The number of Internet users in the Arab world has increased by more than nine million in one year to reach 26.3 million by end 2005, according to figures released today by Madar Research.
Growth rate of Internet use has substantially risen over 2004 levels, to average at around 55 percent, with few countries where Internet penetration is lowest witnessing three-digit growth. This led to a pan-Arab penetration rate of 8.50 percent in 2005, compared to 5.36 percent in 2004. Though growth in the number of Internet users in the Arab world is much higher than world average – estimated at around 18 percent – Arab Internet user penetration is still well below the world average of around 14 percent by end 2005.
Government initiatives, mostly supported by IT companies and private organizations, to increase the PC installed base at educational institutions and homes have largely contributed to growth Internet use in many Arab countries.
Madar Research, however, expects growth in Arab Internet population to continue increasing over the next few years before it stabilizes at moderate levels. The United Arab Emirates remained the Arab leader in terms of Internet user penetration rate in 2005, followed by Bahrain and Qatar.
“There remains a huge gap between Arab countries in terms of Internet penetration,” said Abdul Kader Kamli, president and research director of the Dubai Media City-based Madar Research. “While Internet use has become so widespread in Gulf Cooperation Council member states, where users are dropping dial-up access in favor 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,” he added.
Kamli warned of a serious inter-Arab digital divide, which he said is widening year after 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,” said Kamli.
The Madar Research Internet user survey covers a total of 18 countries – excluding Somalia, Mauritania, Djibouti and Comoros.
The full study highlights the number of Internet users broken down by country, penetration and growth rates, along with comparisons and analyses including drivers and inhibitors of growth. The study is part of a larger research that also covers fixed lines, Internet users and computer installed base in the Arab world in 2005.