#FBF “Online privacy focus of expert’s lecture at GUQ”

First published in Qatar Tribune on 25th September 2014.

DAMIAN Radcliffe, who heads the Rassed research programme at Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQatar), recently delivered a lecture on کAttitudes to Cybersafety and Online Privacy in the Middle East’ as part of GU-Q’s Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) Monthly Dialogue Series.

Damian Radcliffe is an award-winning content creator, journalist, and researcher. The study will help researchers, policy makers and others to understand the impact of emerging technologies and evolving user needs and behaviours.

“It is important to understand issues related to internet security and public attitudes toward the use and scrutiny of the internet across the MENA region,”said Dr Mehran Kamrava, Director of CIRS, who introduced the guest speaker to an audience from both the university and Doha communities.

Kamrava added,”Having an expert like Damian Radcliffe to explore these issues for us gives us an opportunity to better understand the processes and consequences of the ongoing communications revolution in the Middle East and elsewhere.”

Citing a previous study, the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report which explored variations across cultures in areas such as online freedom of expression, privacy, trust and security, Radcliffe explained that”The previous report didn’t cover Middle Eastern countries, so we undertook this research project to fill the gap.”

He added,”This gave us an opportunity to ask questions about internet usage in the region that has never been asked before in the Middle East.”

For the report, 2,793 internet users from 14 countries across the Middle East were surveyed. This data was combined with the previous study resulting in a global sample survey of over 11,000 internet users covering nearly 60 countries.

The research questions covered five areas including, usage of ICT and other technologies available in the household, attitudes towards the internet, concerns of internet users, trust in different online actors and online players, and behaviors of internet users.

The research findings indicated that despite the differences in culture, internet users in the Middle East share many of the same concerns about online privacy and safety as internet users in the rest of the world.

“Equivalency in terms of technological access as a regional figure compared to the rest of the world was pretty good. In fact, if you look at the GCC, there is much higher access to advanced forms of technology than there are in many other parts of the world,” Radcliffe said.

However, Radcliffe did cite five key differences.”As compared to global users, MENA users are less likely to shop or bank online, have a more positive perception that the internet is making things better, are less worried about safety of personal online content, strongly oppose data repurposing, and have a higher desire for the Government’s role in blocking harmful online content,” Radcliffe explained.

He finished the lecture by highlighting the importance of understanding MENA internet behaviour to ensure that outreach activity can be targeted to address the particular needs and anxieties of regional internet users, such as to encourage e-Government and e-Commerce activity.

He also pointed out that as technology becomes even more pervasive, so will security risks.”New technologies will bring new challenges, but also new opportunities,” he concluded.

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