Internet in Arab world still lagging behind

Broadband in the region remains far less developed than Western countries, report says.

High-speed internet access in the Arab world remains far less developed than Western countries, according to research released today.

The annual study into the use of information and communications technology (ICT) services in Arab countries found that despite a boom in cellular services across the region, use of the internet still lags way behind Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) markets.

Bahrain led the Arab world during 2006 with internet broadband penetration of 5.79%, according to the study, but this is much lower than Denmark’s 32%, South Korea’s 29% or the United States’ 20%.

“The Arab World still lags behind developed countries in the penetration and use of broadband internet and internet access at large,” said Arab Advisors Group founder and general manager, Jawad Jalal Abbassi.

Abbassi warned that for the Arab world to move towards knowledge-based economies, a much more intensive effort would be needed to increase internet penetration.

“While unleashing the cellular boom was relatively easy, affecting a similar boom in the Arab Internet markets - a prerequisite for any knowledge-based economy - will require coordinated and intensive policies and initiatives,” he said.

The Arab Advisors Group, a member of the Arab Jordan Investment Bank Group, did measure a substantial overall improvement in the use of ICT services - what it terms as total country connectivity measure (TCCM)- d riven by growth in cellular services.

“As usual, the main driver in the increasing TCCM scores by end of 2006 in the Arab World was cellular subscribers growth,” Abbassi added.

The UAE topped the Arab world for use of ICT services, with a TCCM score of 261.4%. Qatar followed at 255.6%, with Bahrain in third place with 233.9%.

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