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Gulf states urged to lower Internet charges

ICDL says reduced rates key to success of smart government initiatives

ICDL said governments should bring down high data service rates to make them affordable for all.
ICDL said governments should bring down high data service rates to make them affordable for all.

A key organisation that promotes digital skills and cyber safety in the Gulf, has called for Internet charges to be reduced in the region to encourage a higher take-up of smart services.

ICDL GCC Foundation said lower prices were important to broaden the adoption of Smart Government services, launched recently in a number of GCC states.

"Lower Internet charges will undoubtedly promote the subscription of data packages by the masses, which is highly important for Smart and e-Services to reach out to each and every member of society," the organisation said in a statement.

ICDL has lauded the efforts undertaken by regional governments toward building an integrated digital system, which is accompanied with the aim to boost the Smart Government's e- and m-services.

It said regional governments have registered their highest levels of ICT investment in 2013, with Kuwait taking the lead at $28bn followed by Saudi Arabia at $4.8bn. Qatar and the UAE take third and fourth place with a total spending of $3bn and $2.7bn, respectively.

But ICDL also pointed out that governments should take effective measures to bring down the high data service rates to make them more affordable for all Internet users.

According to a recent study conducted by the ICDL GCC Foundation, the rates for data service in the GCC are still high in comparison with other countries and diverse among each other as well.

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According to the study, the rates of monthly mobile Internet data for 1GB in Saudi Arabia starts from AED23.5, AED47.7 in Oman, AED63.3 in Qatar, and AED100 in the UAE. The mobile data packages in Kuwait start at AED104.03/month for 6GB while it is AED195.35/month in Bahrain for an unlimited data package.

The foundation added that services for mobile data packages and home broadband connections also command a higher price in the GCC when compared with the US and the UK.

"The GCC governments must proactively work on long-term strategic objectives to establish public private partnerships that will eventually help to bring down telecommunication rates in the region. Better co-ordination and collaboration between government and Internet service providers will also help in bridging this gap," said Jamil Ezzo, director general of ICDL GCC Foundation.

He added: "The governments of the GCC have launched Smart and e-Services for the benefits of its people and visitors. However, high telecommunication rates acts as a major obstacle for people to access to these services. There is a greater need for affordable telecom services so that people from all walks of life can have easier access to the Internet."