Qatar tops MENA Internet usage

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Mobile broadband is the fastest-growing technology in human history, according to the 2013 edition of the State of BroadbandReport.

Aerial view of Doha, Qatar
Aerial view of Doha, Qatar. Internet penetration in the country was the 10th highest in the world and top in the MENA region

In terms of Internet use, there are now more than 70 countries where over 50% of the population is online. The top ten countries for Internet use are all located in Europe, with the exception of New Zealand (8th) and Qatar (10th).  Other countries in the GCC – Bahrain came 11th, UAE 17th and Kuwait was placed at 28th.

According to the report:

Over the next five years, Qatar will build a world-class broadband iCT infrastructure with the capacity and speeds needed to achieve Qatar vision 2030. Qatar will invest US$550 million to accelerate the roll-out of a nationwide high-speed, open, reliable, secure and affordable broadband fibre network to Qatari homes, businesses and government. a number of regulatory instruments will help equip locations (including sports venues) and mega-projects with tools for open and reliable access in preparation for the expected growth in new developments and FIFA 2022-related venues.

Released in New York at the 8th meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, the report reveals that mobile broadband subscriptions, which allow users to access the web via smartphones, tablets and WiFi-connected laptops, are growing at a rate of 30% per year. By the end of 2013 there will be more than three times as many mobile broadband connections as there are conventional fixed broadband subscriptions.

The State of Broadband is a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by country data measuring broadband access against the four key targets set by the 60 members of the Broadband Commission in 2011.

The Republic of Korea continues to have the world’s highest household broadband penetration at over 97%. Switzerland leads the world in fixed broadband subscriptions per capita, at over 40%. By comparison, the US ranks 24th in terms of household broadband penetration, and 20th in the world for fixed broadband subscriptions per capita, just behind Finland and ahead of Japan.

“The new analysis in this year’s report shows progress in broadband availability, but we must not lose sight of those who are being left behind,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.“While more and more people are coming online, over 90% of people in the world’s 49 Least Developed Countries remain totally unconnected. Internet – and particularly broadband Internet – has become a key tool for social and economic development, and needs to be prioritized, even in the world’s poorest nations. Technology combined with relevant content and services can help us bridge urgent development gaps in areas like health, education, environmental management and gender empowerment.”

“The global roll-out of broadband carries vast potential to enhance learning opportunities, to facilitate the exchange of information, and to increase access to content that is linguistically and culturally diverse,” said UNESCO’s Irina Bokova.“It can widen access to learning, enhance its quality and empower men and women, girls and boys, with new skills and opportunities.  But this does not happen by itself – it requires leadership, planning and action.”

For the first time, the State of Broadband report also tracks a new target mandating ‘gender equality in broadband access by the year 2020’, which was set by the Commission at its March meeting in Mexico City. ITU figures confirm that, worldwide, women are less likely to have access to technology than their male counterparts. While the gap is relatively small in the developed world, it widens enormously as average income levels fall.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al Thani, Chairman, Ooredoo, said: “Broadband access continues to have a major impact on enriching people’s lives and connecting people with new ideas and new opportunities. It is a source of pride for Ooredoo that our home market of Qatar is the only nationfrom the MENA region in the top ten countries for Internet use, and one of only two non-European countries. Our challenge now is to ensure this level of productive access becomes the norm across our regional footprint, and that developing economies enjoy the same levels of access and opportunitity.”

Commission Co-Chair Carlos Slim Helú said: “The Millennium Development Goals should be a strong partnership to direct actions at the national and international levels, and they should be a shared responsibility. It is certain that broadband can make a tremendous contribution towards their attainment.”

Co-Chair President Paul Kagame told the Commission that “beyond 2015, the way forward should be to unleash the smart use of broadband to enhance delivery of services in education, health care, banking and other sectors.‎ Broadband should also empower young people in the developing world to innovate and be more competitive globally,” he said.

A separate report of the Commission’s Working Group on Gender, led by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, was also released at the meeting.

The full meeting of some 50Commission members and a host of special guests, including Nigeria’s Minister for Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson; Executive Director of UN Women, PhumzileMlambo-Ngcuka;Academy Award winning actor and advocate,Geena Davis;and UN Envoy for Youth, Ahmad Alhindawi, saw the establishment of a new Working Group on Financing, which will strive to identify potential solutions to broadband investment to help countries accelerate progress towards the targets. The Working Groupwill deliver its first findings to the Commission at the next meeting in Dublin, in March 2014.

Other highlights of themeeting included the presentation by Dr Touré of the Youth Declaration developed by over 500 young people at the ITU Youth Summit held in Costa Rica (9-11 September) hosted by President Laura Chinchilla, and the launch of a new report by the Task Force on the post-2015 development agenda and future Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which was led by Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg, and which advocates the importance of including ICTs as a central pillar of the global development agenda. The report resulted in a new Manifesto on Sustainable Development which was signed by Commission members.

The State of Broadband 2013 is the second edition of the Commission’s annual report. Released every year in September in New York, it is the only report that features country-by-country rankings based on access and affordability for over 160 economies worldwide.

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