By Staff writer
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% in 2005, compared to 5.36% 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% at the end of 2005 – Arab internet user penetration is still well below the world average of around 14%.
Government initiatives, mostly supported by IT companies and private organisations, 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.
“There remains a huge gap between Arab countries in terms of internet penetration,” he said. “While internet use has become so widespread in GCC member states, where users are dropping dial-up access in favour 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.”
Madar Research projects internet penetration growth of around 40% to 45% in Arab countries in the next couple of years before it starts to stabilise at moderate levels, according to the report.