I've compiled quite a bit of information on internet use in the Middle
East. I'll be the first to admit that it is scattered, and does not
always (or even often) present a full picture. There are bits and
pieces -- some from broad regional surveys, some from country surveys;
some recent, some not so recent.
There seem to be three basic divisions to bear in mind: the divide
between poor countries and wealthier countries; between Arabic and
Farsi speakers; between restrictive and more open societies vis a vis
the internet (Iran, surprisingly, has been one of the more
I've presented the information below for each of the remaining
questions you asked, so you'll find that some links appear more than
once, when they are relevant to more than one question.
I feel confident that I've done a thorough job of accessing the
information that's out there and available. But if you find you need
any additional information or explanations, just let me know by
posting a Request for Clarification, and I'll be happy to assist you
And if you can...let us all know how we can see your actual article
when it's published.
NOTE: All information below is excerpted verbatim, unless otherwise
noted by brackets .
Q: Which age group and gender is/are the most internet/PC literate?
(who is surfing the net there?)
[This is an excellent demographic overview, but unfortunately is
undated -- my guess is it is circa 2000]
Middle East Internet User Profile: An Exclusive Survey
--He's young, male and well educated. He is seven years younger than
his US counterpart. He's as likely to use it for his job as well as
for recreation in his home. He spends about an hour and a half a day
doing it. Funnily enough, or perhaps because he uses it for work,
he's more likely to do it on Thursday afternoons rather than on
weekends. He loves doing it; he hates how much it costs. If you're
interested in getting in touch with him, it's easy--more than
anything, he does it to communicate.
-- an overwhelming 96% of Internet users in the Middle East are men
--Fewer respondents, only 42%, cited 'fun and entertainment' as their
primary reason for Internet use than did those who said they used it
to communicate via email (71%), for gathering information (64%) and
for education (63%).
--The average user is highly educated: 60% are university graduates,
19% completed further masteral and doctoral degrees. The remaining
21% hadcompleted at least secondary schooling.
--There's an even fifty-fifty split among those who use the Internet
for the home and those who use it for working. Those who do use it
for work are likely to be found in large educational and governmental
--The problems most frequently encountered by those who expressed
dissatisfaction with their Internet service were: slow lines (69%) and
broken connections (50%). Only 5% cited their inability to access
'forbidden sites' as an annoyance.
[A lot less comprehensive than above, but a lot more recent -- it's dated 2/19/04]
[title] Only 19% of internet browsers in Arab world are female
--Fewer than a quarter of viewers of general portal websites in the
Middle East are women...
--"The average share of female Internet browsers is around 19 percent...
--"Our research shows that the online audience is overwhelmingly
male," said...Amman-based ArabAdvisors, who provide research and
analysis of the communications, media and information technology
markets in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq,Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon,
Libya, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi
Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
[from a newspaper database, this article references the UN report I
told you about the other day. The Arabic Alwaraq.com site mentioned
in the article is a beautiful site, by the way]
Agence France Presse Agence France Presse
September 6, 2003
Low Internet use by Arabic teenagers and women is worrying: study
--Arab teenagers and women make little use of the Internet, described
as "a worrisome sign" by a study...
--Of the participants, 12 percent were aged between 11 and 20 years,
39 percent were in the 21-30 age bracket and 29 percent were aged
between 31 and 40 years.
--18 percent...were women.
This report is specific to the United Arab Emirates.
More dial-upsubscribers in the UAE
Oct 23 2002
--The number of dial-up Internet subscribers in theUnited Arab
Emirates has risen by 10.5 percent during 2002...the total number of
dial-up subscribers in the UAE rose from 256,000 in 2001 to 283,000 at
--...there are currently around 950,000 Internet users in the region,
39 percent who go online from home. This compares with 56 percent who
access the Net from both home and work, and six percent who only go
online from work.
--around 76 percent of Internet users in the UAE are male.
--Over 60 percent of Net users are Asian, while 25 percent are Arabs
[Note from pafalafa-ga: UAE has a very high percentage of foreigners
working in the region]. Westerners comprise 10 percent of the local
--Most Internet users in the UAE tend to be both young and highly
educated. The average age of users is 27 and 59 percent of users are
--around 41 percent of Internet users are based in the capital Dubai,
while Abu Dhabi & Al-Ain has around 29 percent of Netusers.
Q: I know that they have OS's in their native language (Arabic), how
many (in percent) have an Arabic OS and browse/read Arabic websites?
[again, this source is undated, so use with caution]
--Despite the fact that the sample was predominantly Arabic speaking,
40% of them could not read Arabic text on the Internet...'This is
because either Internet users use a non-Arabic operating system or
they do not know how to configure their browsers and operating systems
correctly in order to be able to read Arabic text...'
--53% use Microsoft Internet Explorer along with other browsers.
Roughly half that (28%) use Internet Explorer alone.
--The most widely used browser is Sindbad, the Arabic enabled Netscape
Navigator (76%). This is a much higher figure than those for 'pure'
Arabic browsers. English content is obviously widely accessed.
Q: What are the major ISPs in that region, and what is the most
popular website catering to the Arab users? Which online service(s)
are the most interesting to Arab users? (are they into news or
chatting or discussion forums... ?)
[These questions were harder to get a handle on...I've combined them,
and report on several information sources below. The actual ISP's
seem to be largely country-specific...if you identify one or two
countries of interest, I might be able to provide a bit more
information on the major ISP's in the countries]
Egypt gets online
The number of Internet users in Egypt is expected to exceed 2.6
million by 2006, up from an estimated 540,000 in 2001...there are
currently more than 13 Internet and Datacomm providers in the country,
as well as 65 small and virtual ISPs...
[internet cafes are a phenom, I suppose due to the large number of
people who may not have computers and/or internet access at home or
Internet use on the up in Iran
Nov 06 2002
Over two million Iranians had Internet access...there are now 1500
Internet cafes operating in the capital, Tehran and hundreds more in
[A list of the Top 10 Arabic sites]
Sahafa Online Top 10 Daily Sites (Arabic)
[blogging in Iran...who woulda thunk it?]
Feb. 19, 2004
Blogging boom in Iran defies control New medium is a way to escape
stifling theocratic control
--Thousands of Iranian blogs have cropped up since late 2001 when an
Iranian emigre in Canada devised an easy way to use the free blogging
service Blogger.com in Farsi.
--Even the Iranian vice-president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, has a blog...
In a country full of paradox, the Internet has been one of the
biggest...The huge online appetite has been fed by thousands of
Internet cafes, low-cost computers from East Asia and a rush of
entrepreneurs offering Internet accounts.
--Other tightly run countries, such as Saudi Arabia and China, keep
reins on the Internet. In Iran, almost anything is a click away.
--Beside blogging, Iranians spend time in chat rooms, download music,
read poetry, visit any of the countless Farsi news sites or even surf
the erotic offerings.
--Internet usage in Iran is expected to grow sevenfold to 15 million users by 2006
[bit more on blogs in Iran]
Iran's reformists take their frustration to web
--With some 20,000 Iranian "web logs," ... between 50 and 60 have
become widely read for their overtly political content.
--Reliable figures on the number of Internet users in Iran are hard to
pin down, with estimates ranging from 2.5 million to four million,
double the level of four years ago.
[some perspectice on Palestine, from a newspaper database article]
October 5, 2003
REPORT ON PALESTINIAN STUDY ON USE OFINTERNET SERVICE
--According to the study, the number of local internet sites is 17,000.
--Libya was most interested in developing Arabic-language electronic
sites, which numbered 4,426, followed by Egypt where the number is
--With regard to world sites, Arabic-language sites came after the
first 10, with English-language sites ranking first, 64.4 percent,
followed by German-language ones, 5.8 percent, Chinese-language ones,
3.9 percent, French-language sites, 3 percent, Spanish 2.4 percent,
Russian 1.9 percent, Italian 1.6percent, Portuguese 1.4 percent, and
Korean 1.3 percent. Arabic-language sites represented 5 percent
[NOTE: I beleive this is meant to be 0.5 percent]
[a popular site, and growing]
Aljazeera.net in tie -up with NetAdvantage
--Aljazeera.net, the on-line version of Al Jazeera TV channel,
yesterday announced a strategic partnership with NetAdvantage
specialised regional on-line media house.
--this agreement is a clear proof of the growing role of on-line
advertising in the Arab world and its transformation from a niche
advertising sector into a mainstream sector attracting the budgets of
big spenders and leading marketers in the region.
--Aljazeera.net is regarded as the de facto news and analysis website
for Arab world users...
--Last year, Aljazeera.net has achieved an excess of one billion page
--Aljazeera.net accounts for one third of the overall on-line
advertising revenues in the Middle East.
[what some Arabic speakers are reading in IT]
--Under license from Ziff Davis Media, DIT Groupproduces PC Magazine
Middle & Near East and PC Magazine Arabic Edition, which are
distributed to more than 16 countries throughout the MiddleEast, and
have a combined circulation of over 60,000.
[a bit about viewing habits, but undated (and a bit hard to
understand), so take it with a grain of salt]
--Given the fact that few sites were rarely mentioned by more than 5%
of the respondents, the popularity of such sites as CNN, Sakhr,
Microsoft, ZDNet,Sun, IBM and Novell is noteworthy. Of these, only
CNN does not provide specialised content about information technology.
This finding reflects the high degree of computer savvy which the
[Here are a number of other sites and reports which should be of
interest, even though they didn't fit neatly into any of the specific
questions addressed above]
Jordanian SMEs embrace the Net
Feb 24 2003
--According to a new study...two-thirds of SMEs [NOTE: small and
medium-sized enterprises] in Jordan use the Internet. The survey
found that 78 percent of Jordanian SMEs utilise computers, while 66
percent of companies go online.
--Approximately 74.5 percent of the companies that use the Internet
have dial-up accounts, with just 15.2 percent using leased lines and
15.2 percent using ADSL to go online.
--Just over a quarter of Jordanian SMEs have a webpage...
Nov 11 2002
A new forecast from Arab Advisors Group suggests that there will
beclose to half a million Jordanians online by 2006.
--the number of Internet subscribers in Jordan will total 71,000 at
the end of 2002, a penetration rate of 1.33 percent.
--At the end of September 2002, there were just 1,772 ADSL subscribers
in Jordan, equivalent to less than 2.5 percent of all Internet
[Some dated information, but good comparision of Arabic world to the
rest of the world]
Global Internet Statistics by Language
[country by country usage information]
Internet Usage in the Middle East
[from a newpaper database]
August 16, 2003
BROADBAND INTERNET USERS TO GROW BY 53 PER CENT IN 2003 IN THE UAE
-- Broadband Internet usage is making big strides in the UAE. Though
current figures are relatively low, the number of Broadband Internet
users are projected to leap by 53 percent in 2003. This makes the UAE
one of the first in the region to record such wide adoption of
high-speed Internet connectivity that has become the standard in the
United States and the European Union.
--The study estimates that Internet penetration in the UAE will grow
by 10 per cent in 2003, to reach 1,175,000, the highest in the GCC
--Of which, 11.3 per cent would be using the broadband Internet which
includes Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), leased and ISDN lines. The
preference for the broadband Internet is driven by the need for
downloading audio and video files from the Internet, requiring a
connection that is higher than a standard 56 kbps dial-up connection.
Once again, if you have any questions, just give me a shout.
P.S. Good luck with the UN report -- my understanding of their
"Order" button is that they will send the report WHEN it is publicly
available. I'm not sure they are sending them out yet, but perhaps as
a writer you can get an advanced peek.