Internet usage rockets up by 55% in the Arab World

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By  Published  September 22, 2006

The number of people using the internet in the Arab world increased by more than nine million in 2005 to reach 26.3 million, according to the latest figures from Madar Research.

The growth rate of internet use in the region has substantially risen over 2004 usage, averaging at around 55%, with a few countries where internet penetration is lowest witnessing three-digit growth, the research firm said.

It attributed this growth in large part to government initiatives to increase the availability of computers at schools and homes.

The Arab internet user penetration rate (the number of users divided by population) has also risen, reaching 8.5%, compared to 5.4% in 2004, according to the firm.

There were no signs of the growth slowing down with the number of internet users in the Arab world expected to continue to increase over the next few years before stabilising, the firm predicted. However, there were significant differences between internet usage in the different Arab countries, according to the study.

“There remains a huge gap between Arab countries in terms of internet penetration,” said Abdul Kader Kamli, president and research director of the Dubai-based Madar Research.

“While internet use has become so widespread in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, where users are dropping dial-up access in favour of broadband connections, internet use in some Arab countries is still reminiscent of the early years of the advent of public internet in the Arab world.”

The UAE had the highest internet user penetration rate in 2005, followed by Bahrain and Qatar, according to the report. Sudan had the lowest rate.

Kamli cautioned that a serious inter-Arab digital divide is developing, which is widening year on year. He urged the governments of non-GCC Arab countries, especially Sudan, Yemen and Algeria, to make major efforts and increase internet use among their population.

“I don’t want to sound ominous, but it doesn’t sound good when we consider that there is only one internet user among every 15 people in the 12 non-GCC countries included in our studies,” Kamli warned.

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