JEDDAH: FADIA JIFFRY
Internet users in the Middle East are currently estimated at 90 million and are expected to reach 413 million by the year 2015. Daily social media activity among Internet users in MENA region is 88 percent, with over 36,000 new Facebook users alone coming up every day in the region.
Saudi Arabia and UAE have the highest rates of smartphone penetration at 63 percent and 61 percent respectively.
“I believe it is clear that the number of Internet users in the Middle East is increasing with time. This is a fact,” says Saud Kateb, New Media professor at King Abdulaziz University. “The use of social media is reaching global level, especially in Saudi Arabia. Internet and smartphone penetration in Saudi Arabia have been rising among other Gulf countries. People, both men and women, use social media to communicate and share their views; be it political or religious,” he said.
Topping the list of the top 10 countries in Internet penetration is Bahrain at 77 percent followed by UAE at 71 percent, Oman 68.8 percent, Kuwait 62 percent, Qatar 61 percent, Saudi Arabia 60 percent, Iran 53.3 percent, Lebanon 52 percent, Jordan 48 percent and Oman 28 percent.
The average broadband speed in Middle East grew to 3.7 Mbps in 2012 from 3.1 Mbps in 2011, registering a 20 percent increase in a year. Four out of ten Internet users in the Middle East purchase goods online. Saudi Arabia being the second largest e-commerce market in the GCC, saw $520 million in e-commerce sales in 2011.
E-commerce sales in MENA is expected to reach an average of $15 billion by the year 2015.
“People in Saudi Arabia are more inclined to use e-commerce nowadays,” says Kateb, adding: “In the beginning, people didn’t trust the method of online payments and were afraid to use e-commerce due to privacy and security purposes, but now it has become a habit.”
Today, online methodologies have completely taken over traditional forms of business communication. The value and rapidity of trade has improved significantly over the past decade due to the Internet. These platforms are of vital significance for businesses and individuals in their quest to make use of social media to develop their professional brand name or individual image.