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Digital market to stay stout in Middle East

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ALKESH SHARMA / Emirates Business

In the Middle East region, decisive drivers responsible for rapid progression in the digital market are expected to stay robust in the coming days. With its number of internet users nearly grown twice in the past five years, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is well on the track and has remained one of the fastest growing online markets in the world.
According to a latest survey-report ‘Media Industries in the Middle East 2016’, UAE is apparently leading the bandwagon in the region with 97 percent (of population) internet penetration and 89 percent mobile broadband subscriptions in 2015, and it is followed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
One of the major spotlights of the report has been the revelation about the full-bodied growth
in the Arabic-speaking internet users.
“Number of Arabic-speaking internet users has more than doubled since 2010, a much higher growth rate compared to other languages.
As such, MENA’s share of global internet users has grown by a factor of four in the past 15 years, and is now at par with its share of the world population (about 4 percent),” stated the report,
which is compiled by the Northwestern University in Qatar,
in partnership with Doha Film
Institute.
However, irrespective of quick rise in the number of Arabic-speaking internet users, Arabic content still remains one of the most under-represented languages online in terms of its share of the world’s websites.
Alexandra Sanchez, who is running a start-up, focussing on digitalisation of Arabic content in Dubai, told Emirates Business, “Here the corporate sector needs to pay immediate attention. There should be a well-concerted effort by companies’ websites towards offering the content language in Arabic by default. But there are countries, where Arabic is widely-spoken, badly lagging behind in this. In Egypt, a third of the top 50 visited websites are either not available in Arabic or they do not include this language as the default or main language.”
As per the report, the Arabic language has recorded the largest proportional growth of any major linguistic group. There was a growth of around 158 percent from 2010 to 2015, whereas English and Chinese languages registered 63 percent and 58 percent growth respectively during the same period.
Report also mentioned that there has been a noticeable digital gap across the region while the smartphone penetration in the GCC countries is one of the highest in the world.
“MENA region is also seeing an increasing trend toward verticalisation of content with an increasing number of dedicated online platforms targetting news, fashion and lifestyle, sports, and music. In addition, certain verticals such as online video are seeing the advent of home-grown, multi-channel networks with predominantly Arabic content, and which center around verticals such as comedy, music, religious, and general
entertainment,” stated the report’s findings.

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