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In the advent of information technology, E-governance has emerged as means in which Governments inform the citizens on national matters as well as issue directives. This is well documented in various government websites belonging to different government agencies. However progress on E-governance is subject to strong influence by cultural factors. This study is going to elucidate the cultural influence on E-governance based on Hofstede’s framework whose parameters include power distance, masculinity, individualism, long-term orientation and uncertainty avoidance.
Justification for the Study
Economic factors such as infrastructure, human capital, propensity to trade, income level and economic growth strongly influence the infiltration and rate of IT application by the masses. However the rate of IT application is also influenced by cultural factors as provided for in Hofstede’s framework. Ample evidence has shown discrepancies in the rate of IT application for developed countries with advanced, successful economies. This proves that aside economic factors, cultural factors are also at play in influencing the rate of embracing IT and this has far reaching effects on e-governance. Saudi Arabia is a model country where strong Islamic values define the national culture. There is need to assess the impact of the Saudi national culture on E-governance.
Research Model and Hypotheses
In accordance to Hofstede’s framework, five hypotheses have been formulated to infer the correlation of e-governance readiness and national cultural values in Saudi Arabia.
This power distance parameter is defined as the inequality of power distribution in a nation. In Saudi Arabia, power is centralized in the monarchy type of government. The King doubles up as the Prime Minister and all judicial, legislative and executive roles rest with the monarch. Common state law is largely as a result of presidential decree. In such a society that is characterized by a high power distance, citizens are less innovative and the society is less amenable to embracing change and making progress. Citizens lack the free will to undertake new applications outside the dictated norms (Zhao, 2011, p.363). This is well exhibited by a government directive to ban the usage of iphones in Saudi institutions and security centers as they were deemed a threat to security. Citizens are less likely to take up e-government initiatives willingly.
E-government readiness is low in Saudi Arabia as a result of the country’s high power distance
The Saudi society and the rest of the Arab world is a masculine culture and it features values such competition, lays emphasis on material wealth and is largely oriented towards performance. This is at the expense of feminine cultural values such as equality and consensus seeking. Masculine cultures are more likely to embrace technology as a means of fostering economic growth as compared to feminine cultures. Consequently Saudi Arabia is an IT hub which serves as an important trade centre of various IT gadgets. The masses are more IT savvy and can utile various IT applications including E-governance.
E-government readiness is high in Saudi Arabia as a result of the nation’s masculine culture.
Strong Islam values contribute to the closely knit Saudi nation where individuals conform to the community values. Conversely an individualistic nation is characterized by autonomous individuals who independently carry on with their lives outside the confines of societal norms. E-government readiness is high in individualistic societies as people apply IT to suit their individual needs and are less reliant on community biases as pertains to IT. Hence an individualistic nation is more receptive of government e-services.
E-government readiness in Saudi Arabia is low due to its low individualism factor.
4.Long Term Orientation (LTO)
This parameter concerns the value a culture lays on its traditions. The Saudi culture has a high LTO value as it’s deeply rooted to Islamic traditions. Such a culture holds onto its traditional values and is less likely to embrace changes such as IT and government e-services.
E-government readiness in Saudi Arabia is low due to its high LTO value.
Uncertainty avoidance is the propensity of discomfort towards ambiguity and uncertainty by persons in a society. High uncertainty avoidance is characterized in societies which are closely united and strongly adherent to common cultural values. The Saudi society is a model example of such a country as its cultural values are rooted to deep Islam ideals. This type of society is less likely to embrace changes such as IT and government e-services.
E-government readiness in Saudi Arabia is low due to the high level of uncertainty avoidance.