As a direct result of advances in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), particularly the Internet, citizens have developed a whole new set of expectations regarding the methods and processes used in interacting with their respective governments. Following in the footsteps of the revolution in consumer purchasing established by e-commerce, e-government (electronic government) has been stated in studies such as those by Dodd (2000) as “the implementation of digital processes and technologies to increase the efficiency, reliability and coverage of internal and external government services and information sharing to citizens”. E-government brings onboard another concept known as “lean governance”, whereby all wasteful spending and inefficient processes and methods of operation are in effect eliminated as a direct result of utilizing e-government procedures and systems (Lam 2005). Extant literature demonstrates that many developed and developing countries, from the Americas to Africa, are using these perceived benefits and competitive efficiencies as a foundation to allocate resources, with the view to rolling out e-government programs and initiatives (Tassabehji 2005). To reinforce this view, a survey conducted in 2008 by the United Nations shows that189 out of 192 UN member states were actually implementing substantial e-government initiatives in their systems (United Nations 2008).
However, the researcher of the proposed study, who is an employee of the General Directorate of Passport in Saudi Arabia, has over the years accumulated information and data pointing to a low usage rate of the government web services, not only in Saudi Arabia but also globally. This view can be supported by Sharma and Pant (2009), who found a low uptake and adoption of online government services among students, employees, and practitioners within the business sector. Additionally, while it is known that countries within the European Union (EU) have one of the highest rates of internet usage within the world, with 71.5% of their population using the Internet almost on daily occasions (Internet World Stats 2012), one particular study established that only 28% of Internet users in these countries actively accessed information on public authorities’ websites in 2009, and that a partly 13% of citizens sent information electronically within ninety days preceding the study (European Commission 2010).
To solve this chronic problem, many studies have been conducted over the years to understand how people use e-government services, with the view to developing effective methodologies and approaches that could be used to increase usage rate. Most of these studies, however, focus on the subsequent adoption and acceptance of e-government services. Up until now, there exist few studies that consider the citizen’s readiness to use e-government services. But, unfortunately, these studies separate between acceptance of technology and readiness to use e-government services, thus the need to conduct a study to fill this gap in knowledge by integrating the two streams into one complete and comprehensive model of usage process of e-government services. Such integration, it is thought, will provide leverage to not only determine the events’ sequence and the outcomes of each e-government usage event, but also to analyze the usage process starting point and how the events of readiness and technology acceptance affect each other.
This research proposal demonstrates the scope of the selected research topic by providing a review of relevant literature, before proceeding to reveal the proposed research objectives and questions in the research summary section. The next section of the proposal determines the appropriate methodology which serves as the blueprint of the whole research process, especially in ensuring the research objective is successfully met and research questions tentatively answered. Towards the end, the proposal provides the researcher’s work plan and expected outcomes.
In recent years, the broad topic of e-government has assumed a critically important role in IS research and practice. This section explores and analyzes current literature on e-government. In particular, the section analyzes current literature on the e-government concept, citizen’s readiness factors, ability to use e-government services, citizen’s technology acceptance factors, as well as laying the groundwork for a critical discussion on the process theory.
To give more clarity to the boundary of the proposed research, this section specifies what it is and what it is not about, such as follows:
- 1t is about e-government, not e-governance. E-governance has wider issues such as e-voting and e-democracy;
- It is about central e-government, not local e-government;
- It is about government to citizen category (G2C), not government to business (G2B), government to government (G2G) or government to the employee (G2E);
- It is about applications that deliver government services to citizens, not those that just provide information, and;
- It is about the use of e-government services within a voluntary context, not by coercion or use of force.
The present study relies on Gunter’s (2006) definition, which explicates e-government as “the use of modern ICTs to deliver public services to citizens and businesses…It entails the transformation of public services to citizens using new organizational processes and new technologies” (p. 362).
However, to give e-government definition more clarity and a deeper perspective, it is imperative to expound on the cardinal elements that have been used in e-government’s definitions, which are Service, Technology and Transforming relations.
Service has been defined as “any act or performance that one party can offer to another that is essentially intangible and does not result in the ownership of anything” (Kotler & Keller 2006, p. 402). In the context of e-government, the concept of e-service may be defined as “providing a superior experience to consumers with respect to the interactive flow of information” (Rust & Lemon 2001, p. 86).
Technology in the context of e-government refers to the use of ICT, particularly the Internet, in the provision of various information and public services over the Internet (Elsheikh 2011; Belanger & Carter 2009).
Transforming relations in the context of e-government refers to the transformational process of a government, involving the transformation of critical activities and processes of public administration using a variety of means to not only improve the interaction and communication with the public, but also to provide services tailored to their circumstances and needs (Liao et al 1999; Elsheikh 2011).
E-government can be viewed as relationships among citizens, government entities, businesses and employees, and its functionality (when one physical system may include functionality from more than one category) can be classified into the four main categories as listed in Table 1.
Table 1: e-government categories
|Government to Citizen||G2C|
|Government to Government||G2G|
|Government to Business||G2B|
|Government to Employee||G2E|
Government to Citizen (G2C)
This category specifies the relationship that exists between the citizens and their government. The citizens, in this case, represent the stakeholders or voters from whom the government derives its legitimacy. The government uses this channel to communicate details regarding activities within the public sectors, to include the citizens’ input in decision making within the public sector, and to offer improved services in terms of cost, convenience and quality (Heeks 2002; Laukkenen et al 2007).
Government to Government (G2G)
This category specifies the relationship existing between organizations or agencies within the government or between organizations within different governments (Ndou 2004). The government relies on several agencies or organizations within it to effectively delegate duties and deliver quality services (Riley &Okot-Uma 2001). There is a great need to ensure that such agencies can communicate effectively and efficiently. This, in turn, ensures that such organizations have a single access point. Through online communication, such organizations can share resources, databases and pool capabilities and skills, hence ensuring that processes are carried out efficiently and effectively (Ndou 2004).
Government to Business (G2B)
This category specifies the relationship existing between private businesses and agencies of the government. Currently, businesses have adopted e-commerce to facilitate business interactions between themselves. E-government ensures that such businesses can carry out business transactions with the government in an environment where red tape is significantly reduced, hence not only simplifying business processes but also ensuring that business remains competitive (Ndou 2004).
Government to Employee (G2E)
This category specifies the government’s relationship with its employees. E-government is used in such a case to facilitate effective interaction between the government and its employees (Ndou 2004). Services included under this category of e-government include facilitating the transfer of information on government policies, rules and civil rights (Carbo & Williams 2004).
The categories mentioned above show interactions that take place between the government and other different parties. The different parties in this case are either individuals or organizations and hence e-government basically entails the government’s interaction with individuals or organizations with the intent to simplify, streamline and control the costs of its operations (Singh & Das 2007). Interaction between the government and individuals is represented by either G2E or G2C, while that between the government and the organizations is represented by either G2G or G2B.
Citizen’s Readiness factors
Awareness has different meanings in many contexts, but in the present study it is taken to imply the citizen’s knowledge of e-government services existence and the benefits of using e-government services. The proposed model of e-government services usage assumes that awareness is the first event in the readiness step of usage process. Ismail (2008) not only argues that awareness is a significant factor in e government’s citizen readiness but also proposes that government should engage in an advertising campaign to increase the citizens’ knowledge about the existence of e-government services by explaining the benefits of receiving services, with the view to encourage them to adopt the technology.
Governments across the world have a strong interest and commitment to maintaining citizens’ trust in their e-services. However, the citizens are unlikely to use e-government services unless they have the confidence that government will guarantee two important factors in its service transactions (Law 2004), discussed as follows:
Privacy is a serious concern in any electronic transaction. Culnan (2000, p. 20) defines privacy as the “…people’s ability to control the terms under which their personal information is acquired and used”. A user’s privacy, as such, is always in an inherent situation of tension and must demonstrate the capacity to relate with capabilities of others to transact services, and even to control their own privacy (Culnan 2000).
While extant literature mentions four categories of privacy (information privacy, bodily privacy, communications privacy, and territorial privacy), it has been noted that most individuals using e-government services are concerned with information privacy (Davis 1996). This category of privacy, according to this particular author, denotes the ability of the citizen to control one’s self as privacy becomes non-existent when the citizen loses the capacity to maintain a substantial degree of control over their personal information and its use.
Security is “…the combination of processes, procedures, and systems used to ensure confidentiality, authentication, and integrity of data” (Akhlaq et al 2006, p 29). In an e-government context, citizens are concerned about the security sent via the platform, and usually employ several security properties to make a decision about the security of the services. These security properties include “…confidentiality, authentication, integrity and non-repudiation” (Akhlaq et al 2006, p 29). The confidentiality property implies that the government must have the capacity to keep the information sent unreadable to unauthorized users, while the authentication property means the government must demonstrate the capacity to decipher the identity of the citizen to avoid identity fraud, which often leads to loss of critical data to unauthorized users. The integrity component denotes the government’s capacity to ensure information sent is not illegally altered or destroyed during transmission, while non-repudiation entails putting in place mechanisms that will ensure the infrastructure will acknowledge that it indeed sent information or data to the citizen (Akhlaq et al 2006).
Ability to use e-government services
Different elements lead to citizen’s ability to use e-government services, analyzed as follows:
One of the most critical elements of e government’s usage process is access channels. Access channels consist of online and offline channels and include websites, PCs, laptops, kiosks and mobile phones, among others. Extant literature demonstrates the fundamental importance for the government to provide a common mechanism for citizens to not only find all government information and services, but to also use such information with much ease (Ebrahim & Irani 2005).
Authentication to access
Another critical element of the e-government usage process is authentication to access. One of the simplest approaches of authentication mechanisms in internet applications and kiosk channels is password authentication, with extant literature demonstrating that this approach allows citizens’ to use e-government services from remote locations (Liao 2006).
The traditional conception of literacy, according to Lankshear and Knobel (2008), is the ability to read and write. However, in the context of using technology, digital literacy and other similar ‘literacies’, including information literacy and technology literacy, are concepts that are to a large extent associated with knowledge, skills and attitudes in dealing with information not only in diverse formats but also in different contexts and scope. Going by this description, therefore, a citizen can be considered literate in the digital context when he has the ability to acquire and use information appropriately for any given situation (Bawden & Robinson 2002).
Citizen’s technology Acceptance factors
Intention to use e-government services
As acknowledged by Srivastava and Teo (2009), “…for adopting and using e-government processes, citizens must have intention to engage in e-government, which encompasses the intentions to receive and provide information through online channels.” Extant literature demonstrates that although e-government is a growing phenomenon that is increasingly affecting all aspects of our lives (Chalhoub 2010), it would be plausible to expect that its successful introduction, as well as internalization, would depend on many factors, including social and attitudinal factors (Alomari, Woods & Sandhu 2012). These factors, which will definitely influence how citizens intend to use e-government services, include: ease of use (effort expectancy), usefulness (performance expectancy), and price value (Chalhoub 2010), as discussed below.
Ease of use “Effort expectancy”
Ease of use or effort expectancy is one of the factors, along with trust in e-government and perceived usefulness, which are thought to intrinsically affect citizens’ intention to use e-government services (Teo et al 2008). It is hypothesized that citizens’ intentions to use e-government services will obviously be heightened if citizens perceive the service to be easy to use (Srivastava &Teo 2009), and will be diminished if they perceive the service to be complicated (Singh & Das 2007). Consequently, not only should online government services be intuitive, ensuring that citizens can navigate through the web pages with much ease, but information should be organized and presented based on citizens’ needs to allow them to quickly, effortlessly and seamlessly find the information or services they seek (Carter & Belanger 2005).
Usefulness “performance expectancy”
Davis (1989) cited in Carter & Belanger (2005, p. 8) defines perceived usefulness as “…the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance.” Perceived usefulness, according to these authors, “…influences one’s attitude towards system usage, which influences one’s behavioral intention to use a system, which, in turn, determines actual system usage.” It is reported in the literature that e-government acceptance will obviously suffer if citizens fail to perceive the phenomenon as useful and easy to use (Tiamiyo & Ogunsola 2008).
Venkatesh et al (2012, p. 161) define price value in terms of “…consumers’ cognitive tradeoff between the perceived benefits of the application and the monetary cost for using them.” These authors further argue that the price value is positive in any given situation when the benefits of using a technology are viewed to be greater than the monetary cost, not to mention that such price value bears a positive impact on intention. Citizens may intend to use online birth registration service, for example, if its benefits are perceived to be greater than the monetary cost involved in traveling to the government offices, and time lost in queuing up to wait for services to be served (Srivastava & Teo 2009).
Variance theory Vs process theory
Theory can be considered from two different perspectives, namely the variance theoretical perspective and the process theoretical perspective. Process theory has been introduced to IS field by Markus and Robey (1988), and extant literature reveals that it continues to be used in a range of studies though in a far much less context than variance theory (Burton-Jones et al 2011).
To provide critical analysis of the differences between variance theory and process theory, it is important to note that variance theory is based on a factor model that not only seeks to causally link variables with each other but also to assess the extent of these links between variables, with the view to explaining variation independent variables as caused by the variations of one or more independent variables (Radeke 2010).On the other hand, process theory seeks “…to explain by identifying sequences of actions that lead to outcomes if specific antecedent conditions are fulfilled” (Radeke 2010, p.3). In other words, process theory is primarily concerned with understanding how phenomena evolve over time, and also why they evolve in this way (Langle 1999).
Extant literature characterizes the process theory using three main components, namely: “…(1) the process itself, (2) the causal factors, such as contextual or antecedent conditions that shape the evolution of the process, and (3) the consequential influences, such as impacts or outcomes that are caused by the process” (Radeke 2010, p. 3).
In IS research, a dynamic phenomenon such as technology usage, which is known to be dominated by variance theories, has been explained by focusing on the static aspects in the form of variances in independent and dependent variables for purposes of determining the degree or extent of relationships between variables. Consequently, these conceptual models extensively neglect any chronological or temporal aspects that may come into play to structure a significant component of this relationship (Ramiller & Pentland 2009). However, the process theory overcomes these limitations by emphasizing the dynamic view of the phenomena because it “…seeks to explain how independent variables (e.g., the context) shape the evolution of the process and, in turn, how the process influences dependent variables (e.g., outcomes)” (Radeke 2010, p.2). To simplify the discussion on variance and process theories, table 6 illustrates the three important components of these theories.
Table 2: The three components of variance and process theories
|Concept||Focuses on properties of entities, often called variables or factors||Focuses on entities participation within the events |
The ability to act by entities is considered important in deciding if they are major actors or not
|Relationship||Focuses on variation among the values of properties.||Focuses on outcomes that result from the sequence of events involving the major actors.|
|causal logic||It is said to assume necessary, sufficient, and efficient causality.||It is said to use necessary, final, formal, and efficient causality.|
Burton-Jones et al (2011) give an example of DeLone and McLean’s IS Success Model (ISM) from the two different perspectives. Figure 1 shows the model from the variance approach perspective.
The process approach perspective gives a different model’s shape, with underlying theory in it as demonstrated in figure 2.
A rationale for using process theory
In the present study, the need to explicate the dynamic view of the usage process of e-government services by explaining how independent variables shape the evolution of the process, lead us to apply the process theory approach. In IS research, as is the case in management research, process theory is always preferred over the variance theoretical perspective when it comes to explaining ‘how’ a particular phenomenon happens (Teo, Srivastava& Jiang 2008). The present study attempts to explain how independent variables shape the e-government usage process, thus the justification to use the process model. Additionally, unlike variance theory which attempts to explicate the variation in a dependent variable as a direct consequence of the variation in an independent variable(s), process theory attempts “…to address the complex dynamics of a variety of fundamental organizational processes including adaptation, co-evolution, improvisation, selection, and self-organization, illustrating how a favored paradigm holds powerful sway over what we can and cannot see (Chiles 2003, p. 288)” This provides the basis for the second justification.
The subsequent section discusses important elements relating to the research phenomenon, research gaps that the proposed study aims to fill, as well as the motivations behind the study. Afterward, the researcher will state the aims and objectives that the proposed study intends to fulfill, before engaging in yet another critical discussion on the research methodology. Conceivably, these sections are of cardinal importance not only in shaping the research process, but also in ensuring that the study findings will achieve sustainable levels of validity and reliability.
A survey conducted in 2008 showed that 189 out of 192 UN member states were actually implementing substantial e-government initiatives, ostensibly because of the merits associated with the initiatives (United Nations 2008). But while the merits associated with utilizing online systems and digitized functions are not in doubt, it must be questioned whether there are drawbacks related to the implementation of e-government and whether these initiatives can truly result in a better functioning government. In many instances, citizens appear to be holding back from maximally utilizing e-government initiatives. For example, while it is known that the European Union (EU) has one of the highest Internet penetration and usage rates in the world, with available figures demonstrating that an estimated 71.5% of its population utilize the Internet daily (Internet World Stats, 2012), a study established that only 28% of Internet users within the EU actively accessed information on public authorities’ websites in 2009, and only 13% of citizens within the EU used online protocols to send information three months before the study (European Commission, 2010). These trends, it seems, are indicative of an incredibly low citizen usage rate despite the number of services and capacity the EU e-government initiatives have at the present. Arguably, though, these trends are not unique to the EU alone; rather they are actually evident in most governments around the world that have taken the initiative to implement e-government services. Based on the apparently low uptake rate of e-government platforms and services, therefore, it is only proper that the functionality and practicality of the e-government concept be questioned given the fact that so much has been spent on implementing the services yet so few people are actually using them.
A study conducted by Sharma and Pant (2009) about IT usage in the Indian state of Uttarakhand revealed that students, employees and business professionals in this state had access to computers or had computers, and that usage of computers and the Internet among these groups of the population was considerably high. However, despite the high usage, the researchers noted a low uptake and adoption of online government services among them, leading to the conclusion that usage of e-government services among these groups of the population is significantly low (Sharma & Pant 2009).
The research gap
An important proportion of citizen-centric e-government studies that have been conducted over the years primarily focus on the subsequent acceptance of e-government services. Such studies have attempted to predict users’ reception of technology as an indicator that could be used to understand human behavior with technology, with the view to analyzing how such technology could be increased. Table 3 shows a random selection of the citizen-centric e-government publications illustrating how acceptance informs the focal consideration of these studies.
Table 3: Analysis of Citizen-Centric e-Government studies
|Author||Theory or model used in the study|
|Al-Adawi et al (2005)||Extended technology acceptance model|
|Alsaghier et al (2009)||Extended technology acceptance model|
|Rokhman (2011)||Diffusion of Innovation|
|Kumar et al (2007)||Extended technology acceptance model|
|Susanto and Goodwin (2010)||Technology acceptance model and the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology|
|Chan et al (2010)||Extended unified theory of acceptance and use of technology|
|Dimitrova and Chen (2006)||Diffusion of innovation and technology acceptance model|
|Lai and Pires (2010)||Technology acceptance model and end-user satisfaction theories|
|Carter and Belanger (2004)||Diffusion of innovation|
|Mahadeo (2009)||Diffusion of innovation|
|Wangpipatwong et al (2008)||Extended technology acceptance model|
|Mofleh and Wanous (2008)||Technology acceptance model and diffusion of innovation|
|Chee-Wee et al (2010)||Service quality model|
|Suki and Ramayah (2010)||Extended technology acceptance model|
Despite the domination of studies primarily interested in using acceptance models in e-government research, it must be noted that acceptance models continue to attract criticism for their insensitivity to different use contexts (Salovaara &Tamminen, 2009). For example, it is easy to notice that within the e-government context, the adoption and acceptance of technology have been studied without giving due attention to individual’s readiness.
To explain the importance of citizen’s readiness within e-government context, it should be noted that studies of acceptance models in organizations have implicitly discussed the factors of readiness already provided by organizations, including equipment, network, and awareness, but fail to account for how users are willing to use the technology. The predisposition generated by these models, hence, leads to an implicit assumption that the user is always ready to use technology, but nevertheless fails to provide an account of the user’s willingness to use technology. But within the e-government context, it must be explained how the user is willing to use the technology and how interested parties bring the citizen into the acceptance step, primarily because the technology provided is to be consumed by citizens only.
To support this idea, the technology acceptance model (TAM) has been developed by Davis (1986, 1989) within organizational context. Additionally, the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT) has also been developed by Venkatesh et al (2003) within an organizational context. However, nearly all researchers who apply these models to e-government contexts do not take into account the fundamental importance of citizens’ readiness in the usage process. But this should not be the case as postulated by Ismail (2008), who in his thesis finds that readiness factors have a significant impact on increasing citizens’ usage of e-government services.
In their contribution to extant literature on user acceptance, Venkatesh et al (2012) state that the employment of any theory in new context not only results in changes in the direction of relationships, but also alters the magnitude of the relationships and generate new ones. These authors add that the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT) has been developed to understand the “employee” acceptance and use of technology, thus the importance of examining it in a different context to accommodate citizens rather than employees. In addition, they emphasize taking into account the differences between “organizational use sitting” and another use sitting (Venkatesh et al 2012).
Further analysis of existing literature demonstrates that few studies have emerged as a direct consequence of insensitivity of acceptance models. These studies deal with individuals’ readiness to use technology outside the organization, hence trying to develop models to understand this important aspect. However, the studies do not take into account the step of acceptance in usage process, in addition to presuming that the user is already an acceptor of technology. Additionally, the studies underline the fundamental impact of readiness factors, but to a large extent failed to provide an explanation on how these factors lead to a successful usage process. The Figure below demonstrates the research gap in acceptance and readiness studies.
The phenomenon and research gap demonstrated above encourages the researcher to proceed with the research from the perspective of two kinds of motivations – practical motivation and the intellectual motivation. These types of motivation are explicated as follows:
The practical motivation
The proposed study will not only provide a better understanding of the full usage process of e-government services, but also allow the designers of these services to know the minimum requirements that allow the citizen to use the services that they design. In addition, this study will be instrumental in making superior efficiencies in the design and delivery of e-government services. In their contribution to this broad topic, Gould and Lewis (1985) state that designers of e-government services must know how the user will behave by studying directly their cognitive, behavioral, anthropometric and attitudinal characteristics.
The intellectual motivation
There are two main streams of research that have addressed the technology usage process in an e-government context. The first stream, which ostensibly applies the acceptance models, focuses on individuals’ perceptions of technology. The second stream appears outside the organizational context and focuses on the user’s readiness to use technology. While the two streams have made significant contributions in IS research, there is need to provide a comprehensive model which integrates these two streams to provide a practical and intellectually sound model of citizen usage of e-government services to the research community. In addition, the few existing studies on citizen’s readiness motivate the researcher to contribute to the academic community, particularly on the citizen readiness factors that come into play to facilitate and spur the aspect of usage of e-government services.
Proposed research’s model
The objective of this research is to build a comprehensive process model of e government’s services usage, which integrates citizen’s readiness and citizen’s acceptance into one model, with the view to determine the events sequence and the outcomes of each event. Such a model can also be utilized to determine the usage process starting point and how the events of readiness and technology acceptance affect each other. A peripheral objective for the proposed study is to understand how the previous user experiences may affect citizens’ readiness and citizens’ technology acceptance in the next usage process.
These research objectives, it is believed, will lead to significant findings that highlight the citizen’s usage of e-government, with a broader view of the user process. Additionally, the findings will help to fill the gap in research by providing a better and comprehensive understanding of the usage process of e-government services.
Research aims & Questions
The proposed study will be guided by the following research questions:
- In the context of e-government usage process the main research question is, how can we integrate citizen’s readiness and citizen’s technology acceptance in one comprehensive model? The questions that come under this primary research question are as follows:
- What is the events’ sequence in e-government usage process?
- What are the outcomes of each event in e-government usage process?
- Where does the usage process of e-government start from?
- How do the events of readiness and technology acceptance affect each other?
- In the context of e-government usage process the main research question is, how does the previous user experience affect the citizen’s readiness and citizen’s technology acceptance in the next usage process?
These research questions lead to the generation of some assumptions, as follows:
The assumption behind question one is: There exist integration points between the citizen’s readiness and citizen’s technology acceptance in the e-government usage process. Thus, providing the events’ sequence, outcomes of each event, starting point of usage process and how the events of readiness and technology acceptance affect each other, will result in the shaping of the full usage process model in the context of e-government services.
The assumption behind question two is: There exist effects of previous usage on citizens’ readiness and citizens’ technology acceptance for the next usage process. Thus, providing these effects is important if we are to develop the capacity to determine where feedback impacts the next usage process.
Finally, the answers to all of the research questions will result in building a comprehensive model of citizen usage of e-government services.
A Rationale for using the Interpretive Paradigm
There are a number of reasons why interpretive paradigm seems the only suitable paradigm for the proposed research, stated as follows:
First, in line with the objectives and research questions, the proposed study seeks to build a comprehensive process model of e-government services usage by extracting the meanings that citizens assign to the user process. Through interpretive paradigm, therefore, the researcher will strive to understand the phenomenon of e-government usage through the meanings that people attach to it (Myers, 1997), and which they will share with the researcher by expressing their values, beliefs and practices (Riordan, 2005) toward usage of e-government services.
Second, extant literature demonstrates that interpretive studies strive to understand the “…hidden reasons behind complex, interrelated, or multifaceted social processes” (Bhattacherjee 2012, p. 105). Consequently, the paradigm is well-suited for the proposed study because it will assist the researcher to understand the complex, interrelated and subjective reasons informing e-government user choices in the usage process. Finally, the interpretive paradigm essentially relies on inductive thinking to develop theory (Andrade 2009), implying that it is best placed to build a process model of e government’s services usage that is often hard to construct by merely relying on a set of simple hypotheses.
A Rationale for using the Qualitative Approach
While it is indeed true that the proposed study attempts to expand theoretical frameworks from a process approach perspective, there exist several factors that validate and justifies the choice of the qualitative research approach, discussed as follows:
The first justification revolves around the fact that the proposed study calls for a further exploration of how technology usage and adoption can be enhanced within the e-government context, implying that mathematical and statistical models characteristic of quantitative studies may be inadequate to unearth the subjective reasons why participants indulge in technology usage, or why they refuse to adopt e-government usage.
Second, and perhaps most important, it is clear that the researcher needs to study the participants in their natural settings to understand “why” the phenomenon of interest (e-government usage) is adopted or not adopted by citizens based on their subjective “real life” feelings (Welford et al 2012). It is often difficult to understand the subjective meanings attached to any phenomenon of interest by studying it in a controlled environment, thus the justification to employ a qualitative approach so that the researcher is able to perceive the events and issues of interest from the subjective and all-inclusive lens of the participant (Miles and Huberman 1994).
Finally, although the e-government phenomenon has been studied by researchers and other mainstream commentators for over ten years now, little is still known about its nature and context, especially when it comes to citizen readiness and e-government services acceptance. Consequently, it is generally felt that a qualitative approach is best suited as the methodology of choice in furthering the understanding of any phenomenon that’s operational or functional dynamics are yet to become public knowledge (Hassan 2011).
A Rationale for using the Case Study Method
In the domain of IS research, the case study design seems to have stimulated much interest from researchers and enjoyed massive usage due to the following reasons. In the context of the proposed study, it is clear from the objectives that the researcher intends to develop a comprehensive process model of citizens’ usage of e-government services. Consequently, as demonstrated in the literature, the case study design is most suitable for this type of challenge not only because it will enable the researcher to learn more about the little known phenomenon (Williams 2007), but also due to the fact that both research and theory in this domain are at their early stages of development, hence the importance of seeking for user experiences through a case study approach (Benbasat et al., 1987).
Second, by virtue of the fact the research questions for the proposed study contain items seeking to know the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the phenomenon of interest, the case study method is best suited to provide the researcher with a framework that could be used to trace the operational links of the questions over time rather than rely on frequency or incidence of occurrence (Benbasat et al 1987).
The third justification originates from the fact that the case study method is suitable in assessing contemporary sets of events that the researcher has no control of and therefore is unable to manipulate as would be the case in a survey or experimental research (Welford et al 2012). It is clear that the researcher does not possess the capacity to control or manipulate the contemporary phenomenon of e-government implementation, and therefore he can only use the case study method to gain a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon and its predictive or consequent behaviors (Benbasat et al 1987).
The final justification for the use of the case study method is rested on the premise that it will provide the researcher with sufficient richness and depth of information not usually granted by other research methods. Such a disposition will ensure that the study’s objectives and key research questions are successfully met (Benbasat et al 1987).
A Rationale for using Interview as the Data Collection Instrument
The proposed study will utilize a semi-structured interview schedule for purposes of collecting primary data, with the major justification arising from the fact that interviews have been found to be effective in qualitative studies seeking to evaluate the subjective views, attitudes, values and perceptions of participants regarding a particular phenomenon of interest (Walsham1995). Consequently, the interview schedule will be employed to seek deeper insights into the participants’ subjective feelings, attitudes and perceptions regarding the usage and adoption of e-government services, with the view to developing a comprehensive set of qualitative data that could be used to answer the key research questions as well as provide input for the building of the process model. Indeed, extant literature demonstrates that interviewing study participants is one of the main methods used to collect primary data in case studies (Walsham1995).
Available literature demonstrates that interviews provide social researchers with the capacity to access the inherent subjective feelings projected by certain individuals regarding particular events, experiences or actions that could then be used in scientific studies such as the proposed one to seek for comparisons with other responses provided by a different set of participants (Hair et al 2007). More importantly, the technique provides the researcher with the opportunity to not only access more information from the participant, but also gain an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon of interest by engaging the participant in a free and open discussion, which is less structured in scope as well as context (Hair et al 2007). These are important constructs for the realization of the proposed study’s objectives.
Unit and Level of Analyses
This research focuses on the usage process of e-government services. Consequently, citizens as users or non-users to e-government services will form the unit of analysis. The level of research analysis will be grounded on the citizens’ capacity to use e-government services.
Selecting Organization & Candidates for Interviews
Saudi Arabia’s ambitious e-government program started several years ago will be selected for purposes of undertaking the proposed study. More precisely, a governmental department providing e-government services will be selected and examined in depth using the case study method. It is imperative to mention that the department will be selected based on the following inclusion/exclusion criteria:
- It must be active in the provision of a certain type of digital or internet-based service to the citizens of Saudi Arabia;
- Must be of substantial size and demonstrate a direct impact on the general public owing to the nature and scope of e-services provided;
- Must demonstrate a particular benefit to users/recipients of its services (e.g., issuing passports, driving licenses, re-entry visas etc), and;
- It must be easily accessible to the researcher for purposes of data collection.
General Directorate of Passport in Saudi Arabia
Convenience sampling technique, which is essentially a non-probability sampling technique, will be employed for the purpose of selecting a sample of participants for the study. The main justification behind the selection of convenience sampling is that the researcher will have the leeway to choose the most readily available subjects to participate in the study (Hair et al 2007).
To fulfill the study’s main objective of building a comprehensive process model of citizens’ usage of e-government services, the researcher intends to group the interviews into four categories to cover the different phases of the usage model, as follows:
- Non-ready users’ interviewees to cover the readiness part of the model;
- The ready users’ interviewees, but not yet counted as users, to cover the parts of readiness and intention to use
- The actual users’ interviewees, to cover the parts of readiness and intention to use, and;
- The frequent users’ interviewees, cover the parts of readiness, intention to use, as well as feedback.
Additionally, the process for selecting participants for interviews will cover both adaptors and non-users, done in two ways as follows:
- Arranging an appointment with actual users and frequent users through their respective email addresses which are available in the organization’s database, and;
- Interviewing various non-ready users and non-users at the organization’s/department’s physical service location.
In order to accomplish a proper investigation, the researcher intends to interview a total of 40 participants, 10 for each group.
Reliability and Validity
As with all empirical research studies, according to Lowery and Evans (2004), the quality of case study findings can be assessed using four common tests identified as construct validity, internal validity, external validity and reliability. While construct validity establishes correct operational measures for the concepts under investigation, internal validity establishes the causal relationship, whereby certain conditions are known to lead to other scenarios, and external validity is known to establish the domain or framework through which the study findings can be generalized to a bigger population (Lowery& Evans 2004). Reliability, according to these authors, demonstrates that the procedures governing the study can be repeated, with the same findings being achieved every time such procedures are repeated due to the reliability of the procedures, especially the data collection technique.
As postulated by Robson (2002), validity in qualitative research deals with identifying whether the findings are accurate, correct or true, while reliability in a qualitative research context is to a large extent concerned with the reliability of the methods and practices used in data collection; that is, the researcher should arrive at the same findings and conclusions should he decide to follow the same procedures as used in a previous research. Consequently, these assertions further imply that the data collection methods in qualitative research should be structured and consistent so as to match well with the research strategy. It is also important to mention that while the goal of reliability is to minimize errors and biases in a study, external validity, often referred to as generalizability of results, concerns itself with the problem of evaluating whether the study’s findings are generalizable beyond the sample size used to conduct the case study (Yin 1994).
Robson (2002) lists the main threats to validity and reliability, which the author feels can be reduced or totally eliminated if addressed well in advance by the researcher. These threats include:
- Reactivity: most often, the researcher’s subjective feelings may interfere with the research process, especially in data collection and analysis;
- Respondent bias: in many studies involving researcher-participant interactions, the participant may treat the researcher as a threat, or may attempt to hide certain information from the researcher or provide incorrect data for purposes of pleasing the researcher;
- Researcher bias: In specific instances, the researcher may bring into the study some assumptions or set preconceptions aimed at influencing the study outcomes.
Prior to analysis, the researcher intends to process all raw data, with the view to ensure a far more systematic and concise assessment of the information accumulated. All interviews with participants will be recorded and transcribed by the researcher, after which personal notes and commentaries will be included grounded on the investigator’s own opinions regarding the data gathered from the interviews. It is imperative to note that since all the interviews will be conducted in the Arabic language, a transcribed translation of the recorded dialogues will be provided in order to avert any challenges that may present during the peer review of the data.
Finally, all raw field notes accumulated during the process of data recording will subsequently be converted into reports where they will be re-examined for their general correctness and conciseness. After all the reports have been properly edited the recordings will be organized within a database along with the accrued primary data to take the form of gathered interview transcripts and field notes (Yin 1994)
Data analysis for the proposed study will employ the grounded theory, comprising three phases namely open coding, axial coding, and selective coding. Glaser and Strauss (1967) call their data analysis approach of coding the constant comparative method, where:
Open coding is the first phase of the analytical process, and entails a multiplicity of steps such as breaking down data, assessing, comparing, conceptualizing and classifying data. In practice, this phase entails reading small sections of the participant’s interviews, identifying the main theme, and capturing the meaning of similar responses under the same theme with a name reflecting that meaning, with the aim to generate codes, concepts, or categories that account for the data under analysis. Extant literature demonstrates that close reading of the data “opens up the text”, revealing the feelings, ideas, and implications contained in the data itself as elucidated by the participants (Strauss & Corbin 1998).
Axial coding, which starts shortly after beginning the open coding procedure, aims at putting the data back together for the explicit purpose of making connections between categories. This process employs a coding paradigm to reassemble the previously broken down data into concepts, with the view to initiate the process of theory development (Strauss & Corbin 1998). According to these authors, axial coding consists of the following set of relationships:
- Causal conditions: these represent events or experiences that play a significant role in triggering the occurrence of a particular phenomenon;
- Phenomena: these are the central ideas or events that the researcher attempts to manage through a predetermined set of actions/interactions;
- Context: basically refers to specific properties or characteristics that are inherently associated with the phenomenon
- Intervening conditions: Describes the structural conditions that have a direct impact on action/interactional approaches associated with a particular phenomenon;
- Action/interaction: include strategies that are specifically designed to manage or respond to a phenomenon of interest under an explicit set of perceived conditions, and;
- Consequences: these basically refer to the outcomes and end results of the actions/interactions.
Selective coding denotes the phase where the investigator presents the main story/theme of the phenomenon under investigation in diagrammatic and/or written form; that is, it is the process of integrating and refining the theory through undertaking a determination of the core variable. The core variable, according to Strauss and Corbin (1998), is primarily concerned with bringing all categories together and, therefore, is of substantial importance to the process of theory development.
Proposed Work Plan
- Sep 2012- Dec 2012: research proposal work.
- Jan 2013- Aug 2013: Final draft of Lit Review.
- Sep 2013- Nov 2013: Development of research model based on literature.
- Des 2013- Jan 2014: Design of data collection instrument.
- Feb 2014- May 2014: Data collection.
- Jun 2014- Sep 2014: Data analysis.
- Oct 2014- Feb 2015: Writing the dissection, results and recommendations.
- Mar 2015- May 2015: Final review.
- Jun 2015: Thesis submission.
Davis and Parker (0000) state that the expected outcomes of any research study should be described to assess the research proposal. To describe the expected outcomes, table 4 shows the potential outcomes of research and the importance of each of them.
Table 4: Potential Outcomes of Research and their Importance
|Build a comprehensive process model of e-government services usage||YES||Provide researchers and practitioners with a better understanding of the usage process|
|Integrate citizen’s readiness and citizen’s technology acceptance in one model||YES||Provide researchers and practitioners with a comprehensive usage process in one integrated model|
|Determine the events’ sequence and the outcomes of each event||YES||Provide researchers and practitioners with the events that the user should move through in the usage process|
|Determine the usage process starting point||YES||Give researchers and practitioners the ability to understand how the usage process starts|
|Determine how the events of readiness and technology acceptance affect each other||YES||Provide a framework through which researchers and practitioners can understand the effects of events’ outcomes on other events|
|Understand how the previous user experience affects citizen’s readiness and citizen’s technology acceptance in the next usage process||YES||Provide a framework through which researchers and practitioners can evaluate the impact of the previous usage process on the next usage process|