The United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan are leading the way in building an Arab Internet economy by laying its legal, banking and communications foundations, a US consulting firm said Thursday, March 29.
"We found the non-Gulf states tended to be ahead of the Gulf states, with the exception of the Emirates," Nicholas Smith, vice president of Gartner Consulting, told a press conference.
Gartner did a survey for Cisco Systems by interviewing 40 people in the public and private sectors in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria as well as in the Emirates and other Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.
"We found that the level of wealth, government attitudes and the telecommunications environment were key factors in shaping which countries were mature," said Smith, whose company is based in Stamford, Connecticut.
"We found that in the non-Gulf states there was a more entrepreneurial attitude, people more willing to go for it and see the prize," Smith said. "In the Gulf states, we saw a slow pace of development, a more cautious approach to how they would move forward," he added.
Gartner found that the forward-looking countries were seeing greater investments in communications infrastructure and deregulation of the telecommunications industry. These countries also showed greater awareness in legislation to protect and promote the Internet economy, it said.
"The Middle East already has a sophisticated banking infrastructure which is, albeit very slowly, waking up to the Internet economy potential," it said. Gartner said its survey of the region was qualitative in nature and should not be seen as a market research report.
On Wednesday, the Arabic-English web portal Ajeeb published in the Emirates city of Dubai that more than 3.5 million people in the Arab world are logging onto the internet.
Topping the list for highest number of users was the Emirates, with 660,000, or 24.4 percent of the population, followed by Saudi Arabia and Egypt with 570,000 and 560,000 users, making up 2.6 and 0.8 percent of their respective populations.
The best Internet penetration rate, after the Emirates, was 16.7 percent in Bahrain, followed by Qatar with 10.3 percent and Kuwait with 8.2 percent. — (AFP, Cairo)
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