Researching the Acceptance and Use of Cloud Computing for Education and Administration in Saudi Arabian Universities

Author: Faten Karim

Karim, Faten, 2018 Researching the Acceptance and Use of Cloud Computing for Education and Administration in Saudi Arabian Universities, Flinders University, College of Science and Engineering

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Cloud computing technology is not widely used in Saudi Arabia at the present time in any capacity. However, as the country attempts to modernise its economy and civil society, attempts are being made to introduce advanced technologies into the education system in order to invigorate and modernise it. Cloud computing would offer significant benefits to Saudi educational institutions wanting to upgrade their IT systems. Connection to the cloud would mean that institutions could access digital resources housed on the internet, reducing the cost of using information technology (IT) since software wouldn’t have to be purchased, installed and maintained at the local level. This would not only be cost-effective, but also efficient, and offer access to advanced technologies and enhanced security. For a range of reasons, however, the Saudi Arabian education system has not yet embraced cloud computing. Issues for the Saudis include security and privacy concerns, a lack of trust and negative cultural attitudes, but, most importantly, little experience digital devices in educational settings and a lack of knowledge and technical know-how.

The goal of this research was to identify the factors that could influence the adoption of cloud computing in Saudi Arabian universities for use in administrative, teaching and learning contexts, and to advance the theoretical understanding of this issue by suggesting a conceptual model. The model provided by this study grouped factors into four key categories: technological, organisational, environmental, and cultural, which is reflected in the research questions. The research is based on extended TOE theory (technology, organisation, and environment) and the Hofstede model, which includes cultural factors.

To achieve the aims of the research, an exploratory study consisting of two phases, qualitative (interviews) and quantitative (survey), tested and validated this model empirically. The first phase, a qualitative study, was conducted by undertaking interviews with decision makers, IT staff, and academics at Princess Nourah University. This focus enabled deep analysis in a specific context of hindrances to the adoption of cloud computing, as well as potential solutions to these hindrances. Thematic analysis was applied to these interviews to refine the conceptual model – which had been informed by a literature review – in order to identify further factors that might affect the adoption of cloud computing. In the second phase of the research, an online and paper-based survey was conducted to test the proposed model. The survey's theoretical design was based on the literature review and the aforementioned conceptual model. 421 respondents participated from 24 Saudi Arabian government universities. Structural equation modelling (SEM) was used to analyse the questionnaire. Based on this analysis, the hypotheses of this research were tested and verified.

Data analysis revealed that the factors of relative advantage, compatibility, senior management support, readiness, competitive pressure, regulatory support, high masculinity, and high individualism have a positive impact on the adoption of cloud computing in this particular context. They also showed that security concerns, high uncertainty avoidance, and high power distance have a negative impact on the adoption of cloud computing. Unexpectedly, the results indicate that complexity and language and religion do not affect the adoption process.

The study makes an important theoretical contribution by providing a model for the organisational adoption of cloud computing within universities in the developing country of Saudi Arabia. The majority of existing cloud computing research has focused on developed countries (Greengard, 2010; Hailu, 2012). While there are studies that have focused on technology adoption within developing countries, they have investigated adoption predominantly at the individual level rather than the organisational level (Alzahrani & Goodwin, 2012; Susanto & Goodwin, 2010). Even those few studies that have explored organisational adoption in developing countries, the focus has been on e-government contexts rather than university contexts (Abdalla, 2012; Alhujran, 2009; Alghamdi et al 2011; Altameem, 2007; Choudrie, Umeoji, & Forson, 2012; Seng, Jackson, & Philip, 2010). Therefore, this study has made a vital contribution by providing a model for the organisational adoption of cloud computing that takes into account cultural factors affecting Saudi Arabian universities. This is critical as Saudi Arabia attempts to modernise and transform its educational sector to meet the demands of a connected global economy.

Keywords: cloud computing, higher education, Saudi universities, developing countries, education

Subject: Computer Science thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: College of Science and Engineering
Supervisor: Anna Shillabeer