The Arab world needs Internet cafes

The Internet cafe phenomenon looks set to continue according to research from Madar Research Group, a new analyst company focussed on the Arab world.

  • E-Mail
By  Mark Sutton Published  February 15, 2003

The Internet cafe phenomenon looks set to continue according to research from Madar Research Group, a new analyst company focussed on the Arab world.

According to Madar, there were over 9,000 Internet cafes in Arabic-speaking countries by the end of September 2002, with the number expected to carry on growing through 2004.

Internet cafes provide a very important role in getting people online, especially in those countries that do not have such a high penetration of PCs, and consequently a low penetration of Internet users.

At present, the Arab world lags behind the rest of the world in Internet penetration. The GCC is close to the world average, and it predicted to surpass it by 2005, but the rest of the Arab world lags a long way behind, and is not expect to catch up any time soon.

Madar points out that the Arab world constitutes 5% of the world’s population, but only has 1.3% of the world’s Internet users. There are other issues surrounding this low figure, but providing access to the Internet is a fundamental element to being able to increase the number of Arabic Internet users, and Internet cafes can provide a cheap and easy answer for those countries where home PC ownership is not practical.

For example, while they do not have a very high level of overall Internet penetration, countries such as Libya, Algeria, Jordan and Morocco have a greater number of Internet cafes per head than many of their richer GCC counterparts, and will lead the way in Internet penetration among the non-GCC Arab countries.

Of course, Internet cafes are not a straightforward answer to getting people online, especially for countries that are concerned about the effects of the Internet on their youths-in the US a number of shooting incidents have been connected to disputes between youngsters playing against each other in online games; in South Korea there have been reports of people dropping dead after days-long sessions of surfing the web in cafes.

But the Arab world is already looking to control Internet cafe growth, and to find more culturally acceptable alternatives. In Syria this resulted in the closure of many Internet cafes in May 2002, when the government brought in stricter regulation, but licensing may not be such a bad thing.

In Egypt, Technology Access Community Centres are offering Internet access through government facilities and community centres; in Tunisia public Internet access centres fulfil the same role as Internet cafes.

Initiatives such as these are essential to help narrow the digital divide. For e-government, e-commerce and greater familiarity and understanding of the Internet and IT in general, to help make sure the Arab world is not left behind, governments need to provide all possible help to get as many people online as possible.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code