Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Another study of Arab Internet users, more controversy!

Every couple of months, we see a study tackling a different angle in the analysis of Internet users in the Middle East.

Most recently, Booz Allen Hamilton have finalized research, which they obviously sell, but have revealed a few tasty details.
It’s a study of the demographics, habits and Web 2.0 attitudes of Internet users, and therein lies an interesting link.

Apperantly, male users still dominate the Arab Internet scene, unlike the rest of the world where there is gender-neutrality.

It gets more interesting, and frankly less believable, when the study claims that males are ‘more involved in Web 2.0 websites and tools’.

What! How can that be? Are there more male bloggers, Facebookers, MySpacers than there are females!

It defies logic, and I’m going to raise a storm now among some of my readers, when I say that females prefer to chat, interact and connect to friends more than males do.

Come on! You know it’s true. Women have stronger social skills, are more interested in socializing and therefore should be driving the ‘Internet social networking’ revolution. Right?
Not in our region, apperantly, if the study results are to be believed.

Other interesting, though less controversial issues, covered by the study are regarding the influence of Internet interaction and information on the formation of opinions and consumption trends.

It seems that 84 percent of men surveyed are making purchase decisions based on them what they see on the ‘net’, which is high when compared to the 50 percent of users who do so globally.
Another issue raised is that of blocked sites. In the UAE and Saudi Arabia, in particular, sites like YouTube, Flickr and even Facebook succumb to regular blocks which definitely impede the growth of Web 2.0 Internet habits in these countries.

Although it’s an on-off situation with these ‘blocks’, the trust in the availability and dependability of services is reduced and therefore the use of social networking tools will be reduced too.

A solution seems to be the rise of regional video and photo sharing sites, which would take into consideration the conservative nature of the region, thereby remove offensive content and guarantee continued service. Although we dislike censorship, let’s be realistic. Whether it’s Web 2.0 or Web 10.0, you can’t get away with sexual or political content on your site in our region.

So, there you have it: Web 2.0 sites and networks, when they’re not blocked, are an excellent way to ‘dupe’ the rich Arab male, especially in the Gulf, out of his money while he wife/girlfriend is not even on the Internet to see it happening and advise him with her intuitive shopping knowledge.

Sounds silly? That’s what I got out of this research after much thought! n


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