IDC survey reveals rural and urban divide

Access to information and knowledge in the MENA region is mainly concentrated in urban areas according to a recent IDC study commissioned by satellite communications firm, Inmarsat.

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By  Andrew Picken Published  May 22, 2003

Access to information and knowledge in the MENA region is mainly concentrated in urban areas according to a recent IDC study commissioned by satellite communications firm, Inmarsat.

The study found that telephony penetration in rural Arabia was only 2.3% in 2002 compared to 14% in urban areas of the region. The study also identified a link between the MENA region’s literacy rates and their respective levels of urban versus rural access to telephony, mobile and Internet services.

According to Samer Halawi, regional director for Inmarsat, although much of the Arab MENA region’s internet access markets are poised for rapid growth over the next few years, the expected growth is biased towards the more developed markets of the Gulf states and their urban-based population.

He commented: “what this means is that our rural population, which constitutes 42% of the region, continues to lag behind urban centres in its access to knowledge and information. This, we believe, is one form of poverty and one that has direct implications on the social and economic growth of these communities.”

The IDC study revealed that lower internet penetration among rural communities can be attributed to the lack of appropriate telecommunications infrastructure and a lack of commitment by private sector service providers, who do not consider the market to be economically viable due to low income and high illiteracy.

“We believe in the role of the technology private sector as a complementary and necessary one to those of governments. We hope to demonstrate the viability of pilot projects run by the technology private sector, in delivering solutions that have the potential of helping deliver information as knowledge to those deprived from it,” added Halawi.

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