Shedding Preconceived Notions: The Influence of Technology in MENA

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Technological penetration in MENA has been quite extensive and all encompassing accounting for very positive trends

Technological penetration in MENA has been quite extensive and all encompassing accounting for very positive trends

There’s a lot that the world knows about MENA (Middle-East and North Africa) just as there’s so much more that the world doesn’t know about the region. Suffice to say that what the world doesn’t know about the region effectively trumps what it is actually aware about it, leading to several assumptions and preconceived notions about it.

While such assumptions and preconceived ideas are fine to the extent that they cultivate a positive feeling of curiosity in the minds of the people around the world, more often than not, it so happens that these presumed and premature ideas give birth to a lot of misconceptions about MENA in the global context. Like in the case of three newest technological aspects – presence of social media, usage of gadgetries and usage of digital media – whose existence seems to be pretty much antiquated in the region according to most preconceived beliefs.

Let’s start with the most obvious one amongst the three – the presence of social media in MENA. According to the latest survey conducted – and contrary to what many otherwise believe – MENA is one of the most active regions in the world as far as social media activities are concerned. The region accounts for nearly 28 million Facebook users. With over 15 million users daily using their Facebook account on their cell phone devices, rather than PCs.

MENA once again tops the charts when it comes to two other favourite social media sites – Twitter and LinkedIn – with Saudi Arabia leading as the world’s most active nation on Twitter. Likewise, nearly 40% of the LinkedIn users from MENA hold important managing positions in organisations.

When it comes to utilisation of technologically advanced gadgetries like smart phones and tablet smart phones, MENA once again takes the cake with nearly 40% of the cell phones being smart phones with 525.8 million mobile phone users in MENA. It also doesn’t get any more emphatic about the technological preferences of people in MENA considering that over 37% of the population are heavily connected to the web through their phones for nearly a quarter of a day.

In terms of utilisation of digital media, MENA defies preconceived bias yet again with Arabic slowly gaining inroads into the top-10 used languages in the World Wide Web (it presently ranks eighth in the world). Digital media activities are expected to increase substantially in the region as are expected the development and enhancement of e-course modules in the region. YouTube, the world’s premier video sharing web domain is also expected to launch specific web portals for four countries (Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait) in the region, adding a greater deal of depth to the fast-growing digital media sector in the region.

These three aspects that have thrust out the prominence of MENA are just however the tip of the iceberg as far as the depth and reach of technological sophistication in the region is concerned. But needless to say that the results of the survey are reinforcements enough to change the way the world thinks about MENA and potentially bring in more centred and balanced view about the presence of high-level technological assistance prevailing and spreading across the region.

Damian Radcliffe at ictQatar has posted a brilliant post highlighting the recent digital trends in the MENA region. A few of them that we liked:

  • 28 million of Facebook users in MENA log on daily with over 50% (15 million) of daily users doing so via a mobile device.
  • Saudi Arabia is the most active country in the world on Twitter
  • 2 in 5 LinkedIn members in MENA hold Manager positions or above
  • There are now 525.8 million mobile subscriptions in MENA
  • Nokia still dominates mobile market in MENA with 45.2% market share
  • In MENA two phones in five are smartphones. Smartphone volumes are up 16.4% in Q2 2013 compared to Q2 2012
  • UAE is home to some of the heaviest mobile web users in the world. 37% are on the mobile web for 6+ hours a day
  • Arabic is now the 8th most used language on the web. Music, games and video are the most downloaded types of Arabic content
  • Digital advertising in MENA is expected to grow +37% a year. Currently a $300 million p.a. business, online it is expected to be worth $1 billion p.a. in MENA by 2017.
  • MENA users view 300 million videos daily on YouTube
  • Qatar & Bahrain are in the Top 12 countries in the world for the highest percentage of individuals using the Internet

Here’s the Slideshare of ictQatar’s quarterly round up of Internet and Technology developments from across the Middle East and elsewhere on the globe

[slideshare id=31323773&doc=digitaldigestq4final-140217233631-phpapp01]

Photo by Jason A. Howie on Flickr
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