E-commerce and e-governance have been identified as viable business platforms in the Middle Eastern region. However, the continued usage of ICT in the Middle East is affected by the high rate of cybercrime. Apparently, most e-commerce and e-government entities in the region are yet to enhance their security systems to conform to the international standards. This research was geared toward evaluating the factors affecting the implementation of effective security systems erected in the Middle East with those in the developed nations like the United States and the UK. The comparison would reveal the risk level that the Middle Eastern society has been subjected to by the lack of effective e-governance.
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The research was also set to reveal the methods that cyber-criminals use to target victims and steal their money and information in the e-commerce and e-government platforms. Most international organizations in the region have actively engaged in e-marketing, and they have recently adopted e-commerce. The report illustrated cybercrime as one of the major factors leading to reluctance in adopting e-commerce in the Middle East. The findings in the research revealed that five main issues led to the reluctance in the adoption of e-commerce and e-governance by the Emirates. Trust was one of the biggest issues. Most potential consumers were not convinced about the viability of e-commerce.
Literature Review and Research Questions
Growth in Information Communication Technology [ICT], owing to the increased investment in research and development, has created enormous opportunities within the private and public sectors. Governments and private entities are incorporating ICT in their operations, thus leading to the emergence of a digital economy. Beaudry and Pinsonneault (2005) contend that most governments are integrating ICT technologies in their quest to attain operational effectiveness and efficiency in service delivery. This trend has led to the development of diverse e-government technologies, which have been fostered by the innovation of diverse web-based technologies. According to Abbad, Abbad, and Saleh (2011), e-government entails continued usage of different ICT technologies by federal, local, and stage agents in offering government services. One of the core motivations of integrating e-government technologies entails the elimination of the bureaucracies associated with service delivery within diverse government departments.
Similarly, private entities such as business organizations have adopted web-based technologies such as e-commerce in an effort to improve their competitive advantage. Alzahrani, Stahl, and Prior (2012) define e-commerce as “the process of buying and selling of consumer products over the Internet” (p. 19). Both large and small entities are increasingly incorporating e-commerce technologies in their operations. The emergence of diverse models of e-commerce, such as the business-to-business and business-to-consumer models, accentuate the importance of e-commerce in enhancing the quest to attain a competitive advantage. E-commerce has enhanced businesses’ ability to attain a global market reach, hence maximizing their profitability.
KPMG (2011) cites the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as one of the Middle East countries with a higher rate of Internet usage at 71% as compared to 60% in Saudi Arabia, 61% in Qatar, and 62% in Kuwait. One of the core drivers in Internet usage in the Middle East entails the penetration of mobile devices. Furthermore, the large population of a young generation in the region is likely to drive the rate of Internet usage.
Most governments around the world are considering the best strategies to adopt in order to influence their citizens to engage in e-commerce as a potential way of conducting business. One of the strategies being adopted by the Middle East countries entails investment in ICT infrastructure. Fernandes (2013) asserts that e-readiness is one of the core determinants in exploiting the benefits associated with e-commerce and e-government. The Middle East countries are focused on designing economic zones in an effort to foster progress in the development of telecommunication and ICT infrastructure (Basamh, Qudaih & Ibrahim, 2014). Countries in the Middle East have experienced considerable growth in the Network Readiness Index (NRI) with regard to e-government and e-commerce. For example, the UAE has been characterized by a remarkable increment in the rate at which government services are available online, coupled with the participation of the public in online activities (Gupta & Gupta, 2012).
Cybercrimes result in significant social, economic, and political impacts. A study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2007 estimates the size of global cybercrime to be US$ 100 billion (Kshetri, 2011). Moreover, Kshetri (2011) argues that cybercrime “is mainly skewed towards the rich economies in the region” (p. 120). Thus, the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] nations are ranked amongst the most prone countries due to the economic wealth derived from oil and the high rate of digitalization.
The rate of cybercrime in the Middle East has increased tremendously over the past few years. According to the 2011 Norton Cybercrime Report, over 76% of all Internet users in the UAE had experienced cybercrime within one year. In 2013, over 1,400 cybercrime incidents were reported in the UAE as compared to 588 and 792 cases in 2011 and 2012, respectively (Moukhallati, 2014). The growth in cybercrime incidents has arisen from the high rate at which citizens are using web-based platforms such as social networks.
Despite the fact that most cybercrimes are not reported, the impacts should not be underestimated. Furthermore, the prevalence of cybercrime might affect the development of continued usage intention of e-government and e-commerce platforms amongst the general population. Jewkes (2013) asserts that Saudi Arabia experienced a 3,000% growth in the rate of Internet usage between 2000 and 2009. One of the factors that might limit the development of continued usage entails the lack of trust amongst users. A significant population of the Middle East population is reluctant to use e-commerce and e-government platforms due to security reasons such as comprising their personal financial information. Trust is an essential element in determining the continued usage of Internet technologies. Moreover, Loader and Thomas (2013) contend that the level of trust amongst users influences the post-usage attitude developed. One of the areas that the governments should focus on entails eliminating cybercrime activities. In a bid to attain this goal, an enabling regulatory environment should be developed. Furthermore, the importance of the Middle East countries, developing an integrated Internet security system, should not be ignored in reducing the vulnerability of e-government and e-commerce transactions.
This research intends to achieve the following objectives.
- To evaluate the continued usage intentions of e-government and e-commerce platforms amongst the UAE population
- To assess the growth of e-government and e-commerce in the UAE
- To understand the methods used by cybercriminals in committing cybercrime activities.
- To evaluate the impact of cybercrime on the development of continued usage intentions amongst the Emiratis
- To examine the effectiveness of the measures implemented by the UAE government in fighting cybercrime
In line with the above research objectives, this study will be guided by the following research questions.
- What is the level of continued usage intentions with regard to the implemented e-government and e-commerce platforms amongst the UAE population?
- To what extent have the concepts of e-government and e-commerce been integrated into the UAE?
- What are the common methods used by cybercriminals in committing cybercrime?
- What impact does cybercrime have on the development of continued usage intentions amongst the Emiratis?
Significance of the study
The study’s findings will be of great significance to the UAE government. First, the government will develop insight into the factors that influence the rate of Internet penetration within the country. By gaining this knowledge, the UAE government will be in a position to determine the effectiveness of its infrastructural development with regard to e-commerce and e-commerce platforms. Moreover, the UAE government will map the behavior of the general population with reference to e-government and e-commerce. The government will understand the relationship between trust and development of continued usage intention of e-government and e-commerce platforms amongst the general population. Consequently, the UAE government will be in a position to formulate effective e-government and e-commerce policies. Therefore, the UAE government will appreciate the importance of integrating optimal security measures in order to curb cybercrime activities.
The global ICT sector has undergone tremendous growth over the past decade. Despite the growing significance of e-government and e-commerce technologies, its growth varies across countries. The developed countries such as the European countries [UK, France, and Germany] have better-established ICT infrastructure compared to the Middle East countries. Furthermore, the usage of ICT technologies in the European Zone is relatively higher as compared to the Middle East countries. A study conducted by the European Travel Commission (2014) shows that there are approximately 102 million Internet users in the Middle East, which represents 37 percent of the total population. Therefore, the rate of Internet penetration in the region is relatively low despite it being higher than the 35% global average rate. However, some Middle East countries, such as the UAE, have a relatively high penetration rate of 83%. However, growth has not been matched with the development of effective risk management practices.
Subsequently, the sector has experienced a remarkable increment in incidents of e-crimes. Most Middle East countries have recognized the reality associated with e-crimes and are beginning to take action. The UAE leads with reference to the number of e-crimes in the GCC region. However, the UAE government enacted a number of laws aimed at fighting cybercrime in order to safeguard the country’s reputation with regard to e-commerce (Oxford Business Group, 2007). The country’s commitment to fighting cybercrime through different government agencies such as the Dubai Financial Services Authority and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has enabled the enhancement of its effectiveness in curbing cybercrime.
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A study conducted by the Oxford Business Group (2007) shows that cybercriminals are increasingly targeting e-government sites. Moreover, a report issued by KPMG (2011) emphasizes that the global cybercrime environment is progressively becoming sophisticated. Cybercriminals are employing more sophisticated computer technology as compared to the available cybersecurity measures. Traditionally, cyber-attacks were considered as a way of ‘showing off’ amongst computer geniuses. However, in contemporary society, cyber attacks have evolved into malicious efforts aimed at executing sabotage and espionage.
Types of cybercrime
Different types of cyber attacks have been conducted over the past decade. Some of the common types of attacks are illustrated herein.
- Fiscal fraud – this type of e-crime involves targeting online financial platforms such as tax-revenue collection databases or online payment channels. Such attacks can lead to significant economic benefits.
- State cyber attack – this type of attack is mainly conducted under the watch of a particular government against another. For example, the Stuxnet computer virus was used in 2010 in an effort to infiltrate and disable Iran’s secret nuclear program.
- Malware – this entails software that is created in an effort to control other individual’s computer systems or social networking profiles. The malware provides the attacker with an opportunity to control another person’s computer remotely.
- Phishing – this type of attack entails stealing individuals’ network details such as passwords with the objective of assuming control of their personal networks.
- Trojan – this involves a program that is designed to damage computer programs or data saved in the hard disk.
- Scareware – under this type of e-crime, cyber criminals force computer users to download disguised computer software such as antivirus software. Once downloaded and installed the software attacks the users’ system. The objective is to compel the user to pay the specific software developer [criminals] in order to remove such viruses.
According to KPMG (2011), it is expected that approximately 150,000 malicious codes and computer viruses circulate through the cyberspace every day and affect over 148,000 computers within government agencies and corporate entities. The increase in incidences of cybercrime has also been occasioned by growth in the popularity of computer games and mobile phone applications. Cybercriminals are increasingly embedding malware into computer games and mobile applications (KPMG, 2011). Furthermore, the complex nature of cybercrime requires a collaborative effort between international stakeholders in order to formulate coordinated control measures successfully.
The high rate at which cybercriminals are targeting government offices and corporations has led to an increment in the cost of maintaining, protecting, and reinstating the implemented cyberinfrastructure. For example, the UK estimates the annual cost of cybercrime in the country to be US$ 43 billion. On the other hand, the cost of phishing activities in Germany was estimated to cost US$ 22 million (KPMG, 2011).
Governments and corporations have identified cyberspace as the contemporary battlefield (Marchany & Tront, 2002). Thus, more focus has shifted to protecting digital infrastructure. KPMG (2011) argues that digital infrastructure should be considered as a ‘strategic national asset.’ Countries such as North Korea, Iran, Israel, and Russia are training ‘cyber armies.’ In its quest to fight cybercrime, the US re-introduced the Cyber-security and the Internet Freedom Act in 2011. The Act gives the President power to shut down the country’s Internet network in the event of a cyber attack. Moreover, the US government has established a special division under the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] whose responsibility is to deal with cybercrime in a coordinated way. In 2010, the FBI detained over 90 people who were suspected of engaging in international cybercrime syndicate in which over US$ 70 million were stolen from small businesses and individuals through their computer networks.
Similarly, the UK has categorized cybercrime amongst the tier-1 threats, which means that it is equated to terrorism (McGraw, 2013). The UK government established the National Cyber Crime Unit, which is comprised of experts from the Police Central e-Crime Unit. The unit’s responsibility is to thwart possible cybercrime incidents by being adequately responsive to serious cybercrime incidents and being proactive in disabling cybercriminals activities. China has integrated legislation aimed at curbing cybercrime (Saini, Rao & Panda, 2012). Moreover, the country is increasingly seeking international support, for example, from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] in its fight against cybercrime (KPMG, 2011).
Despite governments’ efforts, fighting cybercrime is quite complex due to the evolving techniques of cybercriminals (Ray, 2011). The degree of complexity is further increased by the borderless nature of cybercrime. The prevalence of the underground economy is another hurdle experienced in fighting cybercrime. Organized criminals are increasingly using cybercrime as an avenue to enhance illegal activities such as trading on financial information (KPMG, 2011). The shortage of skilled workforce [for example, experienced e-forensic experts] is another factor that limits governments’ effort in fighting cybercrime. Moreover, the prevalent usage of pirated software has increased governments and individuals’ attacks by malware, Trojan, and viruses (Sinrod & Reilly, 2000).
In line with the research questions outlined in chapter 2, the process of conducting this study focuses on testing two main research hypotheses, viz. the null (H0)and the alternate (H1) hypothesis as outline below.
- H1: The existence of cybercrime negatively affects the development of continued usage intention amongst the Emiratis.
- H0: Cybercrime does not have any impact on the development of continued usage intention of e-government and e-commerce platforms amongst the general population in the UAE.
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the challenges encountered in enhancing the usage of e-government and e-commerce platforms in the Middle East. The researcher is focused on ensuring that the study’s findings are valid in order to enhance the reliability of the findings to the target stakeholders, viz. the UAE government. The validity and reliability of a particular study depend on the research design used, which highlights the importance of selecting an effective research strategy. In the process of conducting this study, the researcher has utilized the concepts highlighted by the following research onion.
The study is based on mixed research approach, which has been attained by incorporating qualitative and quantitative research approaches. Qualitative research design has been used in an effort to assist the researcher to gather substantial data from the field, hence fostering the effectiveness of the study’s findings. Adopting qualitative research design has increased the researcher’s capacity to understand the challenges encountered in enhancing implementation and usage of e-government and e-commerce platforms. The decision to adopt qualitative research design is further informed by its interpretive nature and ability to gather data from the natural setting.
The researcher recognizes that using qualitative research data leads to the acquisition of voluminous data. Thus, quantitative research design has been utilized in order to condense the data collected. Quantitative research design has been used by deploying numerical data analysis techniques such as statistical data analysis techniques.
Population and sampling
In the course of conducting the study, the researcher was concerned on understanding the impact of cybercrime on utilization of e-government and e-commerce techniques amongst the Emiratis. Subsequently, the researcher identified the general population in the UAE as the target study population. However, the researcher understands the difficulties associated with collecting data on all individuals within the population. Subsequently, the concept of sampling was utilized in selecting respondents from the target population. Simple random sampling techniques increase manageability of research studies. Moreover, the researcher’s design to adopt simple random sampling is informed by the need to eliminate bias in selecting study respondents. A sample of 300 respondents was selected from the general population in the Emirates. The researcher assumed that the responses collected from the target population represented the prevailing situation with reference to cybercrime in the UAE.
The study is focused on attaining a high degree of reliability and relevance. Subsequently, the study is based on primary and secondary sources of data. The primary sources of data entail collecting information from the selected research respondents, while secondary sourced involve collecting data from published reports on cybercrime activities in the Middle East region.
In a bid to collect data from primary sources, the researcher adopted questionnaires as the core data-collection instruments. A set of questionnaires on issues related to cybercrime and application of e-commerce and e-government technologies amongst the general Emirati population were designed. The questionnaires designed were semi-structured in nature, which means that both open-ended and close-ended questionnaires were incorporated. The choice of semi-structured questionnaires was informed by the need to increase the rate of response. For example, the use of open-end questionnaires provided the respondents with an opportunity to answer the questionnaires according to their opinion. Conversely, using close-ended questionnaires increased the likelihood of obtaining definite responses on some aspects. The questionnaires were distributed to the selected respondents through emails in order to minimize the cost of the study. Furthermore, the researcher obtained responses by conducting an online survey by posting the questionnaires on university websites and government websites. The choice of electronic mediums in distributing the questionnaires was informed by the need to reach a large reach a large number of respondents more cost efficiently. The questionnaires were reviewed extensively prior to their issuance to the respondents in order to eliminate any ambiguities that might limit the rate of response.
Data analysis and presentation
In order to interpret the research findings successfully, the researcher integrated Microsoft Excel software as the core tool for data analysis. Microsoft Excel enabled the researcher to condense the voluminous data obtained from primary sources of data. This goal was attained by using different tools such as tables, graphs, charts, and percentages. Therefore, the researcher was in a position to develop a better understanding on the relationship between cybercrime and usage of e-government and e-commerce amongst UAE citizens.
Analysis and Findings
The survey showed that citizens in the UAE and Middle East have adopted the application of e-government and e-commerce platforms. When asked about the application of electronic platforms, 55.17% of the respondents argued that they had at least applied e-commerce and e-government platforms in their personal transactions. Additionally, 80% of the respondents cited different ways in which they utilize the electronic platforms implemented by governments and corporations. Some of the areas of application include immigration, healthcare, transport, and consumption utilities such as paying electricity bills. When asked about their experience on e-government and e-commerce platforms, the respondents’ opinion varied as illustrated in the table below.
|Opinion||Rate of response|
The study also intended to evaluate the respondents’ opinion on the relevance of e-government and e-commerce in enhancing operational efficiency within the government and business entities. Over 96.6% of the respondents argued that the electronic platforms within the business and government agencies had enhanced operational efficiency and service delivery.
The survey also showed that 79.3% of the respondents were conversant on utilizing e-government and e-commerce platforms, while only 20.7% asserted that they were not conversant with electronic platforms.
The survey also showed the existence of varied opinion on the level of acceptance of e-commerce and e-government platforms amongst the UAE citizens as illustrated below.
The respondents’ opinion regarding perceived usefulness of e-commerce and e-government platforms in the Middle East varied as illustrated by the graph below.
Despite the high rate of perceived usefulness of e-government and e-commerce platforms, the respondents identified a number of factors hindering the implementation of e-government and e-commerce platforms as depicted by the chart below.
The study showed that cybercrime is one major factors hindering the adoption of e-commerce and e-government platforms. Over 70.69% of the respondents cited cybercrime as one of the major factors hindering the increased utilization of e-government and e-commerce platforms in the Middle East. Only 29.31% of the respondents were of the view that cybercrime does not affect the utilization of e-commerce and e-government platforms. Over 82% of the respondents were of the opinion that the UAE government has implemented diverse cyber laws in an effort to deal with cybercrime, while only 17.24% of the respondents said that they were not aware of the cyber laws. This realization shows that most citizens in the UAE and the Middle East consider trust as one of the critical aspects in developing continued usage intentions amongst the general public. Moreover, the study showed that most citizens are not aware of the security measures implemented by the government in order to curb the occurence of cybercrime within the country. This aspect might be one of the major factors hindering adoption of e-commerce platforms amongst the general population.
Conclusion and recommendations
Most countries in the Middle East such as the UAE have appreciated the importance of ICT in enhancing economic growth. Subsequently, the Middle East governments are progressively enhancing their e-readiness by improving their ICT infrastructure. Despite the benefits associated with e-government and e-commerce in enhancing operational efficiency within the private and public sectors, the adoption and development of continued usage of the e-government and e-commerce platforms is greatly threatened by the high rate of cybercrime, which affect development of trust amongst the general population on the implemented e-commerce and e-government platforms.
Cybercriminals are increasingly using the cyberspace in stealing confidential information from governments and the public by using complex e-crime technologies, which enable them to infiltrate their target computer systems. The literature review shows that cybercrime is prevalent across the world. Moreover, cybercrime has led to remarkable financial losses amongst individuals and governments.
The UAE is one of the Middle East countries that is characterized by a high rate of Internet penetration. The study confirms the hypothesis that continued usage of the e-commerce and e-commerce platforms implemented by the government might be affected by the high rate of cybercrime within the country. Therefore, the importance of government in the UAE implementing effective measures in order to enhance the adoption of e-commerce amongst the governents and business entities should not be underestimated. Subsequently, most citizens in the UAE and the Middle East region are reluctant to use online platforms in consuming services from the governemnt and corporate entitieis. Therefore, the UAE government should deal with cybercrime as one of strategic aspects in enhancing the country’s global competitiveness as an investment destination. In order to achieve this goal, it is imperative for the UAE government to formulate effective measures to track, identify, and thwart cybercrime activities. Some of the measures that the UAE government should consider are outlined below.
- The government should formulate and enact strict cybercrime laws that will be aimed at punishing cybercrime perpetrators.
- The UAE government should establish a team of e-forensic experts, which should be charged with the responsibility of identifying and eliminating cybercrime activities.
- Considering the borderless nature of cybercrime, it is imperative for the UAE government to collaborate with other GCC and ASEAN countries in curbing cybercrime. This move will aid in dealing with cybercrime at an international level.
- The government should also compel businesses and other agencies to implement effective Internet security measures within the country’s ICT infrastructure. The government should also encourage individuals, government agencies, and private entities to update their internet security continuously in order to minimize occurrence of cybercrime.
- In addition to the above aspects, it is imperative for the government to curb the prevalence of software piracy in order to minimise the spread of cyber security threats through spread of viruses, Trojans, and malware amongst other types of cyber attacks.
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