An Empirical Investigation of Egyptian Consumers Usage Patterns and Perceptions of the Internet

Article excerpt

This study investigated Egyptian consumers' attitudes to and perceptions of the Internet held by a sample of 208 participants. The subjects completed a recently developed survey designed to measure usage patterns and perceptions of the Internet. The study validated the scale in an Arab non-Western context. As predicted, the results reveal that females used e-mail more than did males, and males used the Web more than did females. Age was found to be inversely related to Internet usage, while educational level was found to be positively related to the Internet use.

Introduction

Over the last few decades, information and communication technology have become vital as a platform for business and socio-economic development. Moreover, the Internet became an important medium for information acquisition and knowledge dissemination across the globe, which led to the formulation of the global information society and the creation of the digital economy with its growing trends such as competing in time, customer relationship management and smart communities.

The Internet may well be "the" technological innovation of the twentieth century. Amidst a wave of unbridled enthusiasm, the Internet has penetrated almost every aspect of everyday life, from how we learn, shop, and play (Dertouzos, 1997; Jackson, 1999; Tapscott, 1996). Internet technologies have also revolutionized communication and interaction within companies (via Intranets), between businesses (B2B), between businesses and consumers (B2C) and vice versa (C2B), between consumers (C2C), and between peers (P2P) (Kiani, 1998). Indeed, "conventional" ways of doing business are being radically transformed. It is now hard to imagine any establishment that has not been affected (Leong et al., 2003).

According to ITU statistics, the global Internet market today is estimated to have over 500 million users (ITU, 2002). However, the Internet users in developing countries only constitute a small percentage of the total global users, reflecting the fact that the current distribution of Internet access needs to be restructured so that members of different societies benefit from the digital revolution (Kamel and Hussein, 2002). For example, Table (1) shows that, on average, Arab countries are doing well along all basic Internet indicators than least developed countries of the world. Nonetheless, on average, Arab countries are performing worse than the world's average in terms of the number of PCs. The worst performance for Arab countries along the examined Internet metrics is evident in the number of hosts per 1000 people, approximately 30 percent of the Arab countries score less than the average of least developed countries. The score of United Arab Emirates of 13.2 hosts per 1000 inhabitants is the closest to the world's average (Aladwani, 2003).

The lack of Arabic online content is one of the factors deterring the information and communication technology (ICT) usage in the Arab world, as it is a key enabler for creating compelling Internet content for Arabic speakers. In fact, Arabic is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, with 175 million speakers, while the share of Arabic content on the Internet remains as low as 0. 1 per cent (El-Hage et al., 2003).

Although there are several investigations into the practices and profile of the Internet users in the west, little research has been done to investigate the behavior and the motivations of the Internet users in the Arab world and Egypt is no exception. The current study fills the gap and tries to examine the validity of some recently developed scales to measure usage patterns and perceptions of the Internet in a non-Western culture.

Internet evolution in Egypt

The Internet started in Egypt in 1993 with 2,000 users (Kamel, 1998). As an attempt to diffuse Internet usage among the society, the cabinet of Egypt information and decision support center in collaboration with the regional information technology software engineering center provided free Internet access on a trial basis to public, private, government and non-government organizations to entice the users to venture into the new technology. …