Moaman Al-Busaidy Vishanth Weerakkody

While commercial enterprises have been exploiting the business opportunities offered by the Internet for some time by engaging in e-business activities, public sector organizations have until recently failed to capitalize on the potential benefits of e-enabling their services. However, this notion is now beginning to change with many governments initiating e-government projects with a view of offering better and more accessible services to citizens. This shift has been facilitated largely as a result of the availability of innovative and cost effective ICT solutions and the evolution of the Internet. While developed countries have exploited the power of the Internet to successfully e-enable public services and entice citizens, developing countries have been comparatively slow in developing successful e-government strategies (Karunanada and Weerakkody, 2006; Weerakkody et al., 2007) . With the number of e- government initiatives increasing from three in 1996 to over five hundred national initiatives (Al-Kibsi et al., 2001), the benefits of e-government have been highlighted by many researchers. Given that the public sector is often classified as bureaucratic, inefficient and less technology savvy, e-government can be considered as a revolution that was waiting to happen, particularly in a developing country context. Given this context, e-government has the potential to radically change public sector agencies and offer many benefits that were previously not envisaged (Moulder, 2001).

E-government is the short form for electronic government, and it is also referred to as digital government, online government and even transformational government (Riley, 2003). E- government discusses the manner in which governments make use of the exchange of information and services that are pertinent with regards to citizens, individual businesses, and other governmental agencies to name a few (Welch, 2005). When e-government is implemented successfully, it will ensure that there is improvement in processes within government agencies, efficiency is achieved, and public services are better managed and delivered (Riley, 2003). However, for e-government implementation to be widespread and successful, exemplary strategies and practices need to be identified in addition to establishing and prioritizing processes to be e-enabled. Furthermore, every e-government programme needs to have a clear idea of the proposed benefits to citizens, what challenges need to be overcome and the level of institutional change that needs to take place for it to be successful in a given context (Hazlett and Hill., 2003). While many developed countries have identified successful strategies and overcome obstacles to pioneer the e-government concept (Jones,

2007), developing countries such as Oman have much to learn in this context. However, there has been little research done to examine, for instance, the reasons for the lack of progress since the initiation of the national e-government project in Oman in 2003. Moreover, there is very little published literature (apart from UN reports) that identifies the issues impeding e- government efforts in Oman. This paper aims to examine key issues that are currently influencing the implementation of e-government in Oman. In order to achieve the aforementioned aim, the paper is structured as follows. The next section briefly examines the benefits and challenges of e-government as published in the literature. This is followed by a brief overview of Oman and e-government implementation efforts in that country in section three. Next, a brief overview of the research approach used for this study is offered. In section five, a comparative evaluation of Oman’s e-government initiative with e-government efforts of neighboring countries is offered. The paper then concludes by discussing the most salient issues currently influencing e-government implementation in Oman.

The aim of this paper is to offer a synopsis of the key factors influencing e-government implementation efforts in Oman through a literature review of relevant publications. The paper is a research in progress study and is thus only an initial effort to collate some of the significant factors that are currently impeding the progress of the national e-government initiative in Oman. Therefore, the data collection strategy used for this paper relied primarily on reviewing published academic literature and other relevant Omani government and United Nations publications. A few informal conversations were also held with those responsible for e- government implementation in Oman to realize a better understanding of the context of ‘e- Oman’. However, the information gathered from these conversations was not analysed or used in this research in progress paper, but will form the basis for future research.

This research found that e-government implementation efforts in Oman are still in its initial stages and that the country is faced with a number of challenges in this respect. Among the most salient factors identified as posing major challenges to e-government implementation were lack of strategy, leadership, legal and regulatory frameworks and infrastructure related issues. Abanumy et al., (2005) explain that Oman government needs to develop a set of polices and regulations to enhance the development of accessible sites and encourage the use of ICTs that facilitate citizens needs in the context of e-government. Researchers such as Kostopoulos (2003) have suggested that e-government awareness in Oman is relatively less when compared with other Gulf countries such as United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Moreover, Mansar (2006) explains that the UAE have used different methods for successfully implementing e- government services in the public sector in that country. At the same time, Mansar (2006) also recognizes that huge improvement have been made in the private sector in several Gulf

countries mainly as a result of responding to the investments and improvements made in the context of e-government. However, questions that need to be addressed for implementing e- government, particularly in a developing country context is, whether the ICT infrastructure should be developed according to the country’s own polices and guidelines, or should lessons be learnt from other developed countries’ experiences and external solutions be introduced accordingly. When reviewing real world experiences though, the latter has caused problems for countries such as Oman where e-government efforts have been stagnating and changing in focus for many years as a result of external involvement and introduction of solutions that do not fit with the socio-cultural values and beliefs of the country. Some researchers have suggested common strengths and weaknesses that currently influence e-government implementation in Oman. As outlined in above, although there are a few encouraging reasons, there are also a number of significant weaknesses relating to ICT infrastructure that can hinder the e-government implementation efforts in the country.

Read and answer ALL questions that follow:

1- What are the main findings of this study?
2- What type of research design was used in the study?
3- Describe in detail the instrument used by the researcher to collect data?

4- Describe how the researchers obtained their sample?

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