Internet population explodes in Middle East

The number of Internet users in the Arab world has rocketed to over 3.5 million, according to a survey released today by the Research Unit.

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By  Rob Corder Published  March 27, 2001

The number of Internet users in the Arab world now stands at 3.54 million, according to a survey released today by the Research Unit and sponsored by and Visa International.

Within a period of one year, since mid-March 2000, more than 1.5 million new users have joined the Arab Internet community, according to the survey. By the end of the current year, Ajeeb,com predicts that the five-million-user mark, which is almost 2% of the entire Arab population, will be crossed. Further forecasts by the portal see that by the end of 2002 the count should reach some 10 to 12 million.

Internet population in the UAE has grown at the rate of 57% during the past 12 months. The number of subscribers in the country grew from 140,000 to 220,000 by mid March 2001. With an estimated three users for each Internet connection in the UAE, the total number of users has surged to 660,000 – equivalent to 24.44% of the UAE population, a percentage that beats some Western Europe countries like Italy and Spain.

The gap between the UAE and the rest of the Arab world in terms of online penetration remained wide. Bahrain trailed with 16.67% of its population accessing the Net, Qatar followed with 10.27% and the rest of the Arab countries had only single-digit penetration.

Among the interesting findings of the survey were excessively high numbers of users per account such as in Jordan, which was mainly due to the popularity of Internet cafes among the majority of the population who could not afford the relatively high access rates at home, while in Egypt, universities serve as a gateway for thousands of students and staff.

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