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French Version

Arab Internet use rises by 9 million

The number of Internet users in the Arab world increased by over nine million in 2005, to reach 26.3 million, according to new figures from Dubai analysts Madar Research. Growth rate of Internet use has substantially risen over 2004 levels, to average at around 55%, with a few countries - where Internet penetration is lowest - witnessing three-digit growth.

The figures, released last week, reveal 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 the world average – estimated at around 18 percent at the end of 2005 – Arab Internet user penetration is still well below the world average of around 14 percent. 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 in Internet use in many Arab countries.

The UAE remained the Arab leader in terms of Internet user penetration rate in 2005, followed by Bahrain and Qatar. However, Abdul Kader Kamli, president and research director of the Dubai Media City-based Madar Research, suggested that the region suffered from wild variations in Internet penetration from country to country. 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 wider research that also covers fixed lines, Internet users and computer installed base in the Arab world in 2005.

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.

With Arabic speakers worldwide representing 5percent of the world’s population but only 2 percent of its Internet users, there is huge potential for growth in the coming years. Madar Research projects Internet penetration growth of around 40percent to 45 percent in Arab countries in the next couple of years before it starts to stabilize at moderate levels, according to the report.

Amman,10 02 2006
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