More Arab women on Facebook, but figures still low

Use of social networking has risen in response to political unrest, says report
More Arab women on Facebook, but figures still low
Social networking has become an integral part of daily life in the Arab world (Getty Images)
By Elizabeth Broomhall
Thu 09 Jun 2011 06:32 PM

The number of Arab women using the social networking site Facebook rose 3.5 percent in the first quarter of the year, but remains significantly lower than in other regions, a report found.

Analysing the rise of social networking in the Middle East, the second Arab Social Media Report said women account for 33.5 percent of users in the region, up from 32 percent in 2010.

Globally, women and girls account for a massive 61 percent of all Facebook users.

“We hypothesized that the comparatively low rankings for Arab women, compared to global averages, in indicators such as ICT access, economic and political participation, and access to education, all contribute to their low levels of social media usage,” said Racha Mourtada Research Associate at Dubai School of Government and one of the authors of the report.

Social networking has become an integral part of daily life in the Arab world. Gulf states ranked among the biggest users globally of the video-sharing website YouTube and among the fastest growing users of Facebook and Twitter.

According to the report, the total number of Facebook followers has almost doubled since April 2010, reaching more than 27 million users as of April 5 this year.

The biggest increase – a rise of 30 percent – was seen in the first three months of 2011, which experts say was down to individuals using the website to incite protests and share information during the Arab Spring revolts.

“From the data we’ve collected, we’ve seen that Facebook has risen exponentially in all Arab countries and more so in the countries where protests and revolutions have taken place,” added Mourtada.

“The revolutions seem to not only have driven the rise in number of Facebook users, but also caused shift from a more social type of usage to the more political.”

For Twitter, the report estimated that the active number of users in the Arab region at the end of March 2011 stood at 1,150,292. Multiplying this by the ratio of total users to active users, the figure soared to more than 6.5 million followers.

Notably, Gulf countries managed to out-tweet their Middle East counterparts. Some 60 percent of tweets within the first quarter of 2011 were generated by Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Saudi and Egypt.

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