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By Azmat Haroon
Doha: Nearly half of the population in Qatar is not aware of the various electronic government services while a mere 17 percent has actually used these services in the last 12 months — a drop from 20 percent in 2010, a study sponsored by Qatar’s telecoms sector regulator suggests.
Less than a quarter of the population has used even one of the e-government services in the past year, according to ‘Qatar’s ICT Landscape 2013: Households and Individuals’, a study sponsored by ictQatar.
The e-government services Qatari citizens are most aware of and are most likely to use are those for paying traffic fines and applying for a Smart ID Card.
Educated expatriates, on the other hand, are more likely to apply for and renew visas, health cards and residence permits using the e-government services.
The biggest obstacle to universal ICT penetration and usage in Qatar is widespread lack of the necessary skills among parts of the population, particularly female and older Qatari citizens, as well as semiskilled and unskilled expatriate workers.
The high cost of buying or renting computers and lack of access to technology are the other commonly reported obstacles, especially among the typically less educated and less affluent labourers.
International Data Corporation (IDC) conducted a large-scale study on the current state of ICT penetration and usage among households and individuals in Qatar in 2012, following similar research projects in 2008 and 2010.
The report shows that on average, a household in Qatar owns three mobile phones, two computers and one smartphone, and people are using technology to access the Internet in greater numbers.
Other trends that emerged from the data show that broadband access is on the rise, with 85 percent of households in Qatar using a broadband connection, up from 80 percent in 2010, and mobile broadband subscriptions, in particular, are on the rise.
However, the speed of broadband is still a major issue, with half of all households surveyed using low-end speeds between 256 Kbps and 1 Mbps, which greatly impacts how quickly websites load, the speed at which files and other data can be downloaded, and the quality of live streaming video and audio.
Such frustrations may have contributed to a drop in overall satisfaction rates for Internet use between 2010 and 2012. Notably, higher speed broadband connections are found more among Qatari households than expatriate ones.
“Qatar continues to make great headway toward a truly digital future for all of its people,” said Dr Hessa Al Jabar, ictQatar’s Secretary General.
“While we are proud of our achievements to date, we must redouble our efforts to eliminate the barriers that stand in the way of ensuring that all people in Qatar reap the personal and economic benefits of technology,” she added.
The report is based on 1,880 face-to-face interviews, conducted in February and March 2012 with a representative sample of people living in Qatar.