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Internet Use in the Middle East, North Africa Still Lags Far Behind

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates lead the pack

The Middle East and Africa region, when viewed as a whole, still has a relatively low internet penetration rate, expected to reach 17.4% of the population this year, according to eMarketer projections. But Ipsos MediaCT in its February 2013 report, “Ipsos Online Audience Measurement in the Arab World,” identified a number of countries with significant online populations.

Saudia Arabia topped the list in terms of the sheer number of people with internet access at 8.5 million, followed by Morocco (7.7 milliion), Egypt (5.2 million) and then the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (4.7 million). When viewed as a whole, the 11 countries considered to be part of the Middle East and North Africa region in the report had an online population of about 39.2 million.

In terms of internet penetration rates, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) led the region at 71%, followed by Kuwait (62%), Qatar (61%), Saudi Arabia (60%) and then Lebanon (52%). The 11 countries as a whole registered an internet penetration rate of nearly 40%.

Ipsos also found that the vast majority of those going online in MENA were doing so from the comfort of their homes. Fully 87% of internet users logged in from their dwellings, compared with 34% who accessed the internet from work. More people were going online via a friend or neighbor’s internet connection than were using a public place or internet cafe.

Social media platforms have also made significant inroads in several countries. Internet users in Jordan were the heaviest users of Facebook, with 86% of users signed up for the social network. Twitter was most common among the online population in Saudi Arabia, while LinkedIn had been adopted by the highest percentage of internet users in the UAE.


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