Arab Emirates and Role of CSCW
Lisa Rosenthal (2001) disclosed that the economy of United Arab Emirates used to depend mainly on oil for a long time however efforts are being made at government level to diversity the economy towards non oil sectors as well. Several steps have been taken to make the economy of UAE liberal open, liberal and pro business. As a result of these efforts there is remarkable development in different sectors and industries of the UAE economy especially the growth of telecommunication and banking sectors has accelerated in the region.
There are some very important factors that are accounted for the rapid growth of the region during the last few decades. Globalization is an important phenomenon that has played a significant role in the growth of UAE and different tools and devices of Information Technology are being utilized in the region to get support in the development process. As a result of these measures UAE has secured an important and superior position in the region and at present UAE stands as a leading industrial, commercial and trading center of the Middle East region.
Despite this development it is still a fact that the Arab world including UAE is not taking the maximum advantage of the computer based technology and there is great room of improvement especially in the corporate sector of UAE regarding the use of computer based technologies. As compared with other developed and developing countries of the world UAE still lags behind in the use of computer based technology including Computer Supported Cooperative Work – CSCW.
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United Nation Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) studied the IT usage condition of UAE in 2003 and reported that the union of seven sovereign sheikhdoms UAE is moving towards securing efficient performance in the non oil sector and there is considerable progress of the country in the informational technology sector. With the assistance of computer based technology UAE has now secured a sound position in the region and the states of UAE especially Dubai has come up as an advanced and technologically updated state of UAE.
This development become possible because there have been many measures taken to promote the IT usage in the country. Now almost all the departments of the government have made their online presence and they facilitate the public to contact and get information about the activities of these departments through their websites. The public is facilitated by these websites as they can make their complaints, send queries and perform many other activities related with the registration and licensing from the government departments online that not only save their time but make the entire procedure convenient.
The report further disclosed that the commercial use of computers is rising in UAE and at present multi nationals, local small and medium sized enterprises and locally based international firms are using adequate use of computers and internet and in this way IT has become the backbone of many businesses in UAE. At present the country has achieved sound position in adopting Information technology. Table 1 shows the World Bank report (2005) on the Information technology infrastructure of United Arab Emirates 2.
3 Current Situation of Computer Technology Usage in UAE Business Firms The present scenario of computer based technology usage in UAE is marked with several significant efforts done by the government of UAE to promote the use of IT and computers in the corporate sector of UAE. The establishment of Dubai Internet City and the Free trade zones by the government are important development that lift the businesses of UAE and facilitated them to make maximum use of computers and internet for their business operation.
Dubai Internet City was established with the objective of promoting and facilitating the companies who wish to operate in the IT sector and though this step many companies get assistance to become computer technology based organizations. Safura Rahimi (2007) informed that to promote the use of IT in the corporate sector there is increase in the government spending on the IT sector and along with that people are also spending more on the e-commerce products and services and in the year 2006 the internet users of UAE spent $1. 15 billion for e-commerce products and services
At present the number of internet subscribers is rising in the country. According to CIA World Facts Book (2007) there were 1. 709000 users of internet in United Arab Emirates by the year 2006 and the number of internet users is continuously rising. Table 2 shows the rise in the internet users in UAE United Nation Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) (2003) revealed in the report on the situation of IT society in UAE that the country possesses high quality internet service featuring “dial-up, ADSL, ISDN, Frame relay, ATM, leased line, and satellite options”.
The repost also informed that there has been increase in the total available bandwidth in the country that rises from 1024 Mbps in 2003 to 2,680 Mbps in 2005. The government is making investments in the IT sector to promote the use of computers in businesses and in the year 2003 there were Dh997 million (US$271. 66 million) spend on the maintenance and improvement of the IT infrastructure. Muhammad I Aysih (2004) conducted a research study on the business organizations of UAE in order to examine the impact of computer and internet use on the public relation of the companies.
By presenting the case study of 20 private and government organizations Muhammad I Aysih revealed that many of the business organization of UAE still prefer the use of traditional and real world situation for managing their relation with the public and they have not succeeded to take control of the information flow through internet and due to lack computer literacy they are feel uncomfortable in using CSCW.
Thus in many of the businesses of UAE computers and internet are not preferred as communication tools and the staff members of these organizations used to continue with the traditional communication methods rather then advances and computer based interactions.