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Fri 24 Jun 2016 12:25 AM

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Middle East can add $380bn to GDP with major online push

New report says region can make big improvements to economic output by bringing internet access to all

Middle East can add $380bn to GDP with major online push

The Middle East can add $380 billion to regional economic output by bringing the whole region online, according to a new study by Strategy&.

The report said that in an environment of low commodity prices and regional instability, the Middle East is changing how it achieves sustainable economic growth.

It said innovation and digitisation will play as important a role in the future as government spending, with the internet acting as a major driver of growth, and creator of new, high value jobs.

Strategy&, formerly Booz & Company and part of the PwC network, added that extending the reach of the internet to the unconnected is, however, looking increasingly difficult.

According to the report, there are 4.1 billion people around the world — 56 percent of the world’s population — who are not online, with more than 200 million unconnected in the Middle East.

"To achieve universal internet access will require the removal of significant barriers," said the report.

“Internet access is a fundamental challenge of our time. The Internet’s truly revolutionary potential will only be unleashed when the remaining 56 percent of the world’s population is also connected,” said Rawia Abdel Samad, the director of the Ideation Centre, the think tank for Strategy& in the Middle East.

The report said that bringing the whole world online would create huge benefits for developing countries and for businesses across industries over the coming five years.

These would include additional global economic output of $6.7 trillion, social and economic improvement for over 4 billion people, $400 billion growth opportunity for telecom operators and $200 billion opportunity for content providers.

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