenient collection of information and services, such as a way to request national ID, replacement cards, and vehicle infringements and license renewal. Country UAE

Bahrain

Qatar Jordan

Kuwait Egypt

in 2004, approximately 15,000 Danish citizens had the chance to try the e-voting system (IDABC, 2003). Another example of e-voting in Denmark was in 2006 by the Ministry of Education (http://eng.uvm.dk/) during its rst electronic election of the school boards (IDABC, 2006).
TABLE 6. Evidence for the Arab Countries Payment Transaction Capabilities Examples from E-Government Portal/Web Sites By launching the e-Dirham system in 2001 (http://www.e-dirham.gov.ae/), the UAE was the rst to introduce an electronic payment system countrywide in the Arab world. The Ministry of Finance and Industry provides this payment tool to improve revenue collection efciency and to provide the public with a new means of secure and convenient payment. For example, citizens can pay their bills, trafc nes, and license renewal fees by either getting e-Dirham cards from the Ministry of Finance and Industry or using their own credit cards. To shorten the waiting line at the ministries and departments, the Ministry of Finance and Industry also has introduced the e-Stamp to authenticate the prepaid smart cards using the e-Dirham system. Electronic payments can be made through the government portal (https://www.e.gov.bh/ pub/wps/portal). For example, citizens can pay their water and electricity bills, vehicle dues payments, and vehicle registration fees through the government portal using their credit cards. However, registration is required for the electronic payment services offered on the portal. By using Qtels online service (https://webcare.qtel.com.qa), citizens and businesses can check their bills, view unbilled usage, change their billing address, and make their payments. In addition, they can pay their electricity and water bills, trafc valuations, and Red Crescent fund through a secure electronic payment gateway. Country UAE

Bahrain

Qatar

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TABLE 7. Evidence of the Arab Countries E-Democracy Capabilities Examples from E-Government Portal/Web Sites The federal e-government portal does not provide citizens with any e-democracy facilities. However, at the state level, Dubais e-government portal provides an opinion-polling facility to get citizens opinions regarding issues of interest. The kingdom of Bahrain was the rst Arab country to introduce the e-voting system. In 2001, on the national action charter, and again in parliamentary elections in 2002, the e-vote service was provided to Bahrains citizens (Kostopoulos, 2003). In addition, Bahrainis can post their opinions to senators through the Shura Forum (http://www.shura.gov.bh/forum). This forum allows and encourages citizens to participate in the decision-making process by providing them with this governmental discussion forum through which they can discuss and post their opinions regarding important societal issues. Bahrains portal provides citizens with a comprehensive set of services including heath, trafc, employment, municipal, and information services. This makes the government more transparent and accountable to its citizens. The portal provides citizens with the ability to post their inquiries, complaints, recommendations, and comments regarding any e-government service. Jordanians can post their questions and comments to government ofcials through the Ask the Government folder in the Jordan Information Centre Web site (http://www.jordan.jo). By using the online polling mechanism, discussion forums, and online consultation facilities provided on this Web site, Jordanians have the ability to exchange opinions and viewpoints on issues of importance with governments and with other citizens. Citizens can use the e-government portal to place their inquiries, complaints, recommendations, and comments regarding the services provided by e-government. The portal provides citizens with online polling mechanisms to get their opinions and viewpoints regarding issues of interest. In addition, citizens can join the mailing list provided in the portal to get up-to-date information regarding e-government services. Furthermore, citizens can send their suggestions and comments to the government through the government portal. Citizens can use the e-government portal to post their inquiries, complaints, recommendations, and comments regarding the services provided by e-government. Country UAE Bahrain

Qatar Jordan

Lebanon Kuwait

Egypt

To support e-democracy, a Danish debate forum has been made available to citizens, political parties, and interested organizations to open dialogue among them. All debates are shown on danmarksdebatten.dk. Through the e-democracy Web site (www.nordpol.dk), Danish citizens are invited to participate in the political decision-making process. This Web site allows both citizens and politicians to dene an agenda of topics on which a dialogue is needed. This aims to make the decision-making process more transparent and to attain more qualied decisions.

5.2.4.3 Sweden. The Swedish governments Ofcial Report on Democracy 2002 was the starting point toward systematic trials for using IT to enhance local democracy in Sweden. The government consults citizens regarding its plans and policies through the Web. An example of this consultation was in 2000, when Swedish towns were consulted on a series of efforts to renew their town politics (Gr nlund, 2002). o Swedish citizens have free access to ofcial documents, enabling them to provide their opinions regarding these documents. In addition, citizens can use the online discussion forms provided on Swedish government Web sites to exchange their opinions. One example of these forums is the Top Managers Forum, which was created in 2004 by the Ministry
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TABLE 8. E-Democracy Capabilities of the Two Samples Country United States Denmark Sweden UK South Korea Australia UAE Bahrain Qatar Jordan Lebanon Kuwait E-Voting (pilot and at polling stations) E-Petition Online Discussion Forums E-Polling Feedback

World E-Government Leaders Arab E-Government Leaders

of Finance. This forum consists of some of the state agencies, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities, and the Swedish Federation of County Councils (Swedish Government Ofces, 2004).

5.2.4.4 UK. The e-democracy Web site (http://archive.cabinetofce.gov.uk/e-envoy/ briengs-top/$le/edemocracy.htm) aims to use technology to increase British peoples awareness and participation in local decision making. It aims also to make it easy for citizens across the country to get involved in the democratic process. Furthermore, communities and government discussion forums are provided (http://forum.communities.gov.uk). In May 2002 and 2003, the UK hosted the worlds largest experiment in e-voting. Under the pilot project, voters in local authorities throughout the UK were able to choose from the most expansive range of new voting technologies ever deployed. In addition, using a petition system (http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/), citizens can create, sign, and send petitions online directly to British government. 5.2.4.5 South Korea. South Korea is among the most internet-connected nations in the world, with a more than 66% penetration rate (Internet World Stats, 2007). Because of this high level of Internet penetration, citizens can easily get any information, including government documents and policies. Furthermore, they can express their opinions and ideas regarding issues of interest (Kim S., 2006). The Korean government offers its citizens the opportunity to participate in government administration by requesting their voting and hearings electronically. Political parties also incorporated the Internet into their election campaign tools. This incorporation was clear during the 2002 presidential election (Kim, 2006). According to Hachigian and Wu (2003), this election became a textbook example of the power of IT. In this election, Internet voting was tested. Furthermore, the election of President Roh Moo-hyun in 2002 was largely due to his Internet-based supporters organization called Nosamo. This virtual community of supporters successfully raised more than $7 million over the Internet.
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5.2.4.6 Australia. In Australia, government agencies across the country have traditionally involved citizens in the decision-making process. With the increasing use of ICT by citizens and the initiation of e-government as a means of enhancing service delivery to citizens, the opportunity arises for government to increase the involvement and the participation of citizens in the e-democracy process. Such participation may include online discussion forums, e-surveys, online policy consultation, e-petitions, e-voting, and more innovative forms of online participation (Australian Government Information Management Ofce, 2007). Citizens can take advantage of several online opportunities to be informed or to get involved in government. For example, citizens can e-mail their parliament member on any issue of interest. Also, citizens can create, sign, and submit their petitions online. Furthermore, Australian citizens can access ofcial documents and provide their opinions and ideas regarding these documents. Additionally, according to the Australian IT (2007) defense force, personnel serving overseas were able to vote electronically in the 2007 federal election for the rst time. In summary, Table 8 lists ve measures of e-democracy capabilities found in the two samples analyzed in this research.

6. DISCUSSION The digital divide between developed countries and developing countries has been long debated in the academic literature in a number of disciplines, including information systems and IT. This cross-country comparative analysis research on e-government developments in the Arab countries, and the worlds top e-governments in developed countries, provides conrmatory evidence for the continuous digital divide. However, we did not measure how wide or narrow this digital divide is as compared to the past. This research provides insights into the presence of a wide digital divide even among a sample of the 16 Arab countries analyzed. Of the 16, UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar are classied as the Arab e-government leaders because they all offer the public advanced e-government service delivery capabilities such as the provision of secure online payment transaction channels and the provision of e-democracy forums and e-voting structures and processes. In comparison, Yemen, Iraq, and Sudan seem to be the Arab e-government laggards because they clearly lack advanced online service delivery capabilities provided by the Arab e-government leaders. The large differences between these two groups in terms of the provision of e-government service delivery capabilities may be explained by the differences in economic and human resources that exist between the two groups (as shown in Table 3). On average, the Arab e-government leaders are much wealthier than the laggards, as measured by the group average GDP per capita, $34,800 in comparison to $1,700 (2006 estimation). This is consistent with the scatter diagram of the global digital divide (Figure 1) presented in Section 3. Furthermore, the average literacy rate of the Arab e-government leaders is signicantly higher than that of the laggards, as measured by the group average literacy rate85.3% in contrast to 50.7%. However, national wealth alone does not explain the presence of a wide digital divide across the Arab sample. Jordan, for example, has a $4,900 GDP per capita (also 2006 estimation). It is far below the group average GDP per capita for the Arab e-government leaders. Despite this lack of economic resources, Jordan has developed relatively high-level advanced e-government service delivery capabilities, namely, two-way interaction and edemocracy. To a lesser extent, other Arab e-government up-and-comers such as Egypt,
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Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Lebanon also have developed some promising or innovative e-government service delivery capabilities, despite their levels of economic resources. 7. CONCLUSIONS In the context of research on e-government for development, the concept of the global digital divide can be usefully applied to evaluating e-government development stages along the existing economic divisions in the world. This research presented insights into the current landscape of e-government developments in the 16 Arab countries through a cross-country comparative analysis of their e-government service delivery capabilities. This research makes critical contributions to the existing e-government literature. First, evidence found in the study raises our awareness of a wide digital divide that exists even among the Arab developing countries studied. Second, the disparity in the provision of advanced e-government service delivery capabilitieseven among the relatively homogenous economic groupsuggests the critical importance of knowledge- and competence-based resources, for they are critically important for effective and efcient use of new ICTs adopted by e-governments, and for the sustainable development of the new digital economy particularly in developing countries. Finally, this research differs from the previous e-government studies that largely focused on developed countries or an Arab e-government in a single country context. By adopting a cross-country comparative analysis research strategy, this research has provided new insights into the global digital divide in the context of e-government for development. Our research limitations include that our results represent a static, snapshot view of the current landscape of the Arab e-government service delivery capabilities through a crosscountry comparative analysis conducted at one particular point in time. In the dynamically changing e-government development environment, such a static view provides some limitations to our analysis and understanding. However, in light of a clear lack of research on e-government development stages in the Arab developing countries, our research approach may be justied at this exploratory stage. Further research is required to address this limitation with a longitudinal cross-country analysis over a longer period of time, to assess changes in e-government development. APPENDIX A
A List of the Top and Bottom Ten Countries Country Top Ten USA Sweden Australia Denmark UK Canada Norway Switzerland Germany Finland GDP per Capita (in US$ 2006) 43,500 31,600 32,900 37,000 31,400 35,600 46,300 34,000 31,900 33,700 E-Government Readiness Index 0.927 0.840 0.831 0.820 0.814 0.806 0.778 0.764 0.762 0.761
(Continued)
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Continued Country Bottom Ten Burkina Faso Guinea Ethiopia Sierra Leone Afghanistan Timor-Leste Niger Somalia Marshall Islands Palau GDP per Capita (in US$ 2006) 1,300 2,100 1,000 900 800 800 1,000 600 2,900 7,600 E-Government Readiness Index 0.135 0.132 0.128 0.126 0.118 0.087 0.060 0.049 0.038 0.009

Source: (CIA, 2006; United Nations, 2003). GDP per capita estimates (2006) for all countries, except Afghanistan (2004).

APPENDIX B
A List of the Top and Bottom Ten Countries Country Top Ten USA UK Chile Canada Estonia New Zealand Philippines Netherlands France Australia Bottom Ten Sierra Leone Solomon Islands Somalia Suriname Swaziland Syria Tajikistan Tonga Tuvalu Uzbekistan GDP per Capita (in US$ 2006) 43,500 31,400 12,700 35,600 20,300 26,200 5,000 32,100 31,100 32,900 900 600 600 7,100 5,200 4,100 1,300 2,200 1,600 2,000 E-Participation Index 1.00 0.97 0.83 0.83 0.76 0.69 0.67 0.64 0.64 0.62 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Source: (CIA, 2006; United Nations, 2003). GDP per capita estimates (2006) for all countries, except Solomon Island and Tonga (2005) and Tuvalu (2002).

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Akemi Takeoka Chateld is a senior lecturer in Information Technology and served as Head of the E-Government & E-Governance Research Group at the School of Information Systems and Technology, Faculty of Informatics, University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia. She has a Ph.D. in Business Administration (MIS and applied statistics) from Texas Tech University. Her research interests include transformational impacts of e-government, e-governance, e-government in developing countries, and public-sector interagency radio frequency identication (RFID) and geospatial (GPS and GIS) information sharing for disaster prevention and management. She has published two papers in Journal of Management Information Systems and her other work in Communications of the ACM, Electronic Journal of E-Government, and other leading journals. Akemi has government managerial experiences, particularly strategic management and large-scale IT project management. Omar Alhujran is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Information Systems and Technology at the University of Wollongong-Australia. He received his bachelors degree in computer science from Mutah University, Jordan, and Master of Science in computing from the University of Technology/Sydney. His work has been presented in several international conferences such as European Conference on e-Government; International Conference on e-Learning, e-Business, Enterprise Information Systems, and e-Government; ACS/IEEE International Conference on Computer Systems and Applications; and European Conference on Mobile Government. His research interests include e-government and e-government adoption in developing countries.

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