Internet users in the Arab World have gone up 228% from just 16.5m in 2004 to 56 million today. The largest increases by percentages have been seen in Egypt (20%), Morocco (18%) and Saudi Arabia (17%), whilst the UAE has the regions highest Internet penetration rate with 60% of the population online. To-date there are 26 million personal computers in the Middle East, up from 11 million in 2004. Understanding the dynamics of the region and with users rapidly heading online Google has noted a demand for basic guidance on net navigation, search tips and more.**
Catering specifically to new, first time Internet users, Google has launched a beta version of ‘Ahlan Online’, an Arabic website dedicated to providing MENA users with the skills they need to navigate the Internet using Google tools. Designed to provide educational tips and guidance on basic online usage such as Google search, Gmail, Google Talk (chat) and Privacy settings (web safety), the site will assist new users rapidly learn the basic Google tools and practices of the Internet. 'Ahlan online' will continue to be enhanced based on users' feedback and needs, in addition to increasingly providing interactive guidance for a greater number of Google products and applications.
“The Internet can often be intimidating for those who have not had to use it as part of their daily routine. This is especially true in the Middle East as Arab content online is still a work in progress. As a result we wanted to set up an easy to use platform in which users can be guided through a number of the tools we have available that will help make the online world friendlier and more accessible,” said Wael Ghonim, Regional Product & Marketing Manager MENA.
“This is the first step of many as we work towards raising awareness about the Internet’s vast capabilities, from access to information and resources to more complex business tools. We live in a digital age and it is important that the Arab world takes advantage of this new medium.”
The site is compromised of Arabic language educational videos, all under three minutes, that provide a brief description of a topic followed by a simple tutorial. Each video will be accompanied with an action button to allow users to try out what they learned or browse relevant Google products and tools. In short, ‘Ahlan Online’ will allow users to learn the ways of Internet through an interactive lesson in Arabic as well as gain tips on how to navigate across a multitude of Google products especially relevant for new users.
‘Ahlan Online’ was developed in light of recent statistics showing that 30% of the new users online are under the age of 18. The research additionally indicated that top online activities in the region consist of an entertainment and/ or communication element. Building upon these insights, the kick off phase for the user friendly website will cover six topics to better address those activities; browser, search, mail, chat, sharing and collaboration and privacy.