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Sun 14 Aug 2005 04:00 AM

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‘Internet helping to spread terror’

People in the UAE believe that information technology and the internet have done more to help international terrorists than they have the agencies fighting them.

People in the UAE believe that information technology and the internet have done more to help international terrorists than they have the agencies fighting them.

That’s just one of the more surprising findings of an exclusive opinion poll, commissioned by ITP and conducted by British-based pollster YouGov.

The survey, of 749 respondents in the UAE, found that 36% believed that IT and the internet have been of more benefit to international terrorists than to the national and international security agencies. Just 28% believed the converse opinion, although 36% of respondents said they didn’t know.

According to YouGov, Western expats are more likely by two-to-one to think information technology has helped terrorists more, with 43% taking that view. Just 21% believing that security agencies are better served by IT. Among Arabs and Indian and Pakistani residents, views were more evenly divided.

The findings were revealed as part of a survey exclusively commissioned by ITP Business, publisher of IT Weekly, to give a better indication of how people in the UAE live. Other parts of the survey covered non-IT related issues, including freedom of expression, democracy and equal rights for women.

The survey sample was made up of around 15% Arabs, including UAE nationals and Arab expats, 10% Western expats, 66% Indian and Pakistani expats and 9% other nationalities.

Only 9% of internet users feel there is enough information available in Arabic on the internet, with another 25% saying they were only able to get enough information as they also read English and 21% believing there was just not enough information available to Arab users. Among actual Arab users, that figure soared to 41%.

The survey shows some differences in how the different ethnic groupings use e-mail and the internet. While the most common use of e-mail is to keep in touch with friends and family in other parts of the world (cited by 91% of respondents), for Arabic users the second most important usage was to find out what other companies are doing, cited by 72%.

This is also the case for those individuals earning more than US$8,000 a month, where 74% said they used the internet to research other companies’ plans.

In terms of IT security, over three quarters, 79%, of respondents said that IT security was a problem for their organisation, with over half considering spam a “very big” or “fairly big” problem. A slightly larger number, 80%, said viruses were a problem, with 54% claiming they represented a “very big” or “fairly big” problem for their organisations.

However, there was considerably better news when it comes to the UAE’s push for e-government services. The UAE government has been very active in this area, with such initiatives as car registration being made available online.

Nearly nine out of ten respondents, 87%, said they were aware of the e-government initiatives before they took the survey, with over half, 55%, saying they had used at least one e-government service already.

Those that had done so were clearly impressed: 90% said the range of services was either “very good” or fairly good, with 89% claiming they would recommend them to their friends.

When it comes to how companies use IT, 94% believe that IT is important to their company’s plans for the future, with 14% citing it as “the most important single component of its plans for the future”. Another 60% describe it as “very important” and one in five sees IT as “fairly important” to their company’s future.

Over a third, 37%, expect their company’s IT expenditure to “rise significantly” this year, with nearly the same number, 35%, expecting an increase in IT expenditure of up to 10% this year for their firms.

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