The increase in the number of Arabic language web sites, better known as ‘Arabisation’ of web content, is having a positive effect on internet adoption rate in the Middle East, according to the latest report from Pyramid Research. Joseph Braude, a senior analyst at Pyramid, believes however, that the increasing popularity of these sites is increasing the weight on the region’s already constrained bandwidth.According to the report, “The complex relationship between internet usage patterns and bandwidth capacity constraints will determine new business opportunities in the Arab Middle East for telcos, internet service providers (ISPs), applications developers, and content providers that service the region and for international capacity providers aspiring to overhaul and interconnect its infrastructure.” The reports findings were based on a methodical tracking of 700 web sites hosted in 15 Arab countries. Pyramid estimates that internet users in the Arab world will reach 13.6 million by 2005. Saudi Arabia is expected to top the list with 3.9 million, followed by the UAE with 1.5 million, Egypt with 1.4 million, and Morocco at 1.3 million.Middle East web sites have also gained the interest of audiences outside of the region. That has largely been a result of the current attention the region has received in the media and press. The attacks of September 11 have influenced the increase in traffic to web sites. Along with Alexa.com and its own methodology, Pyramid produced what it says are the twenty most globally browsed Arab Middle East web sites. The top five sites in order of rank are Albawaba.com, Aljazeera.net, Arabia.com, Maktoob.com and Ahram.org.eg. While the findings of the report may not be entirely convincing, Pyramid did point out that the list “betrays some of the idiosyncrasies of the region’s offerings and audiences.” Arab government sites are also popular with marks going to kingabdullah.jo, kinghussein.gov.jo and sheikhmohammed.co.ae. Sites in Egypt, Lebanon, the UAE, Jordan and Tunisia receive the most in terms of global visits. The momentum of e-commerce marketplaces will be slow according to Pyramid research. This is largely a result of what it says is a low confidence in the security of cross-border virtual transactions. The same does not hold true for national and vertical market initiatives, which show more promise and are favoured over regionals. The report casts light on Gulf E-Business International Company’s partnership with Comtrust, which intends on building a regional marketplace with some 500,000 companies. Kuwaiti Al Faris and Saudi Ogertel were expected to be successful national marketplaces.According to the report, Arabic language content developers in the region face a windfall in media development opportunities from Western and Arab governments. The UAE, Qatar and Jordan are predicted as the three emerging hubs for content development projects.
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