Key Challenges for Sustainable E-Services in Unstable Societies: The Case of Syrians

Key Challenges for Sustainable E-Services in Unstable Societies: The Case of Syrians

Abraheem Alsaeed (University of Portsmouth, UK) and Rich Boakes (University of Portsmouth, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3179-1.ch008

Abstract

Refugees and displaced people who have been affected by disaster or political instability (uprooted from their homes in search of safety) are an interesting group of citizens when we consider e-government services since they face extra challenges of access to such government services. The chapter explores challenges faced by e-service delivery to refugee and displaced people which are often characteristic of unstable societies. This chapter reports on a study of Syrian refugees and displaced people using a survey exploring the use of e-services for citizens inside and outside of Syria. The authors apply institutional theory as a theoretical lens using the dimensions of economic, political, technical, and social to understand the context and issues of providing e-government services within this very challenging domain. The results indicate six themes influencing sustainable and effective support for e-services for such groups of people, namely importance of e-services, connectivity, awareness, e-service availability, financial constraints, and digital literacy.
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Introduction

Electronic Government (hereafter eGov) define as a transformative agent upon political and civic activity. It utilizes provision and use of information, services, and communications by citizens and governments to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery and transactions in the public sector (Alsaeed, Adams, & Boakes, 2014). Seo & Bernsen (2016) point out that eService developed in many ways which have enhanced by the citizens’ requirements. Alshehri, Drew & Alfarraj (2012) argue that Governments usually provide eServices to people within its authority, which depend on the people’s needs and thus provide the opportunity for better development, especially, in terms of the varieties of service provided and their availability. Therefore, many governments have put financial investment and effort into developing and enhancing eGov for better use of the eService across people’s categories (such as poor, old, young, displaced and settle ...etc.) (Chatfiel & Alhujran, 2009;Seo & Bernsen, 2016). In the race for successful eGov implementation, policymakers around the world are competing against each other for solutions to bridge the digital divide across societies. Although the digital divide element usually stands as a significant barrier to implementing eGov successfully, governments are trying to avoid excluding certain categories (for example elderly, disabled and vulnerable people) and are trying to include all people to adopt the eService (displaced people and refugees should not be exception), consequently, which lead to fill the gap of the digital divide. Helbig, Ramón Gil-García, & Ferro (2009) argue that using sophisticated information technologies in government has little social value if the people cannot use the service, or benefit from this innovation in a meaningful way. Otherwise, the negative impact would be an inevitable consequence if, however, a segment of the society left behind where everyone should be included (United Nations, 2012a). However, governments have not been so successful in providing eService to unstable societies or encouraging refugees to adopt or continuously use the eService provided, especially those people who are living in camps where they are isolated (Transtec S.A., 2015). The survey by the UNHCR (2016) reveals that the world is experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War with 65 million refugees and displaced people. The report, also, shows that developing countries are hosting 86% of the world’s refugees. A recent survey from (Information Management Unit, 2016) states that the Syrian people have endured one of the most ferocious, barbarous and brutal conflicts of the 21st century which has lasted for five years and is still going. The survey reported over 250,000 people killed, over a million injured, 6.5 million displaced within Syria, 4.6 million refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries and the remaining population, which is about 13.5 million people are in an unbearable situation and much of them lack humanitarian support. Although some studies focusing on eService in developing countries and its benefits and challenges have shed light on the developments of eGov literature (Elsheikh, 2011; SWEISI, 2010; Al-Busaidy, 2011), there is little research that investigates the driving factors that prevents ordinary citizens, refugees and displaced people of adopting the eServices in unstable societies. This is considered to be an important aspect which unleashes new models of eService targeting new segments of the society which appeared as a result of the instability such as refugees and displaced people, as well as ordinary citizens. This report seeks to answer the question as to what the obstacles are that affect the use of eService in unstable societies and Syria is a good current example of such an unstable society as it is going in a period of unrest with many displaced people and refugees. It is a difficult, but important topic since it covers people often in distress and need of government services. Thus, the aim of this research is to explore obstacles to successfully adopt eService in unstable societies which would allow people to experience its benefits. This study will, also, identify a list of recommendations for the sake of increasing the effectiveness of the aforementioned eService. This is a very challenging domain, notably, for security issues, political instability and access to relevant affected citizens which limits what method can be applied. In order to answer the research question and to achieve the aim of our research, the article structured as follow. Section 2: briefly sheds light on the undertaking context and stating the current situation in Syria as they are the new challenges of eGov adoption. Section 3: briefly examines the benefits and challenges of eService in general and the impact of eService refugees and displaced people in particular as published in the literature. Section 4: outlines the research methodology used to collect and analyze the literature. Section 5: presents the empirical findings. Section 6: discussion and institutional classification are proposed. Section 7: presents the report conclusions and recommendations.

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