|dc.description.abstract||The number of commercial applications that exploit Web 2.0 social media is increasing rapidly. However, little is known about the challenges that public sector organizations face when they decide to adopt Web or other technology-based applications, and offer them to consumers; particularly when governmental and civil service organizations are involved. This is particularly true in developing non-Western regions, such as the Middle East, where 'Arab Spring' developments in 2011 stimulated interest in the ability of social networking to mobilize citizens against ruling elites. Consequently, this study investigated Oman's public sector to gain a deeper understanding of the adoption and use of information technology innovation and its potential to engage governments more closely with citizens. In essence, it aimed to develop a comprehensive model of ‘organizational adoption’ and ‘citizen use’ of technology for achieving meaningful online dialogue. The focus of this study is not social media applications per se, but rather it concerns any Web or other technology-based application that is suited to improving dialogue between government organizations and citizens.
The final model was derived over three distinct phases of research using a mixed method approach. In Phase I, an initial literature review developed understanding of global trends in e-Government adoption and clarified the study aims, scope, and primary research question. A more extensive literature review was then undertaken to derive a tentative 'first-cut model' theoretical framework. This contains factors considered critical to both achieving successful organizational adoption of IT innovations and a meaningful dialogue between governments and citizens. These are presented from three distinct perspectives or levels; the National level, Organization level, and Management level. In Phase II of the research, case studies involving three Omani civil services organizations helped to refine the tentative model. Policymakers and citizens were interviewed to confirm issues and identify additional adoption and use factors. Finally, in Phase III a participatory action research approach was used to test completeness of the refined model, which culminated in the final model.
This study has shown that meaningful online dialogue can be used for different purposes: for facilitating access to decision-makers (mainly), for responding to citizens' enquiries and for addressing rumours. At the National level, government support—meaning political, economic and technical aspects—plus social changes has driven the acceptance of technology for improving government-citizen interactions and for sharing of information. In contrast, the major National level inhibitors are: limited availability of broadband services, other digital divide barriers, national culture barriers and political barriers. At the Organization level, having an IT strategy and top management support, adequate human, financial and technical resources, and a strong citizen-centric orientation are all factors that drive the adoption. Conversely, lack of capability, inappropriate internal culture, and resistance to change can all inhibit adoption. At the Management level, good preparation, proficiency with technical issues, accessibility and marketing issues, appropriate consideration of operational issues and end user needs are critical for implementation of Web or other technology-based applications needed to create meaningful online dialogue. Conversely, major implementation challenges concern inadequate IT infrastructure, resistance to change, and inability to recruit a suitable management team. The research also found that creating a management team, recruiting qualified moderators, controlling the discussion, responding to citizens, and defining the interaction characteristics (objectives, target citizens, participation policies and rules, etc.) are all critical for achieving a meaningful dialogue.
The developed model has added to the knowledge of how to encourage technology innovations in governmental organizations, in particular through online dialogue that motivates citizens and other stakeholders to engage in meaningful discussions. For non-Omani governmental organizations having similar operational characteristics, the developed model offers lessons for policymakers and others who wish to enhance citizens' interactions; or who wish to improve the reputation of the organization; or bring about citizen-acceptable policies and decisions. Future work should be aimed at testing the developed social networking adoption model in other industries, sectors and national settings.||