By Karen Leigh
Around two million new users per month will see internet use surge, says Google executive
Internet usage in the Middle East grew 39 percent in 2010, to 86 million people, up from 64 million the previous year, Google’s regional manager for Middle East and North Africa told Arabian Business.
“It’s a significant growth because that’s two million people per month – and the population’s so large that there’s lots of room to grow here,” said Ari Kesisoglu.
He said MENA now had 29 percent online penetration.
Country rates vary wildly – wealthier states like the UAE, which has a 120 percent rate of mobile phone penetration, and neighboring Qatar will see numbers significantly higher than poor countries like Yemen and developing nations like Egypt, where one DSL line can be responsible for connecting 15 households.
Based on the current figures – and held against Western benchmarks – Kesisoglu estimated that overall penetration in MENA could reach anywhere from 60 to 80 percent, putting it on par with general averages in Europe.
The digital advertising business – led by search engines, banner ads, mobile texts and social media, will swell to $170m this year (of a $3bn MENA advertising pie), up from $120m.
“The ad market is going to grow faster than there are users,” he said. “People are slowly starting to see there’s something in it.”
Growing numbers of web users mean a stronger internet infrastructure, which will make it more attractive for advertising agencies and their clients to invest in digital media.
This encompasses social media and marketing sites like Facebook and Twitter and represents a shift from traditional, staid mediums like television and print. Digital advertising gives companies the extra benefit of seeing exactly how may unique viewers saw their ads, how much time they spent and what was liked.
Google is one of the pioneers in web and advertising investment in MENA. In 2010, the millions of dollars it paid to regional ad partner AdSense increased 60 percent in the year-on-year (it is Google’s policy not to release exact figures.)
“The IT ecosystem – we’re investing in it significantly, and we had to make it bigger so that everyone can share from it,” Kesisoglu said.
He said that included smaller, digital-only marketing operations that have been opening with regular frequency in the Gulf since 2008.
“Digital is so simple for them – the tools are readily available, so you can use them. We want the ecosystem to succeed. We do think digital advertising is set to grow.”