E-Commerce Barriers in the UAE

Subject: E-Commerce
Pages: 40
Words: 11479
Reading time:
39 min
Study level: PhD

Introduction

“Electronic commerce, commonly known as e-commerce, refers to the buying and selling of products and services over electronic systems such as the internet and other computer networks” (Reynolds, 2004). As a matter of fact, a great number of studies mark that there has been an extraordinary growth registered in online transactions in the past few years. The essence of the issue lies in the following that the trend is attributed to the availability of internet in many parts of the world, as well as technological innovations that have made communication between buyers and sellers easier and more convenient for both the parties concerned. According to Botha & Deldenhuys (2004), “the process may involve more than just buying and selling products online. It also includes the entire online process of developing, marketing, selling, delivering, servicing and paying for products and services”. Major processes and parameters of e-commerce are discussed below in this research paper.

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Electronic funds transfer

As defined by Laudon & Carol (2010), “electronic funds transfer (EFT) is the electronic exchange or transfer of money from one account to another, either within a single financial institution or across multiple institutions, through computer-based systems”. Money is stored electronically, and electronic bills make it possible for a buyer to make payment. In the UAE, these transactions have been made possible due to use of electronically stored money in debit cards, as well as using the following payment methods such as wireless transfer.

Supply chain management

Harland (1996) defines supply chain management (SCM) as “the management of a network of interconnected businesses involved in the ultimate provision of product and service packages required by end customers”. Success in E-commerce is highly dependent on well structured supply chain management. Buyers are to be able to access products when they need them, and suppliers should have a consistent supply of products from manufacturers to provide their customers with all the necessary goods. Just like it is in physical stores, online stores need an effective inventory management system. Online sellers in the UAE can address some of the challenges which they usually face using supply chain management systems. These problems include distribution network configuration, cash-flow, trade-offs and distribution strategies.

Internet marketing

The success of e-commerce in different regions is highly dependent on digital marketing. Sellers need to market their products, as well as create awareness of the existence of their stores. E-marketing as it is commonly known has gained a great popularity in the UAE in the recent years. The trend is attributed to the positive reception that e-commerce has received in the region.

Internet transaction processing

“Online transaction processing, or OLTP, refers to a class of systems that facilitate and manage transaction-oriented applications, typically for data entry and retrieval transaction processing” (Winser, Keah & Keong, 2009). OLTP offers major benefits, such as efficiency and simplicity to e-commerce trade. Flexibility is important for the region to be able to embrace, adopt and integrate as well as use new innovations that make transactions easier.

Electronic data interchange

E-commerce cannot work well and prosper if there are no systems that allow electronic transmission of data. Different parties in a transaction need to have a way to transfer documents and data without human intervention (Akali, 2005). Therefore, electronic data interchange must be made possible before e-commerce can be fully implemented in a region. Value added networks in most countries are carried out by companies technologically equipped to manage such operations such as telecom companies. They also are well equipped to carry out inventory management systems. Managing inventory electronically requires technology and personnel that can keep up-to-date information of transactions and those involved in them. One way of achieving this is through automated data collection systems. Automated data collection systems allow organizations and governments to store information on relevant parameters in e-commerce.

In the UAE, e-commerce is estimated to be rising rapidly. The region is recognized as one of the busiest business hubs in the world right now. This trend arises from an improved economy and increased interest the region has received from foreign investors who bring with them new trends, culture and ideas. Even as this happens, several challenges still linger. Internet filtration is one of them. This paper will be divided into three parts, each exploring a different aspect of e-commerce in UAE. The proposal outlines how data and information will be collected in the three parts, what arguments, conclusions and recommendations will be based on.

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Internet filtering in the UAE

Introduction

According to Alharby (2006), “internet censorship is the control or suppression of the publishing of, or access to information on the internet”. It is implemented to allow a business or a government have control of what its member have access to. Furthermore, internet censorship allows a government or a business to have access to what is sent or received online. The topic has been a source of heated debate in the recent past as more stakeholders voice their opinion for or against the practice. Proponents argue that it is an important security measure for businesses and governments. Opponents argue that it is a retrogressive move towards attaining democracy. The level of censorship can be mild or extreme. Some countries will impose limited censorship while some have gone as far as limiting access to vital information such as news and suppressing any forums for discussions amongst its citizens. Many times it is used as a suppression measure especially for political gains. A good example is the censorship used to undermine protestors during the Arab spring.

In many regions, brick shops are slowly losing popularity to online shops. The younger generation is slowly adopting online shops as their preferred mode of trading and transacting. The trend in UAE is not any different. “As at 2007, it was estimated that UAE internet users spent over USD 1.15 billion in B2C e-commerce in a year” (Khatib, 2007). Even as this happens, the region still stands to gain major benefits if challenges and barriers are addressed. One of the major challenges is internet filtration. It is one of the obstacles that would stand in front of the development of the e-commerce in the country. It presents challenges in maintenance of efficient, reliable and transparent communication systems. This limits traders and users, as well as creativity among software developers. It also limits advertisements and good and services that can be traded.

Literature review and research question

The UAE is made up of seven emirates and Abu Dhabi is the capital. “The rest are Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain” (Central Intelligence Agency, 2011). The region is highly recognized for petroleum, natural gas, metals, tourism and in the recent past, real estate. The internet is today used to communicate and involve people on main social, economic and cultural activities. The region has registered overwhelming economic growth in the last few years, especially in its real estate industry. To satisfy the growing need in the labor markets, the region is today home to many foreigners who come at an expatriate level.

In general, 20% of The United Arabs Emirates consists of native citizens while eighty percent of the country is populated by expatriates. Any sort of restriction actually affects more foreigners than locals. They are likely to object to filtering more than the locals. When one visits a politically or sexually oriented website, one will get a notification to let the user know that the content he or she is trying to access has been intentionally blocked because it is likely to affect other UAE user’s sentiments. The major problem with this statement is that most UAE users actually have divergent moral, religious and cultural sentiments. Making the assumption that the government can decide for an expatriate-filled nation what its values are is highly egotistical of them. Most foreigners in this country do not agree with these sentiments, and are immensely frustrated by Internet censorship. Their frustrations can be seen by increased used of circumvention techniques to access the filtered websites (Dutton et al., 2011). There is no clear procedure that has been articulated to the public on what criteria the UAE uses in order to determine what the people’s values are.

If the country continues to sensor its Internet websites, then it could hamper businesses around the country. It is a given fact that over-censorship does occur, and this implies that some neutral websites can be wrongly filtered. Businesses may sometimes require information from such websites, and if they cannot access them, then their operations may be directly impeded. This would definitely be a problem to the country because its economy will be impeded. The UAE wants to be a leading “knowledge based economy”, however, such decisions will prevent the country from achieving this goal.

If the UAE filters the Internet, then chances are that freedom of expression in this country will be greatly reduced. Internet censorship is largely recognized as an indicator of reduced freedom of expression. If the UAE prides itself in being a developed nation then there should be no room for limitation of human rights. Countries such as Tunisia have shown the world that it is simply unacceptable and problematic to trample over the rights of the public. Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen are also other countries that have experienced huge conflict due to government oppression of their rights. If the locals feel that their freedoms are being severely undermined, then they may be prompted to start civil wars just like their counterparts in other parts of the world (Dutton et al., 2011).

Countries such as China have been categorized as such owing to their excessive Internet filters. This government does not tolerate opposing groups that represent a threat to its reign. For instance, it continually targeted the Tibetan group websites, and other religious groups that seemed to hold opposing political views. As a result, this nation has been branded as authoritarian by other parts of the world. Similarly, if the UAE is found to be practicing political censorship on the Internet, then it can be categorized as repressive and authoritarian just like China. This is not only bad for its citizens, but it also affects the country’s image. The UAE has largely been recognized as an economic powerhouse, but continuing to censor political content on the Internet will undermine opinions about the country’s politics (Dutton et al., 2011). It should be noted that the UAE censors religiously offensive websites in accordance with its religious and cultural values, much more heavily than it does political sites. In this sense, the UAE cannot be accurately compared to China, where there is an overwhelming filtering of political websites.

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When a country censors Internet content through technical methods such as Internet protocol blocking, then chances are that over or under-blocking may arise (Shalhoub & Lubna, 2007). The most threatening form of censorship would be over-blocking because this prevents genuine Internet users from gaining access to their materials in the country. Even though a government has invested huge lump sums in Internet filtration technologies, it is always likely that not all the intended material will be blocked as expected. The filtration technology may provide greater protection than had been previously intended, and this may not always be a good thing. In other words, they may deny access to all websites that may be hosted by an Internet protocol server even when those websites do not contain offensive material (Dutton et al., 2011).

Economic censorship can also be identified as another problem for the UAE if it can be established that it carries out particular kinds of Internet censorship. Services such as Skype often allow users to make long distance phone calls at very low prices, and this means that profits will be diverted from local service providers. Once the government restricts access to Skype and other similar websites, then this force expatriates to use local services to make international phone calls. Expatriate workers have to stay in touch with their families, and the local firms would continue to make more money. This undermines the laws of competition and encourages a great level of economic censorship in the country; a fact that would undercut future investments in telecommunications (Dutton et al., 2011).

A vast number of people use the Internet as a source of research. Some of them may be doing research on seemingly sensitive topics such as gambling. Not everyone who searches for the term ‘gambling’ may actually intend to gamble; some may actually be doing some useful academic work. Internet filtration has no way of assessing a user’s intention, and this would prevent important work from taking place. If the United Arab Emirates censors this term, then it could be a big part of this problem.

International jurisdictional concerns have also been cited as other reasons why Internet filtration could be problematic to the country. There are certain matters that go beyond local environments, and should be accessible to all people who may need them. As a result, filtering these websites can create legal problems from international stakeholders. If the UAE continues with this censorship program, then it could break those international laws, and may need to answer to the governing authorities on the same. Overall, Internet censorship presents challenges in maintenance of efficient, reliable and transparent communication systems in any country; the UAE is not an exception. Putting all these facts into consideration, this research paper is aimed at answering the following question: To what extent does filtering the internet affect e-commerce in UAE?

Theory

Proponents argue that internet filtration offers major security and regulatory benefits to a government. However, the negative effects outweigh the benefits. Internet filtration limits free speech, beneficial sites could be blocked, and citizens of the country in question have less interaction with the rest of the world. Different studies reveal that more people are willing to transact online and enjoy conveniences that come with it. However, internet filtering may make it hard for e-commerce to be developed sufficiently in the UAE. Filtering creates inconsistencies since some sites may not be available if they are in any way suspected as being inappropriate by the government according to its standards.

Cultural trends, religion and government policies play a major role in deciding what is filtered and what is not. Sites considered as inappropriate to the Islam religion have faced a lot of resistance in the UAE in the past. As the country works towards democracy, liberalization and more freedom for its citizens, reduce internet filtration will open the region to more global trade. Considering the number of foreigners working, living and visiting the country, there is need to open up the region to more global interaction through reduced restrictions and internet filtration.

Even as the UAE adopts e-commerce as one of its major modes of trade, several challenges still linger. The survey will be used to outline key parameters that influence e-commerce in the UAE. Among the most important parameters of interest include issues of security. As Schniederjans & Cao (2002) argue, online transactions expose users to higher levels of risks and leave them more susceptible to abuse and attacks. The case will be design to meet this objective by involving experts in the issues of security, as well as collecting the views of regular users of e-commerce. From books and past research projects, it is clear that the UAE government spend billions of dollars each year to ensure that users of the internet are protected. One way through which this is achieved is internet filtration to ensure only safe sites are allowed.

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Another significant issue to be addressed in the study will be data corruption and how it affects transaction trends. Policy makers, buyers and sellers consider the issue of data security as one of their biggest concerns. The survey will seek to understand to what level it is of concern to the people of UAE, and what role internet filtration plays in ensuring this is avoided. What. The survey questions will be divided into several parts, each seeking the views of different stakeholders.

Network availability plays an important role in how e-commerce develops in a region. In the UAE, increased interest in the area by investors has motivated a more developed internet infrastructure. Internet availability encourages increased levels of transactions since more people can transact goods and services. E-commerce is especially catching up with young people, a trend attributed to more internet availability among them. The survey will seek to understand the views of different stakeholders on the issue, as well how internet availability has affected levels of trade using e-commerce. It will further seek views of users on what the government and investors have done to ensure internet availability is improved in the UAE.

The era of e-commerce has brought with it many problems and challenges. The problems further present an opportunity for developing solutions to them. Programmers and software developers have benefited from the many digital problems that need to be addressed (Noack, 2007). In the UAE, there has been a registered growth in the number of professional developers, an area that contributes significantly to the region’s economy. The survey will be used to understand how the government can promote more innovations and reduce dependency on imported online solutions and technologies.

Systems failure is of utmost concern and a common problem, especially among new e-commerce sites. New technological innovations such as safety software allow businesses to protect themselves against such inconsistencies. Internet filtration is one of the most significant challenges facing the region. This paper will address internet filtration and break it down to sub-problems such as the role of the policy, as well as the role of social issues such as gender.

Data and methodology

Research methodology

To achieve the objectives of this paper, several resources will be used. To understand the bigger picture of the problem and the background, the methodology will included study of available statistics such as government resources, data available from non-government organizations, analysis of academic journals on the topic of e-commerce, articles on e-commerce and it trends in the UAE, as well as projects carried out in the past by different authors. It will also involve a study and analysis of government statistics, data and information from non-governmental organizations on digital transactions in the region and their trends. It will further included a study of various works on e-commerce management in the UAE as a region and compare it with other regions that have fully developed and perfected their e-commerce infrastructure. Study of books and different articles reveals that the digital trade industry is among the fastest growing in different regions including the UAE. This trend has been promoted by a realization that online trading is the future and everyone keen to be part of it must invest heavily.

It is also clear that many regions are spending a lot of money to ensure continued development of e-commerce in their countries. Issues of major concern for most stakeholders include security, systems maintenance, satisfaction and sustainability. E -commerce offers many advantages to traders in that it allows constant interaction between the buyer and the seller. As a result, continuous improvement is made possible through customers’ feedback as a guide on what needs to be improved. To understand the background of the study, information was gathered from various resources including statistics from governmental and non-governmental offices. Data information from these sources proved very helpful and offered useful insights on issues that need to be addressed in such a stud.

To ensure comprehensive data collection, triangulation method will be adopted for this paper. This means that multiple methods of quantitative and qualitative methods will be utilized. While the research is interested in measuring the different issues and concerns in UAE’s e-commerce industry, it will also attempt to qualify their impact on the performance of the industry. These factors will justify the choice of the method. Triangulation method will further allow this project to get better results and manage any challenges that may arise from one research method. This will be made possible through balancing between the weaknesses of one research method against the strengths of the other. Data gathered in this paper will be categorized into primary and secondary data.

Research approach and strategy

While the most important purpose of this research is to gather facts, opinion and views on how internet filtration affects e-commerce in UAE, it also aims at establishing what can be changed to promote e-commerce in the region. In this research, I will be concerned in knowing the different aspects in internet filtration and what role they play in e-commerce. These ambitions have brought about the need to use techniques that will allow participants to express and evaluate their opinion on the matter. Hence, there will be need to use different types of data collection techniques. Furthermore, there are different types of data needed for the survey, hence the need to use different methods.

For primary data, the most appropriate research methods for the survey are questionnaires and interviews. For secondary data, a study of books, journals, online articles and past research projects on the topic will be appropriate. Data collected will be comprehensive enough to allow me to draw conclusions and recommendations from it. Research questions for this survey will be considered the most central condition for what strategy will be used. Questions will be divided in a way that they can address who, what, when and where issues. The questions must also favor histories of topic in UAE. Nevertheless, the case design will be prepared with the intention of answering the following question: how does internet filtration affect e-commerce? Due to this fact, the research strategy will be a survey.

Research design and data

According to Creswell & Vicki (2011), research design is the logic that links the data to be collected and conclusion to be drawn to the preliminary question of the research”. The research design will define how the approach will be conducted. In such a project, primary data will be of paramount significance. Primary data will be collected through questionnaires on participants from different age groups, professional backgrounds, gender and religious affiliations. This will ensure that everyone’s views are put into consideration before conclusions are drawn.

More primary data will be collected through a semi-structured face to face interview with experts in the field of e-commerce. Interviewees will also include psychologists to explain the most significant customers’ driving forces before making a purchase. The survey is aimed at aiding in exploring the views of the e-commerce promoters in the raison d’etre of formulating the trends and policies. It will also aid in establishing their views on the relationship between the policies and the increased attention placed on e-commerce by different stakeholders. This method of data collection will be necessary for the study to be able to collect detailed information about specific questions in the field of e-commerce. Interviews will be scheduled early to guarantee enough time for preparation by participants, a factor that will help save time and complete the project on time.

Secondary data is expected to be extremely valuable for the study and will be collected to augment the research. Before any data is collected, permission will be sought from different authorities such as the ministry of information and trade, as well as organizations where respondents will be working in. Primary data will be collected through interviews and questionnaires. Both will be divided into different categories, each addressing different issues of the paper. Areas of interest in the study include challenges, benefits of internet filtering if any and how they may influence e-commerce positively in the end.

Internet penetration policy and its implications in UAE

Introduction

“The number of internet users in UAE is estimated to rise more rapidly in the recent past” (Alharby, 2006). A study conducted by Khamali quoted by Alharby (2006) revealed that “within a period of three years, the increase in the Gulf Corporation Council had doubled”. The graph below represents internet penetration in the middle east and GCC vs. the rest of the world.

Internet penetration in the middle east and GCC vs. the rest of the world.
Figure 1. Internet penetration in the middle east and GCC vs. the rest of the world.

This trends is not unique to UAE as over the last decade, the world has experienced rapid proliferation and penetration of the Internet, even in countries that were previously deemed to be conservative. This rapid uptake has not spared even the most conservative countries in Middle East and North Africa. As such, the heightened speed of implementation of the Internet, especially in United Arab Emirates (UAE) indicates that people are hungry for alternative means of communication within and without their borders. For instance, freedom of press in UAE has always been entangled in argument largely due to government unwillingness to guarantee total press freedom. Therefore, Internet penetration has turned out to be a real time solution towards this problem. Moreover, the ease with which Internet has accelerated publication of information, as well as its ability to reach millions of audience at very minimal cost, has not been received well by UAE government.

Literature review and research question

Over the last decade, the world has experienced rapid proliferation and penetration of the Internet, even in countries that were previously deemed to be conservative. This rapid uptake has not spared even the most conservative countries in Middle East and North Africa. As such, the heightened speed of implementation of the Internet, especially in United Arab Emirates (UAE) indicates that people are hungry for alternative means of communication within and without their borders. For instance, freedom of press in UAE has always been entangled in argument largely due to government unwillingness to guarantee total press freedom. Therefore, Internet penetration has turned out to be a real time solution towards this problem. Moreover, the ease with which Internet has accelerated publication of information, as well as its ability to reach millions of audience at very minimal cost, has not been received well by UAE government.

It is against this background that UAE government has realized how Internet has demolished monopoly walls of information control, a situation that has witnessed authorities taking major steps towards implementation of controversial policies aimed at controlling penetration and access of Internet in this region (Deibert, 2008). As a matter of fact, these policies seek to censor access to materials that are deemed to contain inappropriate political, religious, social, moral and legal content (Allagui, 2009). Consequently, this move by UAE government to repress web freedom has generated numerous debates on implications of such a move to human rights and freedom of expression among its citizens. Nonetheless, the big question revolving around this controversial debate is whether such a move is genuine in preventing local from exposure to negative effects of the Internet or it is a random move to avoid the looming political threat.

According to Deibert (2008), the mandate to regulate Internet penetration and access in UAE rests with Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) which was established in 2003. The body operates under UAE federal law. It is authorized to perform several tasks such as ensuring that there are adequate and effective telecommunication services in the country, as well as coming up with regulatory and policy frameworks to act as a guideline while implementing these services. Secondly, TRA designs polices such as Internet Management policy that is responsible for censoring online content which authorized ISPs are allowed to access. According to Allagui (2009), since 2006, TRA vigilance has increased both in scope and depth. Besides, the last few years have also witnessed development of numerous policies which have largely imposed restrictions on how much web content can be accessed by the public.

As illustrated above, though broadband access has been growing at a relatively high rate in UAE as compared to other regions in Middle East, the government has perceived this as a potential threat to political stability due to the Internet ability to reach and influence a wider audience (Deibert, 2008). In response to this looming threat, UAE government, via TRA, has accelerated filtration and surveillance measures to ensure that its public remains protected from external influence occasioned by the Internet (Deibert, 2008). A recent research by ONI testing between 2008-2009 periods found out that TRA is tasked to block any content that is considered to be morally offensive such as pornographic and nudity sites, alcohol and drug use sites, as well as those that provide access to online dating (Allagui, 2009). In addition, online gambling sites, some sites that discuss the activities of historical revisionists, are also blocked. Moreover, TRA restrict some political and religious discourse over the Internet and those who violate these restrictions face legal prosecution (Deibert, 2008). The gravity of the matter is that TRA also censors access to Internet sites that offer the public opportunity to download spyware as well as hacking and malicious codes soft ware’s (Allagui, 2009).

Furthermore, although UAE government has succeed in the past to crack down and censor traditional mass media, Deibert (2008) is of the opinion that such a move has no place in 21st century world where information exchange is very significant in liberating the world population from oppressive government regimes. In fact, the move by UAE government to prosecute bloggers and online activists following publications of content deemed to be violating TRA regulations further indicates that current policies impact negatively on human rights freedom of expression. Deibert (2008) further adds that the fundamental idea behind information revolution, which is promoted through technological revolution, is to encourage freedom of expression, universal access to information as well exchange of information among citizens from both democratic and non-democratic societies. Therefore, the move by UAE to embrace information technology, while at the same time restricting universal access and free exchange of information, tends to dilute the whole essence of promoting technological advancement in the region. This notion is also supported by Allagui (2009) who underscores that technological revolution is meant to promote social, political, economic and cultural change. Therefore, Internet penetration policies practiced by UAE government attract more negative than positive effects to society. This includes not being viewed positively by the world community. Indeed, the role of UAE in Internet policing should be viewed as a move to deny its citizens the universal human rights on open access to information. This discussion and data collected will be aimed at answering the following question: How does the internet penetration policy in the UAE affect e-commerce development in the region?

Theory

Even though the UAE government has succeed in the past to crack down and censor traditional mass media, it faces criticism from a lot of people who believe that such measures are retrogressive and have no room in the modern day democracy. Critics argue that information revolution is paramount for the development of a nation and global democracy. Trade and development are heavily dependent on a country’s levels of democracy and freedom of traders to interact with the outside world. Therefore, the move by UAE to embrace information technology, while at the same time restricting universal access and free exchange of information, tends to dilute the whole essence of promoting technological advancement in the region. A country will not be able to develop if it lacks political, cultural and social interaction with the rest of the world. It creates a negative perception of the country, and citizens are not updated on time about new products and services. As discussed earlier, the role of UAE in Internet policing should be viewed as a move to deny its citizens the universal human rights on open access to information.

One common excuse which governments give for internet filtration is security. When it comes to information, every government, organization and business today is faced with a test of coping with constantly changing information systems, threats and needs. Incoming and outgoing information and transactions can put a country at a risk of being a market for illegal and banned products. Therefore, the UAE government feels it has the responsibility of protecting itself from such risks. However, such a measure ends up locking out millions of transactions that would benefit the country’s economy and development. The government needs to realize that there are better ways and strategies to protect itself without harming e-commerce and other trading avenues. “Businesses that have been around for a long time have had to adjust from ledger cards to keeping up with large volumes of information generated in the digital “ (Awad & Hassan, 2004). Awad & Hassan (2004) further explain that “as we move rapidly into the future, leaders face the challenge of being effective in a global knowledge environment”. One way through which their effectiveness is tested is through investing in research, acquiring information from the markets when it is still relevant, and ensuring that information security is prioritized.

Instead of internet filtration, the government would gain much more by supporting the businesses to protect themselves from exposure that country’s policies regard as unsafe. Today, the information entrusted to organizations by their clients is too detailed and sensitive. For example, banks and insurance companies require a customer to provide sensitive information such as birth dates, physical location, and other family members’ information, just to mention a few. This is information that can be used by outsiders to harm a country or be used to help formulate strategies to invade a country. In the e-commerce era, a customer does not need to present himself/herself physically to fill in this information or make a transaction. Hackers can take advantage of this to access as much information as possible about a country and its people. However, that would not be the case if proper security measures are established by sellers and buyers. Therefore, the government can support such measures and stop using national security as an excuse for internet filtration.

It is also notable that “the government has to undertake the responsibility of helping their online business traders cope with the challenges they face from expanding knowledge and information systems” (Cronin, 2009). Internet management will enable the country and business people to collect, represent, disburse and use information in a safe and trustworthy manner. “In a world overloaded with information, there is a need for emphasis on not just more information security, but actionable intelligence that is capable of guiding decisions in its security” (Cronin, 2009). The UAE government stands to gain more from allowing more freedom for its citizens and internet users than it will from filtration. However, the country needs to realize that developing internet management strategy requires a comprehensive understanding of what objectives it intends to achieve from the process. It is also through a clear understanding of how it intends to meet these objectives (Cronin, 2009).

Developing and building e-commerce in any country should be developed through formulating actions designed to meet its objectives. It should further be through implementing suitable timescales and progress assessment techniques. This ensures that the government and its people are able to monitor and measure progress, as well as identify those systems that are working and those that are simply wasting its resources. When implementing internet management strategies, it is crucial for a business to understand that over-reliance on restriction models can pose significant risks and setbacks for its trade and economy. Conventional internet management strategies can lead to stagnation and neglect in dynamics of change. Issues must be addressed as they come and the government must be willing to be flexible enough when new threats arise.

Data and methodology

The data collection process will be a sum of three techniques. These are; questionnaires, interviews, and observations. Interviews and questionnaires will be done using open and closed ended questions. Questionnaires will be used to seek the views of experts in the field of sociology and e-commerce. Interviews will be used to understand the background of the problem, as well as understand the trends and progress that has been achieved so far to eliminate the problem. Participants for the questionnaires will be from a pool of experts who have knowledge regarding the research question and its application in the UAE. Questionnaires will have closed ended questions to allow respondents give straight forward answers, as well take a shorter period of time to answer them. Interviewees will be required to answer open-ended questions to allow them give elaborate and well explained answers.

To understand internet penetration in the UAE, the study will include use of questionnaires, interviews and observations. Interviews will be conducted on experts in the field, as well as various stakeholders in the industry. Stakeholders include buyers, sellers and government officials. Questions will be aimed at understanding the level of internet accessibility among different users. They will also seek to understand how the trends vary with age, gender, religion, profession and other significant parameters that cause variation in they way different people do things. The participants will be drawn from different industries to ensure that a wider representation of views.

The population will be equally distributed among different age groups, responsibilities at their level, their occupation, and level of access to the internet. Experts chosen for the survey will have more than ten years experience in the field of e-commerce to ensure comprehensive and well informed answers. Recruitment for the questionnaires will be done by using social network and online forums to reach out to targeted participants. Since this is an e-commerce survey, the study will try to involve digital communication as much as possible. For this section of the paper, the snowball technique will be used to reach the targeted number of participants required for the study.

The snowball techniques means that people conversant with the study as well as issues it seeks to raise are used to more potential participants (Monsen & Linda, 2008). Those who will be willing to participate will then be directed to a weblink consisting of information about the survey. From the weblink, participants will further be able to make a decision on whether to answer the questionnaires online or request for a printed copy. The questionnaires will be available online for a month to allow the participants answer the questions at their own pace and timing. There will be an online avenue for questions for those who need more information and clarification about the study.

For interviews, identified and selected participants will be contacted through the phone. Their numbers will be collected from directories and their places of work. All interviewees will be presented with adequate explanations and guidelines for the study. The study’s weblink will still be accessible to them if they need to understand the survey further. Interviews will be conducted at the most convenient venues for the participants. There will be a long enough notification of the date to allow room for preparation. All the participants in both the interviewees and questionnaires will be required to fill and sign a consent form agreeing to voluntary participation.

The research methodology applied in this part of the research project will be designed to achieve the set objectives of the paper. It included study of past research papers done by different authors, books and academic journals. It will also involve a study and analysis of results from any survey conducted by individuals or groups in the past. Statistics from government and non-government organizations are expected to be very helpful in accomplishing the objectives of the paper.

To ensure that data collected is comprehensive enough, several types of data will be available. Data collected will be classified into different groups such as exploratory and confirmatory among other, depending with its relevance in the study. This will make it possible for the report to confirm or falsify already established hypothesis in the proposal. Data in this research paper was also classified into primary and secondary data depending with its source. The case design will ensure that data collected is comprehensive enough to allow different stakeholders and beneficiaries easily utilize it.

According to Creswell & Vicki (2011) data analysis is “the process of inspecting, cleaning, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of highlighting useful information, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision-making”. I this study, data analysis will be comprised of diverse techniques to ensure the data serves different purposes. Depending with the type of data, its source, and expected outcomes, a decision will be made on the most suitable technique of evaluating the data.

In this survey, it is expected that all data collection processes will be designed and implemented in time to ensure sufficient time for preparation by participants. Data analysis will then be comprised of diverse techniques since it is expected that there will be different outcomes. Data analysis tools and software will be beneficial when sorting out data and identifying patterns. Available data analysis tools for this study will include online analytical data processing, software used for business intelligence in data analysis, SPSS and excel power, just to mention a few. Data from questionnaires will be analyzed in percentages and this will be made easier by the fact that they will be comprised of closed ended questions. Data and information collected from interviews will be analyzed and discussed individually since the questions will be open-ended.

Role of gender in the perception of barriers to e-commerce in UAE

Introduction

Over the recent past, many organizations have adopted e-commerce as a strategy in improving their level of performance in the contemporary competitive market. However, there are several barriers that have delayed the adoption of e-commerce. One of the main barriers to e-commerce is gender. The role of gender of gender in the perception of issues affecting e-commerce has not been investigated comprehensively. This is despite the fact that gender influence is a formidable force in many aspects of life and even technology. This study will be informed by the differences between men and women perceptions of challenges facing e-commerce and significant barriers in UAE. The country is considered the pioneer of gender empowerment in the middle east and therefore, a study carried in the region can be used to come up with significant recommendations even for the other countries in the region. In the past, researchers have put more interest in the differences between men and women in social issues, making it difficult to access literature on gender differences where technical matters are concerned.

There is a significant difference in the perception of barriers to e-commerce from men and women. In order to eliminate the barriers to e-commerce, there is a need to have a clear understanding of various perceptions of these barriers in order to come up with necessary solutions. Gender has a major role in the perception of these barriers, which are encountered in adoption of e-commerce in the UAE. This part of the paper will analyze the role of gender in the perception of barriers to e-commerce in the UAE. The research methodology will be designed in a way that allows men and women share their views on different aspects of e-commerce. The differences in their views will then be used to formulate arguments, conclusions and recommendations for the paper.

Literature review and research question

Since the introduction of the internet, e-commerce has become very common in conducting various business activities all over the world. E-commerce has brought significant changes in the community in various aspects. It has also brought changes in the social environment. Adoption of e-commerce has helped in elimination of various barriers in the international trade. Organizations can now use various information and communication technologies in different business activities. However, e-commerce has not yet achieved its potential in the international market. In Arab countries, e-commerce is still far away from reaching its potential level. This is despite of the significance of its impact on the global market.

There are a number of barriers that has faced the adoption of e-commerce by many businesses in UAE. One of the main barriers is the cost. The adoption of the current technology usually requires a significant amount of capital in its implementation. Many organizations are however not ready to incur such expenses. Another barrier in adoption of e-commerce is complexity involved in its implementation. This kind of technology requires an organization to adopt on several changes in its operations. For instance, it may face resistance in an attempt to implement these changes. When resistance takes place in an organization, it usually has a significant implication in various business operations. Some organizations may also not be in a position to access the necessary resources required for the adoption of this kind of technology. In addition, security concerns are also a major barrier in the adoption of e-commerce among others. As a result, adoption of e-commerce in the UAE has not been successful as expected.

As already noted, there are a number of barriers to the E-commerce in the UAE. These barriers have to some extent obstructed the adoption of E-commerce. Although there has been several studies carried out on the possible barriers to E-commerce, there has not been adequate effort made to examine the association between e-commerce and the gender in the UAE. This is despite of the fact that it has a significant implication in adoption of technology in day to day operations in UAE.

As seen earlier, there is a significant difference in perception on the barriers to e-commerce from both men and women perspectives. According to previous studies, it has been revealed that women perceive technical issues to be more important than the organizational issues (Schniederjans & Cao, 2002). This implies that women take the technical problems with more seriousness than the organizational issues. For instance, they perceived the compatibility of the technology to have a major impact on e-commerce and its application in an organization. On the other hand, men emphasize more on the suitability as well as the fitness of the e-commerce in an organization. This calls for having a more modified approach in the adoption of e-commerce in an organization.

The issue of gender has many implications in today’s business world. There are a number of questions that are raised as a result of gender related differences. Several aspects in the workplace are to some extent affected by the gender differences. For instance, ability to use mathematics as well as fighting stress in the work place is usually different across the gender. In the traditional way of production, the business was dominated by the men (Kolsaker & Payne, 2002). Things have however changed. Women are now actively involved in day to day business operations in the UAE. In the traditional economy, the main economic activities were manufacturing oriented which was more dominated by men (Carter, 2002). This has been modified to a more retail and service based economy that has encouraged more participation of the female gender.

There are several reasons that can be the possible causes of the differences in perception of these barriers from different people of different gender. For instance, female are seen to be more comfortable when giving instructions through informal instructions than their male counterparts (Schniederjans & Cao 2002). Most of the male managers for instance are seen to stress the use of power in management. On the other hand, the female managers are seen to stress the importance of interpersonal communication in day to day operations in an organization (Kolsaker & Payne, 2002). As a result of these differences, varying perceptions have also emanated from these differences.

It has also been realized that women are more reluctant to accommodate social business networks than their male counterparts (Schniederjans & Cao, 2002). As a result, women are not in a better position to attract investment partners or even partners who will be in a position to use such networks to attract technical assistance. This is despite of the importance of such partnerships in the contemporary business world. As already noted, women are more concerned with technical difficulties. They take technical difficulties with more weight. On the other hand, male managers do not consider technical difficulties as a major intricacy.

Despite of these barriers, several attempts has been made in an effort to mitigate these barriers. For instance, the technical barriers involving the compatibility are expected to be minimal after the adoption of extensive markup language (Carter, 2002). By adopting this strategy, the problem associated with interoperability setbacks which have been a major barrier will be eliminated. This will promote the adoption of e-commerce in an organization to a greater extent.

From the above discussion, it is clear that there are significant gender differences in perception of the barriers of e-commerce. Women are more concerned about the technical barriers to e-commerce. They view the factors that are related to technology to pose a significant barrier in the attempt to adopt to e-commerce. On the other hand, men are more concerned about the suitability of the e-commerce as well as its fitness in an organization. However, both perceptions are significant in promoting e-commerce.

This section of the research will address the following question: does gender play a role in the perception of barriers to e-commerce in the UAE?

Theory

Gender plays a significant role when it comes to adoption of new technologies and business practices. The differences arise from the way men and women perceive the importance of a certain technology,its benefits and challenges. A study conducted in Australia by (MacGregor, 2008) reveals that there is no major difference between the way women and men view e-commerce, but reveals a difference in the way men and women react to technological problems facing their businesses. In a study conducted on small business owners, the results reveal that men are less concerned about new technologies for their businesses and felt they didn’t need them. Women on the other hand are more receptive as far as new technologies are concerned. They are keen on understanding how the technologies could benefit their businesses and how easily the technologies can be integrated into their businesses.

In the UEA, differences in gender arise from many other factors. The level of literacy among women is lower compared to that of men. This makes it more difficult for a larger number of women to appreciate and use new technologies in the market such as e-commerce. It may not be easy to shop online if one does not understand the technical language associated with some parameters of an online transaction. The other difference between men and women is their level of exposure. Men are generally more exposed than women and are likely to learn about new trends and technologies quicker. This is mostly blamed on religion which allows women a smaller space to interact and explore trends. For a region where majority of the people are Muslims, women have less participation in public forums and have less representation in arenas where policies are made and discussed. As a result, they are less likely to be involved in using e-commerce or incorporate it in their businesses.

Methodology

The data collection process will be a sum of three techniques. The are; in-depth interviews, direct observation and focus groups. The core reason for conducting in-depth interviews will be to investigate the main ideas of the interviewees in the field of e-commerce. The ideas will then be used to provide a background of the perceptions of the implication of certain barriers to the adoption of e-commerce and evaluating their intentions to apply their web-based strategies to their business practices.

Direct observation on both men and women on their decision-making process regarding e-commerce issues. It will give the research paper a superior understanding of the topic’s framework. Direct observation confirm some of the assumptions made in the research and eliminate possible differences between what people do and what they say. Direct observation will be used as a cross-checking technique to confirm all the assumptions, theories and observations by other researchers. Finally, focus groups will be used in this study as an investigative tool to uncover factors influencing the role of gender in e-commerce adoption in the UAE. This will strengthen the information obtained by the respondents and allow for more comprehensive results that those acquired through interviews.

Some of the issues to be observed, analyzed and discussed in the three processes will include those facing women in this community and how they affect their involvement in e-commerce and other digital trends. One of them is lower levels of literacy among women compared to men. Literacy levels among men and women in the UAE still vary widely. This will be reviewed as one of the most significant challenges facing women, and slowing down the rate at which they embrace technology. Interviews will be used to understand how the situation has improved in the last few years and how it can even be made better to allow equal exposure, involvement and opportunity for women.

Religion plays a role in the way different trends are adopted among men and women. A majority of people in the UAE practice Islam. The religion has for long been criticized for limiting the level of exposure among women. They have limited interactions with different aspects of society such as education, media and intellectual discussions, just to mention a few. Several parameters controlled by religion such as dressing styles hinder the growth of some industries such as beauty, which is among the most traded in e-commerce sites in other countries.

Overall project implementation

Overall project plan

Overall project plan
Figure 2. Overall project plan

Project’s Gantt chart

Ethical issues and limitations

Several ethical issues are expected to arise in the course of completing this research project. One of the most fundamental principles that will followed in this survey is voluntarism participation. The principle will be adhered to by ensuring that no participant will be coerced to participate in a research or give false information. A participant will also required to give consent before their identity is revealed if there is a need to do so, although for this project, anonymity will be the principle of anonymity will be adhered to.

According to Taylor (2005), during a research project, ethics also demand that the process must not subject the respondents to any danger or harm, a factor that the survey will take very seriously. A researcher is supposed to apply the principle of anonymity to protect them from consequences of revealing the information they do. It is also the respondent’s right to be treated with respect and dignity during the study. These ethical issues are expected to be adhered to when any organization or individual is conducting its research. The case will be the same in this paper.

Limitations expected in the exercise included language barriers since most people in the UAE speak Arabic, and the e-commerce industry employs a considerable number of foreigners. Therefore, it will not be possible to conduct the survey in one language. Lack of cooperation from some respondents is expected to pose a significant challenge, as well as fears that they may not give accurate answers or they may take too long to respond. Conducting a research project is an expensive activity and finances are expected to be one of the challenges. These challenges will be addressed by conducting research in the most common language, which was Arabic, and using translators to compile the data to be able to write a report. There will be comprehensive explanations about the scope of the research to respondents to ensure they understand the objectives of the study and minimize resistance. Proper budgeting, costing and allocation of funds will be done before the task commenced to ensure the survey does not stall due to finances.

Research limitations

  • Lack of sufficient time to carry out a comprehensive survey that represents the views of everyone
  • UAE’s official language is Arabic, a factor that is expected to slow down the speed of data collection due to the need for translation
  • Government and non-government organizations may lack sufficient documented information about the e-commerce industry in the UAE since it is a new and developing phenomena in the region
  • There is limited information and past research projects about e-commerce in the UAE.

There has been an extraordinary growth registered in online transactions in the past few years in bot developed and developing nations. The trend is attributed to the availability of internet in more parts of the world, as well as technological innovations that have made communication between buyers and sellers easier. This proposal briefly explains the the trend in the UAE. It also highlights what will be required to have a comprehensive study on three issues. These issues are; barriers in e-commerce in UAE, internet penetration and the role it plays in the development of e-commerce in the region, and the role of gender on the same.

If the country continues to sensor its Internet websites, then it could hamper businesses around the country. It is a given fact that over-censorship does occur, and this implies that some neutral websites can be wrongly filtered. Businesses may sometimes require information from such websites, and if they cannot access them, then their operations may be directly impeded. This would definitely be a problem to the country because its economy will be impeded. The UAE wants to be a leading “knowledge based economy”, however, such decisions will prevent the country from achieving this goal.

If the UAE filters the Internet, then chances are that freedom of expression in this country will be greatly reduced. Internet censorship is largely recognized as an indicator of reduced freedom of expression. If the UAE prides itself in being a developed nation then there should be no room for limitation of human rights. Countries such as Tunisia have shown the world that it is simply unacceptable and problematic to trample over the rights of the public. Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen are also other countries that have experienced huge conflict due to government oppression of their rights. If the locals feel that their freedoms are being severely undermined, then they may be prompted to start civil wars just like their counterparts in other parts of the world (Dutton. 2011).

When a country censors Internet content through technical methods such as Internet protocol blocking, then chances are that over or under-blocking may arise (Shalhoub & Lubna, 2007). The most threatening form of censorship would be over-blocking because this prevents genuine Internet users from gaining access to their materials in the country. Even though a government has invested huge lump sums in Internet filtration technologies, it is always likely that not all the intended material will be blocked as expected. The filtration technology may provide greater protection than had been previously intended, and this may not always be a good thing. In other words, they may deny access to all websites that may be hosted by an Internet protocol server even when those websites do not contain offensive material (Dutton et al., 2011).

There are parameters that need to be addressed to support freedom of internet usage. One of them is supply chain management, which is defined by Harland (1996) as “the management of a network of interconnected businesses involved in the ultimate provision of product and service packages required by end customers”. Success in E-commerce is highly dependent on well structured supply chain management. Buyers have to be able to access products when they need them and suppliers should have a consistent supply of products from manufacturers to their customers. Just like it is in physical stores, online stores need an effective inventory management system. Online sellers in the UAE can address some of the challenges facing them using supply chain management systems. These problems include distribution network configuration, cash-flow, trade-offs and distribution strategies.

It is also important to realize that the success of e-commerce in different regions is highly dependent on digital marketing. Sellers need to market their products, as well as create awareness of the existence of their stores. E-marketing as it is commonly known has gained popularity in the UAE in the recent years. The trend is attributed the positive reception e-commerce has received in the region.“Online transaction processing, or OLTP, refers to a class of systems that facilitate and manage transaction-oriented applications, typically for data entry and retrieval transaction processing” (Winser, Keah & Keong, 2009). OLTP offers major benefits such as efficiency and simplicity to e-commerce trade. Flexibility is important for the region to be able to embrace, adopt and integrate new innovations that make transactions easier.

E-commerce cannot happen if there are no systems that allow electronic transmission of data. Different parties in a transaction need to have a way to transfer documents and data without human intervention (Akali, 2005). Therefore, electronic data interchange must be made possible before e-commerce can be fully implemented in a region. Value added networks in most countries are carried out by companies technologically equipped to manage such operations such as telecom companies. They also are well equipped to carry out inventory management systems. Managing inventory electronically requires technology and personnel that can keep up-to-date information of transactions and those involved in them. One way of achieving this is through automated data collection systems. Automated data collection systems allow organizations and governments to store information on relevant parameters in e-commerce.

From the proposal, it is clear that obstacles are many and need to be addressed comprehensively to pave way for growth. One major obstacle in internet filtration, as well as policy design and implementation. It is also clear that other than internet filtration, there are many other issues that need to be addressed. Security management in an e-commerce business plays a significant role in its level of success. Perhaps nobody could put it better than Cronin (2009) who explains that “the safest organizations are those that have figured out how to change the culture of the company so that everybody’s job is part of security”. As explained earlier, today businesses are faced with a hard task of managing overwhelming amounts of information coming in everyday. Information security management enables a business to collect, represent, disburse and use information in a safe and trustworthy manner.

The benefits of information security management for any business are enormous. It provides businesses with a capacity to protect itself from constant threats larking in the markets. Big organizations such as multinationals need effective and modern strategies in their information management systems to ensure security, reliability and reputation management. In this case, information management is crucial in ensuring protection and minimized costs of recovering and managing damages.

The most effective approach when managing information security is having a corporate culture that encourages responsibility. While much of the attention is given to high profile information security challenges such as viruses and hacking, the greatest risks arise from employees and other insiders. Major information security challenges occur not because systems have failed, but because people entrusted with the information failed. It is evident in many cases that the success of an organization and the safety of its information, is dependent on how ordinary people with access to the information comply with the set safety measures.

Another significant step for the UEA in promoting e-commerce should be identifying and understanding business’ capabilities and resources that may arise from well developed digital transactions in the country. These should not restricted to business owners interested in e-commerce, but should include corporate resources such as basic inputs and organizational capabilities. Expertise in the area is key for the region to stay ahead in the region. Business should be further trained to manage issues and challenges arising from e-commerce. This calls for hiring and retaining the best talent in the IT field. Due to increased complexity in information management, it is important for a business to have a team that has capacity to keep up with new updates and solutions to information security. A business also has to identify its financial capacity its capacity to acquire and utilize resources. The strategies formulated for any organization must connect with the bottom line and nurture it with relevant knowledge on how improvements can be made.

Steps for designing information security strategies for any business must include clarifying its business strategy, identifying its unique information activities, identifying available resources required to implement their strategies, and putting in place measures that allow it to detect threats before they become real dangers to it. It is also important for a business to “prioritize information security components that align with available needs and resources, and decide on how the business will access the lacking resources” (Awad & Hassan, 2004).

Even as the region adopts e-commerce as one of its major modes of trade, several challenges still linger. The survey will be used to outline key parameters that influence e-commerce in the UAE. Among the most important parameters of interest include issues of security. As Schniederjans & Cao (2002) argue, online transactions expose users to higher levels of risks and leave them more susceptible to abuse and attacks. The case will be designed to meet this objective by involving experts in the issues of security, as well as collecting the views of regular users of e-commerce.

The method used to gather information for the three parts of the project will be designed to achieve the set objectives of the paper. Collection of data will be from different sources including journals, books, views from other students,online articles, research projects conducted in the past by fellow students and researchers, and information available by business people and other stakeholders. It will also be through statistics and information from the UAE government and other non-government organizations. Ethical considerations during the research will be aimed at ensuring participants are treated with dignity and protected from any consequences that may arise as a result of volunteering information. They will included applying the anonymity principle and having participants sign consent forms.

Limitations expected included finances, language barriers and having to work with the interviewees schedules, some of which may delayed the process of data collection or result in participants giving inaccurate information. UAE’s official language is Arabic, a factor that is expected to slow down the speed of data collection due to the need for translation. They also include lack of sufficient time to carry out a comprehensive survey that represents the views of everyone. It is also possible that government and non-government organizations may lack sufficient documented information about the e-commerce industry in the UAE since it is a new and developing phenomena in the region. All these will delay the project and make it hard to come up with a quality argument due to lack of sufficient data.

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