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The ongoing mobile and technology revolution will integrate the physical and virtual world, blurring their distinctions and reshape our society way beyond our imagination.

mobile internet arab world

A boy checking Samsung’s latest Galaxy S5 Smartphone at the Samsung Galleria in Dubai Mall.

The Arab world

“With 135 million internet users in the Arab region today – of which 71 million actively use social media platforms, we are witnessing continued economic and social transformations,” said Fadi Salem, Director of the Governance and Innovation Program, Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) and the co-author of ‘The Arab World Online 2014: Trends in Internet and Mobile Usage in the Arab Region,’ a white paper recently released by the Governance and Innovation Program at the MBRSG in cooperation with Bayt.com.

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A look at some of the digital statistics published recently substantiate the claims of Salem.

Impact of Mobile and Internet Technology

The lifestyle pattern of people through the information technology glasses reveal that, on an average the time spend per day amounts to 4.33 hours on all mobile usage; 1.28 hours on online mobile, 2.49 hours on TV, 1.18 hours on radio and 63 minutes on physical print, 1.67 hours on social networking, 56 minutes on blogging and 76 minutes on forums message board—Almost half a day goes endorsing various digital products and communicating virtually.

The MBRSG-bayt.com white paper on IT and mobile trends in the Middle East reports Internet to be an indispensible part of our lives with about 53 percent spending between 3 and 7 hours daily online, and 25 percent spending over 8 hours online per day. The report also mentions that mobile penetration rates in the region reached 110 percent; with about 42 percent of respondents surveyed using their smart phones to access the Internet, of which 73 percent use 10 or more apps on a regular basis.

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On economic front, Omar Christidis, CEO and founder of ArabNet, opines in Digital In The Round that E-commerce platforms are pulling in the biggest investments in MENA. He adds, “Online shopping in the region is estimated at USD 1 billion, and online transactions more broadly have reached USD 15 billion.

One of the most significant sectors impacted by information technology is the print media industry. Ross Dawson, a futurist and researcher, at a recently held 13th edition of the Arab Media Forum in Dubai said “Newspapers in their current form will become insignificant in the years to come due to stiff competition with other media platforms.”

He warned that Arab media should assimilate information technology trends and shift away from old channels to sustain themselves in the Internet era while also emphasizing the need to reach the global audience based through suitable content and driven by community attitude.

The Telecom infrastructure is also expected to keep up with the changing trends especially with the huge growth in people accessing content via their mobile devices.

According to a report by ZTE Corporation, ICT development trends (2014): Embracing the Era of Mobile-ICT, wireless access technology through 3G/4G/WLAN providing higher bandwidths ever would become prevalent in next few years.

Smarter, flexible and wearable mobile devices will be the frontrunner in ICT markets aided by increasingly strong terminals, cloud computing technology, network convergence, software defined networking, virtualization, which will lead the network technology revolution. As well, mobility will guide every aspect of enterprise management and operation.

Future Implications

While increased availability of public data and online Arabic content along with a better broadband connectivity will boost economic growth, job opportunities, educational prospects, regional trade integrations and enable better ‘smart’ cities infrastructure, however, they also remain the main challenges. Salem noted accessibility and connectivity, cost, and lack of content in Arabic were the top three challenges faced by Arabic internet users.

The ongoing mobile and technology revolution will integrate the physical and virtual world, blurring their distinctions. While that may be good news to ICT addicted group, it throws up challenges for Internet based security challenges.

The ZTE report summarizes the state of the ICT industry and how it’s shaping up when they say,

User experience, disruptive technologies and innovative business patterns will continuously reform this new industry, providing endless opportunities and reshaping our society in a manner that is way beyond our imagination.”

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