- IP and Commercialization
A new study exploring the interests and attitudes of the UAE’s youth toward joining and leading their family’s business has recently been released by AUS. Led by Dr. Rodrigo Basco, Associate Professor of Management and Sheikh Saoud bin Khalid bin Khalid Al-Qassimi Chair in Family Business at AUS, the study was conducted in partnership with the Global University Entrepreneurial Spirit Students’ Survey (GUESSS) and the Family Business Council Gulf (FBCG). The report focuses on UAE undergraduates between the ages of 18 and 23, comparing them to their counterparts in the region and the world.
To view the report, click here.
Dr. Hamid Baghestani from the Department of Economics had planned to spend the Fall 2018 semester working on seven papers about the impact of oil prices on economic and financial indicators, but that quickly rose to 18, as he explored more diverse subjects such as household spending and vehicle-buying attitudes.
“Ideas come to me for research when I’m teaching, and when I’m researching I get ideas for teaching; it’s a two-way street,” he said. “In my field, I find analyzing data fascinating. I get ideas in the middle of the night and have to write them down; sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t! I tell my students that their brains must always be available to new ideas.”
Dr. Baghestani carries out research using mostly time-series analysis, in which he tracks variables in data at specific intervals over a period of time in order to identify patterns and pattern changes. This type of analysis gives an understanding of the past and helps predict the future. In addition to using advanced time-series analysis, his research on forecasting employs both qualitative techniques and causal models.
He uses data from the United States as it has been collated over a large number of years and is freely available. “Time-series analysis requires a lot of data over time—some 100 data points on a monthly and quarterly basis,” he explains, citing the University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers, which began in 1949 and polls more than 500 consumers every month.
While studying and working in the United States over 20 years, prior to coming to teach at AUS in January 2003, Dr. Baghestani published just 22 papers. During his tenure at AUS, he has published some 70 papers. Of the 18 papers worked on during his sabbatical, nine have been published and nine are in various stages of publication.
He published papers on energy economics: “Predicting Gasoline Prices Using Michigan Survey Data (Energy Economics); Do Gasoline Prices Asymmetrically Affect US Consumers’ Economic Outlook?” (Energy Economics); “Oil Prices and Real Exchange Rates in the NAFTA Region” (North American Journal of Economics and Finance); “Oil Prices and Real Exchange Rates in BRIC Countries: A Non-Parametric Approach” (Research in International Business and Finance); “Do Directional Predictions of US Gasoline Prices Reveal Asymmetries?” (Journal of Economics and Finance); “Predicting UAE Real Exchange Rates Using Crude Oil Prices” (OPEC Energy Review); and “Oil Prices and UAE Real Exchange Rate Dynamics” (Review of Economics and Finance).
His recently published papers on consumer behavior and buying attitudes include the following: “An Analysis of Vehicle-Buying Attitudes of US Consumers” (Research in Transportation Economics); “Do Factors Influencing Home-Buying Attitudes Explain Output Growth?” (Journal of Economic Studies); and “Is There a Gender Difference in Accurately Predicting the Sign of Growth in Household Durables Spending?” (Applied Economics Letters).
Organizational forgetting can be defined as the loss of organizational knowledge, and this loss can be accidental or intentional. The role that variables such as time, power, politics and absorptive capacities play in organizational forgetting dynamics was considered by AUS management experts when querying the continued existence of the glass ceiling.
“Our research focused on the better understanding of the role of organizational forgetting in diversity management practices of professional services organizations, focusing on the legal profession,” said Dr. Stefania Mariano from the Department of Management. “We explored why law firms invest a conspicuous amount of resources to promote practices that would improve gender representation at the partner level but fail to reach the expected outcomes due to organizational forgetting.”
Dr. Mariano, along with her colleague in the department, Dr. Savita Kumra, conducted historical case study research at the National Archive in London and later interviewed key stakeholders in both the UK and the UAE.
Over the past 30 years, there has been a massive rise in the number of women both studying and practicing law across the globe. However, while women represented more than 50 percent at key levels in the profession, just 15 percent were represented at the partner level. The historical research showed that this was the result of a long-hours culture, attitudes to alternative work patterns and career development.
“The long-hours culture and its impact on anyone with a life outside of work was a key cultural issue in our research,” Dr. Kumra explained. “This inability to embrace workaholism as the cornerstone of professionalism was implicitly viewed as a weakness.” Similarly, while most law firms allow lawyers to work part-time in order to maintain family commitments, women are hesitant to do so, perceiving that it may prevent them from staying on the partnership track.
With regard to career development, the main issue to emerge was the absence of sufficient mentoring opportunities for female lawyers, hampering their ability to effectively navigate both the professional and law firm environment. A lack of role models at the top partner level denies female lawyers strategy advice, encouragement and access to informal networks.
While the professors are still collating the data, their tentative findings corroborate the historical research. “The policies and processes embedded in large law firms and their approach to diversity management renders them incapable of addressing their diversity issues and thus the firms are ‘busy doing nothing’,” said Dr. Kumra. “They were potentially displaying a degree of intentionality by ‘forgetting to remember’. They gave the appearance of addressing the issue but actually, in their continued and uncritical acceptance of little or no progress in relation to key issues, we saw evidence that they sought to maintain the status quo.”
When finalized, the team will present their findings at seminars, community forums and conferences at AUS, in addition to publishing papers in relevant management journals. “Our findings will extend existing knowledge on intentional organizational forgetting variables, processes and dynamics to generate new theoretically relevant constructs that may help build a theory of intentional organizational forgetting that does not yet exist,” said Dr. Mariano.
Big data, with its ability to store and harvest data, has increased dramatically in the past decade as IT has improved. In commerce, retailers use big data for “point of sale” information that can assist them in generating additional sales per customer. In the world of finance, banks use big data analytics to measure and manage risks in real time.
With little research published on its use in internal auditing, Dr. Ashraf Khallaf from the AUS Department of Accounting set out to explore the impact of big data analytics on the effectiveness of the internal audit function.
“Financial and non-financial data can be analyzed by external auditors in order to detect fraudulent transactions,” said Dr. Khallaf. “Similarly, using big data analytics can improve cybersecurity through the ability to detect hacks that would compromise sensitive information. Our research examined whether the use of big data analytics reduced the probability of internal control weakness violations.”
Internal controls are processes within a company that ensure that operations are efficient and effective, that financial reporting within the firm is reliable and that the firm is compliant with the law. An internal control weakness occurs when the company’s internal systems are not sufficient to prevent errors, omissions, delays in reporting or fraudulent activity.
“The consequences of weak internal controls are not inconsequential,” explained Dr. Khallaf. “It is in the interest of society at large that firms engage in processes that improve internal quality control and information technology that yields valuable information on how internal controls can be strengthened.”
Dr. Khallaf is joined in his research by Dr. Kimberley Gleason from the AUS Department of Finance, and Dr. Chanta Thomas from the Department of Accounting and Information Systems at Rutgers University in the US. Assisting them are a team of student researchers who identified a random sample of 150 US publicly traded firms in the Audit Analytics database, which is used to identify firms reporting internal control material weaknesses.
In a first for this type of study, they are currently conducting surveys among senior IT managers using Qualtrics, to explore their perception of the role of data analytics in reducing the probability of internal control weakness violations and improving the performance of the internal auditing process. The study will also determine factors at the company level that influence the adoption of data analytics.
At the local level, Dr. Khallaf and his team are working with Grant Thornton UAE, one of the world’s largest professional services networks of independent accounting and consulting member firms, to solicit information regarding the impact of audit analytics in the internal and external audit profession. They will interview internal and external auditors, as well as managers responsible for purchasing or strategy decisions.
“This is an ambitious research agenda that aims to explore many questions about the decisions made by companies and management on adopting or investing in data analytics, the perceived barriers to using it as a continuing auditing technique, and the impact of their decisions,” said Dr. Khallaf.
Dr. Khallaf concluded that the interaction between technological competencies and audit professionals is crucial with the integration of the Internet of Things, the cloud and external data sources such as social media. “Big data provides auditors with tools necessary to detect, prevent and investigate fraudulent activities and improve the process of internal control in general.”
Blockchain technology made its way into the list of disruptive innovations in 2008 with the launch of the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, which has gradually grown in importance over the past decade. How it can be used for the tourism industry and the challenges that may arise were the subjects of a study by professors in the AUS Department of Marketing and Information Systems.
Although initially mistrusted, the value of more than 20,000 cryptocurrencies now in circulation has increased over the years, reaching a market capitalization of US$134 billion in 2019, of which Bitcoin accounts for 5.5 percent. “The potential of this breakthrough is now being realized in terms of its use in numerous fields, ranging from financial services, healthcare and insurance, to supplies, logistics and tourism, “ said Dr. Kichan Nam.
Dr. Kichan Nam, Dr. Praksh Chathoth and Dr. M. Sajid Khan of AUS worked on the study with Professor Christopher S. Dutt from the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in Dubai.
“With the tourist industry exploring the development of smart destinations that offer more integrated services and holistic experiences, we wanted to find out how blockchain technology could be used in tourism businesses to manage transactions such as sales and operations, finance and administration, while being able to deal with external stakeholders, including the government,” said Dr. Nam.
Smart cities, such as Dubai, Amsterdam and Seoul, are collaborative communities providing integrated systems and have become instrumental in the development of tourism destinations. Smart tourism is an extension of smart cities through blockchain technology.
Cryptocurrencies are a digital currency with no central authority or intermediary, as is the nature of blockchain, where monetary exchange is validated by all network peers, helping to facilitate greater accuracy, traceability and security at low cost. An increasing number of online travel agents (OTAs) operate using blockchain, such as Travala, Travelblock and Travelchain. DApps are the third generation of blockchain technology and residents and tourists can use the OTAs’ apps on their smart phones to pay for their travel without using currency exchange.
While using blockchain technology in the tourism industry to lower costs is beneficial, as well as a more effective currency exchange, it is open to security threats, including hacks and viruses. “We also found that the adoption of blockchain technology in the tourism industry has been slow because it is not fully matured to handle business transactions through cryptocurrencies due to security issues and a still as yet low user acceptance,” Dr. Nam pointed out. “However, the DApps developed by OTAs has led to a more cost-effective system with greater security and convenience for travelers and suppliers, which will help increase blockchain usage.”
Smart devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) technology were developed to make our everyday life easier and more efficient. They held the promise of allowing us to spend more time doing what made us happy. Yet, people do not appear to be happier than before— prior to the widespread access to today's technologies.
Dr. Norita Ahmad from the AUS Department of Marketing and Management Information Systems explored the link between IoT technology and happiness during Fall Semester 2019, which she spent at Pennsylvania State University. “My sabbatical leave gave me the opportunity to work very closely with colleagues at Pennsylvania State University and a few IoT experts/practitioners in the industry. I also had the pleasure of giving talks on the subject at various events at Penn State and I also completed a paper, ‘Life, IoT and the Pursuit of Happiness,’ which has been accepted by the IEEE IT Professional,” she said.
The IoT market was valued at US$190 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach US$1.1 trillion by 2026. Products range from wearable medical devices to smart home security systems. IoT technology is also incorporated into the community to build smart cities, such as systems to improve traffic flow. According to Gartner Research (2017), there were 8.4 billion connected things in 2017, setting the stage for 500 billion IoT devices in 2030.
“My research is the first to examine the relationship between the use of IoT and user happiness,” Dr. Ahmad pointed out. “Despite the potential of IoT, we have yet to see how they translate into large gains in societal happiness. However, if one of the benefits of IoT technology is happiness, then we should consider which IoT device characteristics promote happiness and build it into everything else.”
In addition to working on two other IoT-related papers, Dr. Ahmad was invited to submit a book proposal on IoT by CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, as part of the series “What Every Engineer Should Know.” Her book, What Every Engineer Should Know About IoT and Cyber Security, will be published by December 2020. “I realized that there was a gap in the market for both IoT and cyber security books for non-technical readers,” she explained. “After doing thorough research on the subject, I came up with an idea of writing an easily understandable introduction to the important concepts of the IoT and cyber security, even for people who do not have a technical background.”
While attending workshops on curricula development related to management information systems (MIS) in New Orleans, Louisiana, Dr. Ahmad realized that the majority of the MIS programs in the US have at least one introductory programming course for MIS students, as well as a data analytics course. “Given the importance of data analytics and programming skills in today’s job market, I developed a course entitled Python for Business Analytics,” she said. “Python is one of the world’s most popular programming languages and the most demanded skill for data scientists today. It will improve the relevance of MIS courses for our students and move the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in MIS closer to global standards.”
Dr. Linzi Kemp from the AUS Department of Management was looking forward to having the time during her sabbatical to finish research papers on women in leadership in the Middle East. However, one speaking invitation led to another and more, resulting in a whirlwind tour of European cities and the chance to disseminate her work to new audiences for a better perception of the region’s opportunities for women.
“I had received a number of invitations from universities in the past, and knowing the sabbatical was due, I set about drafting an itinerary,” said Dr. Kemp. “Happily, most of my plans came to fruition, and it was just a matter of juggling travel schedules to make the most of the time available.”
Dr. Kemp accepted a visiting professorship at Birmingham Business School at the University of Birmingham in her native UK for eight weeks. While there, she was invited to a symposium on women and organizations, and presented her research at the Gender Inequality and Work workshop at the Institute for Global Innovation. In addition, as Middle East editor for the Gender in Management Journal, she was able to advise professors on papers for submission.
Travelling south to the University of Sussex’s School of Education and Social Work in Brighton, Dr. Kemp presented the outcome of research on women’s leadership in the Middle East, documented on the Women in Leadership virtual center she set up with colleagues at AUS. The center seeks to develop and promote women’s achievements in the Middle East through multimedia resources.
A colleague from Dr. Kemp’s days at the State University of New York, who was running a center in Prague, invited her to present at a workshop. A short flight to Dublin followed, giving her the chance to attend a conference there about women in higher education, as well as participate in a women’s history walk. “As well as informing them about my experience of leadership and management in this region, the fact that I was meeting women in higher education gave me new insight into their work experience, so it was so beneficial to be in a new geographical area.”
Dr. Kemp and AUS colleague Dr. Savita Kumra invited 25 experts on women in organizations to AUS for a Think Tank in 2019. The international academicians from the Middle East, the US, the UK, Ireland and Australia discussed the development of a research agenda for women in organizations in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region.
Returning to the UK, Dr. Kemp was invited to attend a conference by the Women’s Equality Party. “It was so refreshing to hear a different version on the topic, political rather than academic,” she said. “They are calling for immediate change, whereas we undergo the long process of research in order to influence policy.”
Dr. Kemp’s many appointments didn’t prevent her from completing her papers, which are now under review. She was also successful in having a proposal accepted for a book chapter on women and leadership in the MENA region. “The time spent away was useful in expanding my network and in getting the message out on what we’re doing in the Middle East in promoting women in leadership.”
When Syrian nationals fled over the border to Turkey due to unrest at home, most assumed it would be temporary. Nearly eight years later, the economic impact of this immigration is the subject of an in-depth analysis by Dr. Ismail Genc from the Department of Economics at AUS.
He has already published a book on the effect of remittances from the Gulf region to South East Asia countries, in terms of the movement of prices for goods and services. “Foreign workers usually represent an orderly movement of labor among countries,” he said. “In contrast, when people come in as refugees there is no control, and they are treated as a temporary phenomenon.”
“As hostilities have continued in Syria, the refugees can now be considered immigrants who most likely will stay, especially as the government has made an agreement with the EU to let them settle. I am interested in finding out the ramifications on inflation in Turkey,” he added.
Dr. Ismail Genc at the School of Management at the Istanbul Technical University in Turkey.
Dr. Genc is spending the Spring 2020 semester working with colleagues at the Istanbul Technical University in his native Turkey, where they will combine figures from the Turkish Statistics Institute with the latest data at the macroeconomic level and compare prices in the towns where immigrants have settled and those where there are none.
Dr. Genc explained that when a group of people comes into a country, there’s a higher demand for goods and services, which should increase prices. However, when migrants can’t integrate, usually because they don’t have the language skills, they are likely to be given the lower-paying jobs, which decreases labor costs and subsequently lowers prices.
“Two studies have concluded that immigration has caused a decline in inflation, but I think they’re not telling the full story,” he said. “If the refugees had congregated in a small area, then this would be the case, but some seven million people have spread throughout the country and I would like to document the impact of this immigration on the economy, in terms of wages, rent and food prices.”
By its very nature, research can sometimes uncover startling evidence, leading the researcher to ponder a completely different theoretical model to the one they had originally set about to prove.
When Dr. Jean Boisvert from the Department of Marketing and Information Systems was preparing to investigate the findings of a product satisfaction survey among purchasers of a motorized recreational vehicle, he discovered a far more interesting theory that could have a real-world impact on manufacturers’ sales revenue.
“I had acquired a company’s customer database in order to carry out research on the impact of service touchpoints on product satisfaction,” said Dr. Boisvert. “However, on scanning the data, my research collaborator and I found a pattern in customer vehicle selection, which led us to change our focus and develop a new stream of research into pricing dynamics.”
Collaborating with Professor Alexander Buoye at the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University in New York during the Fall 2018 semester, Dr. Boisvert studied a questionnaire given to customers, who were asked: Given the price you paid for the product originally, how much are you willing to pay for the next one? “We discovered that people are willing to pay more if they were given the opportunity of configuring the product themselves,” explained Dr. Boisvert. “To be able to choose from a selection of components gives people a sense of discernment over the purchase process, for which they are prepared to pay.”
Recording their results, Dr. Boisvert drafted the theory and Dr. Buoye carried out quantative modelling for their paper “The Impact of Internal Reference Pricing on Price Willingness to Pay Across Vertical Extensions: The Moderating Effect of Self-Selected Product Options.”
Dr. Boisvert presented a draft at the 2019 Conference for the European Marketing Academy
in Hamburg, as well as at the prestigious Marketing Science Conference 2019 in Rome, giving two versions of the paper in order to collate feedback, which he said proved invaluable in drafting the final version. “This is the first time that this type of research has been carried out, and I’m pleased that our results will eventually be of importance to manufacturers in order for them to develop their marketing models to make forecasts on future pricing and potential sales revenue.”
Banks worldwide have come under scrutiny since the financial crisis in 2008, with the implementation of macro-prudential policies to foster a more stable and resilient financial system.
Just how compliant these banks are with the policies has been the subject of numerous studies in recent years. In the first research of its kind, the potential impact of a bank’s ownership structure and shareholder type on the effectiveness of those policies has been studied by Dr. Anis Samet and Dr. Ali Mirzaei from the Department of Finance.
“We wanted to fill the gap in this issue by understanding the link between government policy objectives and financial stability and development,” he explained. “As such, we examined the interaction between ownership structure and macro-prudential policies, and their impact on two factors: curbing credit growth and reducing risk-taking,” he said.
The professors were helped in their research by six students who collated data from banks worldwide, taking more than a year to establish ownership of the banks. Whittling down the number of banks to those with specific data forthcoming, the data of some 500 banks was examined for the period 2000 to 2013, both on the bank level and on the country level.
“Our initial results show that government banks react less efficiently to macro-prudential policies that their peers, which include foreign and privately-held banks,” said Dr. Samet. “This information will have implications for banks, regulators and investors, especially where governments have had to bail out banks during the financial crisis. This may give them more impetus to divest themselves of these banks in order to ensure a better model of banking in their country, with privatized banks readier to complying with macro-prudential policies to sustain financial stability.”
Dr. Samet presented the results of his research at the Finance and Economic Seminar on campus in 2019, and hopes to submit it formally within the next few months. The data was used for a paper Dr. Samet worked on with IMF colleagues, entitled “Bank Capital and the Cost of Equity,” which was posted on the website of the Yale School of Management. The paper was also listed on SSRN, the most important database platform for papers on banking and finance, and was on the Top Ten List for downloading for the past several weeks of early 2020.
Biculturalism, where a person identifies with two cultures, is a phenomenon well studied in the academic literature. Another type of bicultural person is the self-initiated expatriate (SIE), a social group prevalent across the Middle East for generations. How they live between two cultures and what sensibilities and skillsets they contribute to the workplace is the subject of qualitative research by Dr. Savita Kumra and Dr. Valerie Lindsay from the Department of Management.
“There are a lot of studies on SIEs, but few in the context of multicultural societies,” Dr. Lindsay explained. “Living in the UAE, we have the advantage of being in a culturally diverse society, with expatriates from all corners of the world, living and working within the Gulf Arab culture, and this gave us a rich pool of people who could contribute to our research through face-to-face interviews.”
The professors carried out research among SIEs, people who came to the UAE of their own accord, looking for career opportunities and prepared to stay indefinitely, as opposed to people who had been posted here for a certain length of time by their employers in their home countries.
Dr. Kumra described how they gathered their data: “We spoke to SIEs about their own cultural identity and how it manifested at work, at home and in social settings,” she said. “We asked them how they developed cultural awareness in their families and how they maintained their cultural identity across a variety of contexts, such as work, home, in social settings and when they returned to their home countries.”
They found that SIEs were generally flexible in their identities by mixing them into a hybrid identity or by separating them at work and at home. “When we asked them if the social or cultural context influenced their identity, respondents provided a variety of views and evidenced a broad range of responses.”
The second phase of research dealt with how UAE SIEs manage their careers while living here, especially women. Two models are currently written about: boundaryless, how some expatriates go beyond their original careers; or protean, where expatriates have a collection of jobs or activities.
“These two models are not flexible enough to fit SIEs, so we are developing a career theory that will aid HR professionals in understanding how SIEs can fit into their workforce and, more importantly, how their sensibilities and skillset can contribute to the work of the company,” said Dr. Kumra, pointing out the special skills that SIEs can bring to the table: “As individuals develop their bicultural identity by experiencing cognitive dissonance and developing strategies to reconcile their cultural profiles, they develop higher-level cognitive skills and are therefore more attractive to organizations.”
Dr. Kumra and Dr. Lindsay will speak about career management strategies in June at the International Human Resources Management Conference in Paris, and will present their findings on identity at the British Academy of Management Conference in September 2020 in the UK.
Healthcare is one of the seven priority sectors marked out by the UAE government for its National Innovation Strategy to help achieve UAE Vision 2021. Taking this further, AUS professors involved in supply chain management are exploring how hospitals can become more innovative in the context of sustainability for more environmental impact.
Dr. Abdulrahim Shamayleh from the Department of Industrial Engineering teamed up with Dr. Abdelkader Daghfous from the Department of Marketing and Information Systems, which runs the minor program in supply chain management, to carry out the research and also to spark interest among students in the minor program.
Dr. Shamayleh had conducted training courses earlier for the Dubai Health Authority’s procurement department on healthcare supply chain management. “The success of the program led to their request for research on a more sustainable process, and I had the opportunity of bringing in eight of our students to help carry out this project,” he said, adding, “it’s great to engage students in our research, as it’s not about us and really about giving them opportunities for real-world interaction.”
The first part of their two-year research project entails a systematic review of literature about sustainability in healthcare, with a focus on medical equipment and material supply chains. Dr. Daghfous explained that information was scattered at present: “We want to integrate what’s out there, uncover what’s missing and to help others investigate new avenues for research.”
The second phase will entail research in the field to build a framework for guiding healthcare professionals in formulating a strategy on sustainability-oriented innovation in their hospital or clinic.
Dr. Shamayleh said that he and his team of graduate students would meet with healthcare managers, specialists and government officials to investigate the obstacles they face and what they require to initiate a practice of sustainability-oriented innovation (SOI) in healthcare management. They then hope to develop case studies on up to 10 hospitals across the United Arab Emirates, which will lead to SOI initiatives that can be implemented, both locally and regionally.
They pointed out that sustainability in the healthcare supply chain included recycling medical equipment by refurbishing it and sending it to where it was needed, such as health authorities in impoverished countries, as an exercise in social responsibility.
Having done a lot of research into innovation over the past 25 years, Dr. Daghfous said he found that little had been done to enhance innovation in the healthcare supply chain. “This industry is so important, with huge environmental impact, that it’s vital to develop a model that would combine innovation with sustainability.”
Dr. Xiaobo (Bob) Xu, Professor of Marketing & Information Systems, giving a lecture in AUS’ School of Business Administration.
Big data is revolutionizing the way in which business decisions are made across the world. However, big data analytics research of IT projects among a number of countries is rare.
Dr. Xiaobo (Bob) Xu, Professor of Marketing and Information Systems at American University of Sharjah (AUS), will be contributing to changing this as he works with colleagues from the United States, China and the United Arab Emirates during his upcoming sabbatical. During the next six months, he will investigate how a number of IT projects work in some countries and not in others, and why.
“E-commerce is successful in the US and China, where people use websites for their day-to-day purchases,” said Dr. Xu. “However, across the UAE it’s still very much a ‘bricks and mortar’ culture. My research will delve into the current e-commerce websites to see how they differ and what needs to change in order to improve platform development for people across the Middle East region.”
Gaining ground in the US and China is the new business practice of crowdfunding, which Dr. Xu is also eager to explore for its potential in this region. Crowdfunding, where small amounts of money are raised from a large number of people via a website, is practiced on a small scale in the UAE. “I would like to study the UAE government’s policies and regulatory procedures about this type of funding,” he said, “as well as successful crowdfunding projects and their investors, in order to build a research model and an implementation framework for IT professionals.”
Dr. Xu will also investigate how these existing crowdfunding projects screen their potential investors and the mechanisms for a successful match: “It will be interesting to build a marketing model to match the right type of investor to a particular crowdfunding project.” He hopes that his research into these IT projects will lead to the publication of papers in journals. Additionally, he will share the developed models among e-commerce and crowdfunding start-ups and SMEs in the region at different conferences, confident his work will ultimately provide a holistic framework for improving their success rate.
More importantly, Dr. Xu said he will utilize the research results in his classroom at AUS’ School of Business Administration, where students can choose to pursue either a bachelor’s degree or a minor in management information systems (MIS). “Our department has already redesigned the MIS curriculum by offering six new courses, such as Big Data Analytics, Technology Entrepreneurship, Business Applications of Smart Cities and Digital Security, and the research I will carry out over the next six months will play a big part in ensuring our MIS students will have access to courses that reflect cutting-edge tools and technologies and business practices.”
The most famous street in the camp is known as the "Champs-Élysée," with restaurants, clothing boutiques and bicycle repair shops.
Going out of your comfort zone is the accepted norm when undertaking research, whether experimenting with compounds in the lab, or surveying an unknown environment in the field. For AUS professors Kimberly Gleason and Becky Beamer, going out of their comfort zone meant exploring this very experience among refugees in Jordan’s Zaatari Camp. Surprisingly, early results of their research show a higher level of coping and thriving than expected.
The Zaatari Refugee Camp, established in 2012 by the United Nations in conjunction with the Jordanian government, is home to some 80,000 Syrian refugees in temporary housing. Despite the environment, its inhabitants have built a self-sustaining community, setting up businesses ranging from convenience stores to beauty salons and bike repair shops.
“As a finance professor, I was intrigued by reports of how people had developed this unique ecosystem, after enduring brutal conditions to escape the conflict in their home country,” said Dr. Gleason. “I wanted to find out how they managed to cope so well when studies show that similar camps across the globe fare far worse.”
Dr. Gleason set about applying for permission to travel to the camp in early 2019 to talk to the refugees. “Finance research typically entails analyzing stock market and company reports, so this was my first time in the field, interacting with real people as we asked questions and collected data for our survey,” she said. “Seeing their business first-hand, I was interested in how human capital encouraged their entrepreneurship.”
Beamer takes a panoramic shot of the camp, home to some 80,000 Syrian refugees.
She explained that human capital entailed both family knowledge of business and skills, and psychological capital or psycap. “Psycap is known by the acronym HERO, which stands for Hope, Efficacy, Resilience and Optimism, an innate ability to overcome adversity and persevere while remaining optimistic.”
Documenting the survey among the refugees through film was a new experience for Becky Beamer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Design. “I usually work in the field along with a translator on projects specific to documentary production. However, in this case, we incorporated set survey questions within the short amount of time allowed. While the production constraints were substantial, they were offset by the welcome we received from the community.” The experience will inform her teaching of filmmaking to students, taking them from concept to post-production, and will focus on the realities of problem solving.
The researchers conducted a validated written survey among some 150 camp inhabitants to assess the measure of psychological capital, asking them about their access to capital, whether they had family support in Jordan and other related topics. Their documentary recounts the stories of business owners: one set up a coffee and spice shop; another, a taxi driver, sold his taxi to set up a clothing shop; one woman began styling hair and now runs a beauty salon, as well as teaching young people the trade so that they can set up salons themselves.
Female entrepreneurs take the survey on their efforts to open businesses in the camp.
Dr. Gleason is finalizing the survey with the help of her students, who work in translating and coding the data for a comprehensive analysis. Results so far show that the refugees display very high levels of psycap, relative to other studies. “They see themselves as role models who give value to their own community and society at large, as well as contributing to the Jordanian economy.”
Zaatari Refugee Camp is Jordan’s largest and currently the country’s fourth largest city. Dr. Gleason was struck by the fact that the Jordanian people have exhibited an unusual willingness to accommodate the Syrian migrants, relative to some countries in the West, despite the severe resource constraints they face. Jordan has permitted a number of Syrian refugees to enter the local Jordanian job market, with His Majesty King Abdullah being quoted as saying that he hoped each job opportunity for Syrian refugees in Jordan would ultimately provide five job opportunities for Jordanians. “We hope that our survey will reveal the factors related to effective economic development by refugees, so that they can be seen as a source of economic support to their host countries, rather than just a burden.”
The researchers expect to publish the results of the survey this fall, while acknowledging that the documentary will have a broader impact through the cumulative effects of social media. “We are also working with a French NGO [non-governmental organization] which has contacts with policy makers in Europe,” said Beamer. “Our mission is to disseminate the results to a larger audience to bring about awareness of issues related to a model of sustainability within refugee communities and the psychological capital of the entrepreneurial residents."
The documentary Psycap can be viewed on YouTube: https://youtu.be/SxKnJZQ6F2Q