Free Wireless Internet Park Services: An Investigation of Technology Adoption in Qatar from a Citizens’ Perspective

Free Wireless Internet Park Services: An Investigation of Technology Adoption in Qatar from a Citizens’ Perspective

Shafi Al-Shafi (Brunel University, UK)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0981-5.ch019
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This chapter examines the adoption of free wireless Internet parks (iPark) by Qatari citizens as a means of accessing electronic services from public parks. The Qatar government has launched the iPark concept with a view of providing free internet access for all citizens while enjoying the outdoors. This concept is enabled by an ICT infrastructure and broadband facilities, which is considered as regional good practice. By offering free wireless Internet access, the Qatari government encourages its citizens to actively participate in the global information society with a view of bridging the digital divide. Using a survey based study this research set out to examine the Qatari citizens’ perceptions of the iPark initiative. Results of the survey showed that there is a positive level of relation between the independent variables, usefulness, ease of use, Internet safety, and Internet speed/response time and one dependent variable, intention to use the iPark in Qatar. The chapter provides a discussion on the key findings, research implications, limitations, and future directions for the iPark initiative in Qatar.
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Organizational Background

Since the advent of the internet some 40 years ago (Ho, 2002), the number of information and communication technology (ICT)-driven services has quadrupled, making today’s society a technology and Internet-savvy one. While the 1990s saw the e-commerce revolution (UN, 2005) with private and multinational organisations, in the new millennium, we have witnessed public sector organizations embracing the same principles of e-business through the introduction of national e-government initiatives. Since the 1990s, ICT has played an important role in incrementally changing and shifting traditional and bureaucratic government models into the current e-government model, where services are delivered according to customers’ needs.

While all developed countries have now implemented some form of e-government (Accenture, 2005; Al-Kibsi et al., 2001) with most having implemented transactional level services (see, for instance, Layne & Lee, 2001; Weerakkody et al., 2007) – the majority of developing countries are beginning to follow suit (Kurunananda & Weerakkody, 2006). Not surprisingly, wealthy Middle Eastern countries such as Dubai and Qatar have made plans to provide e-government services to citizens and businesses.

As in many countries, the national e-government focus in Qatar is to achieve the highest performance in executing governmental transactions electronically, through streamlined business processes and integrated information technology solutions (Qatar E-Government, 2007).

The socioeconomic structure in the state of Qatar is such that its population is made up largely of immigrant workers and professionals who are considered citizens of the country. Therefore, the largest proportion of recipients of e-government and early adopters are seen as those professional workers employed in numerous state, private, and multinational organizations. Consequently, the national e-government efforts are primarily focused towards these recipients (referred to as citizens).

The Internet, while being the primary mode of access to e-government services, has not been adapted globally at the same time or rate; some countries are considered as leaders (such as the United States and Singapore) and others simply follow (i.e., the Gulf region). More recently, wireless technologies have become a useful means of Internet connectivity and access to e-services. Wi-Fi for ‘wireless fidelity’ is a set of standards for wireless local area networks (WLAN) and provides wireless access to the Internet. Hotspots providing such access include Wifi-cafés, where one needs to bring one’s own wireless-enabled devices such as a notebook or PDA. These services may be free to customers only or to all. A hotspot need not be limited to a confined location. In fact, as part of the government’s ongoing efforts to provide free Internet access to all in Qatar, public parks are used as open spaces to offer free wireless Internet access to citizens. These parks are referred to as an iPark and the first such initiative was launched in March, 2007, in the city of Doha in Qatar. This iPark initiative is the first of its kind in the Arabian region.

In particular Wi-Fi has opened up new opportunities for e-commerce and e-government by allowing citizens, consumers and businesses to build connectivity, any time and at any place. Also, it helps to increase accessibility of services and to expand social, government, and business networks (Palen, 2002). Pyramid Research (2003) expected the number of Wi-Fi users worldwide to reach 707 million by 2008. However, wireless security remains the most important factor that challenges wireless Internet hot spots. As wireless Internet grows the security threat also increases rapidly and therefore the need to protect information becomes imperative (NIST, 1995). The security risk is mainly from hackers, who are individuals, that access into the system without any authorization and for personal gain.

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