Wednesday, September 27, 2006

26.3 million Arab Internet users is not enough

Whenever the topic of growth in the number of Arab Internet users is
discussed, the enthusiasm of the impressive progress is tainted by the still
low penetration levels relative to other regions of the world.

According to the latest report by Madar Research, the number of Internet
users in the Arab World by the end of 2005 stood at 26.3 million, with a
growth of 9 million in one year!

That's nearly a 50 percent growth rate in one year, and it's expected to
continue every year between 40 and 50 percent.
Now for the not so good news. While this growth means more Internet
penetration relative to the population in Arab countries, it still stands
below 10 percent.

The Pan-Arab penetration rate was 8.50 percent in 2005, compared to 5.36
percent in 2004.

The worldwide average for Internet penetration is 14 percent.
What this means is that Arabs are not capitalizing on the Internet
revolution as much as others are, which affects education and economic
development in Arab countries.

Today, the Internet is a vital component in social and economic development
and it is one of measures of a country’s potential.
There are, of course, regional differences in the Middle East. As you would
expect, the wealth of a country comes into the equation.

The GCC countries enjoy the highest Internet penetration, particularly the
UAE, Bahrain and Qatar. Arab countries that lag behind badly are Algeria,
Sudan and Yemen. In Yemen, only 1 in 15 adults has Internet access. Still,
regardless of national wealth, governments which adopt aggressive Internet
access initiatives in education, with external support of donor countries,
manage to outperform richer countries in penetration. Jordan, Lebanon and
Egypt and good examples in that regard.

According to Madar's report, Arabic speakers refrain from using the Internet
because of the lack of Arabic content and services.

I have to disagree with that statement, as Arabic language websites covering
every area of content have been around for many years. In fact, Arabic
newspaper websites record millions of page views daily, and it is now a
recognized fact that online readers of many Arabic newspapers are even more
than the print edition readers!

The report says that the lack of an Arabic search engine is also a reason,
but that fact seems somewhat biased as Madar is involved in the team
developing Sawafi, a new Arabic language search engine. In any case, the
specialized Arabic search engine,, has been launched this year;
more importantly, Google has been offering Arabic language search for two

Anyway, here's the last interesting bit of information from the study:
Arabic speakers represent 5 percent of the world's population, yet they only
represent 2 percent of its Internet users. It's a digital divide indeed.


At 1:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Zeid,

Any information on where I can get a copy of this publication?



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