By Shane McGinley
Vice president of Google predicts MENA internet usage will rocket over the next three years.
The number of Arabic internet users in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to grow by nearly 50 percent over the next three years, a vice president of Google said in Dubai on Wednesday.
At present there are roughly 56 million Arabic internet users in the MENA region, but this represents only seventeen percent of the 337 million population, according to research carried out last year by the Dubai-based research company Madar Research.
Vinton Cerf, a vice president at Google, forecast that this figure will rise to 82m by 2013, a rise of 46.4 percent.
“The internet has permanently altered world trade, reducing barriers to market entry, bringing companies closer to their customers and creating opportunities that reach beyond traditional geographic boundaries. The internet has created brand new markets and provided endless opportunities to individuals and businesses,” Cerf said, speaking at an event in Dubai to mark Google Day 2010.
While internet usage in the Middle East has grown more than tenfold since 2000, most markets are still in the early stages of adoption. According to the World Bank, there are more than 320 million Arabic speaking internet users worldwide, while less than one per cent of all online content is in Arabic.
Last year, California-based US internet giant Yahoo! acquired the Maktoob Arab community website in a deal valued at around $175m. At present, 22 million Arab users a month use Yahoo! and 18 million a month use Maktoob.com. However, Ahmed Nassef, the general manager of Maktoob from Yahoo!, said he aims to double that number over the next two years.