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23 April 2013

Dubai School of Government and Release White Paper on New Online Trends in the Arab Region

DSG’s Governance and Innovation Program in cooperation with launched a regional white paper reflecting the latest trends in internet usage in the Arab region titled ‘The Arab World Online: Changing Internet Usage Trends’ at a joint seminar at DSG. The seminar attended by a number of technology and government experts, started with an opening speech by Dr. Ali Al Marri, Executive President of the Dubai School of Government and a keynote speech by His Excellency Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, Director General of Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. Based on a survey of nearly 3,500 people from across the region, the white paper examines current trends in the use of the internet in the Arab world. The report focuses on the use of e-government, consumption habits, e-learning, the use of social media, as well as mobile technologies and public attitudes toward online communication. In light of the growing role of the Internet today as one of the primary drivers for economic and social development in the Arab region, transforming commercial transactions, social interactions, developmental and governance dynamics, the survey examined the critical changes brought by the internet and their impact on the society, economy and governance regionally, 
Speaking about evolving trends in internet usage, Fadi Salem, Director of the Governance and Innovation Program, DSG; and co-author of the report said: "With 125 million users in the Arab region today– of which more than 53 million actively using social media platforms to connect within their societies, we are witnessing dramatic changes in the economic and social development dynamics as well as governance methods.  For example, around 52 per cent of Arab internet users say their communication with government entities has improved due to the internet. Government and business leaders need to continuously study the multi-faceted impact of these changes to develop more fitting policies for their societies and markets, in light of this growth, especially among Arab youth.”
One of the key findings in the report highlights the fact that 51 per cent of internet users in the region say their use of e-government services is still limited to searching for information on government services, while 29 per cent admitted to not having ever used e-government services. Nearly 85 per cent of the respondents also felt that social media led to enhancing their societal activities within their societies, while 88 per cent of the Arab internet users said that the internet has provided them with better educational opportunities. On the communication level, 71% indicated that they prefer the internet as an alternative to traditional communication, while 28% said they prefer social media as the primary source of news, matching preferences for traditional media as the primary source for news. 
Rabea Ataya, CEO, said: “The findings of the survey reiterate the internet’s role as an indispensable part of our lives, with only two per cent of the respondents across the region stating they spend less than an hour online every day. This should serve as a cue for entities across the region, from governments to businesses, to adopt an online presence as an essential part of their strategies.” 
Rabea added: "When we started in 2000, internet usage in the Arab world was still in its infancy, but even then, we knew that it would have an amazing impact on people's lives. This is a reason why we used the platform as our main medium to accomplish our mission. Over the past 13 years, we have empowered millions of people in the region to lead better lives by providing them with the online tools, technology, and information to lead their lifestyle of choice."
The report also focuses on the role of internet in economic, social, educational and governmental sectors. The study highlights the role of the Internet in leading economic activity globally, where the internet contributed to 20 per cent of the growth taking place between 2006 and 2011. In addition, the internet dramatically influenced change in the approach of many governments toward their citizens, as more governments regionally and globally continue to make their services easily accessible to citizens, reducing complex bureaucratic processes. 
Despite the increasing change in internet usage trends in the Arab world, the paper indicates existing challenges in terms of internet accessibility in the region. These challenges include levels of education, income and the cost of using the internet which is still on the rise in many Arab countries. Some of these countries, however, including the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, achieved internet usage growth during 2012 that amounted to 50 per cent, while the average rate of growth in the region scored 28 per cent.
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