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Here’s a link to a short post on ictQATAR’s Digital Qatar website highlighting 10 key social media developments from the Middle East last year. Accompanying this I also wrote a recent article for the BBC College of Journalism website on some of these key digital developments. Of these, the rise of Arabic usage on Facebook is probably the most noteworthy, but there’s plenty to take stock of.
Our Top 10 Social Media Developments In MENA
by Damian Radclife · February 18, 2013
If you’re on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter – and I suspect most Digital Qatar readers are – then it’s easy to forget that actually you’re in a minority. Most other people in the region aren’t on social networks, but they are joining – and engaging – in ever increasing numbers. For example, 36,000 new people in Arabia join Facebook every day. That’s over 250,000 people a week, or a million a month. Yikes!
Below I’ve captured some of the key social media developments from across the region during the last 12 months.
If you haven’t got time to read the whole deck, here’s 10 developments to note.
- The social network hit 1 billion users last year. Of this only 4% – some 44m users – come from the MENA, suggesting plenty of scope for further growth, given that the World Bank estimates the regional population as being 300m people. Research by Pew, for example, notes that 63% of people in Egypt don’t have the Internet, along with 65% in Jordan and 51% in Lebanon. This is a large – currently untapped – potential online population.
- Facebook skews male. Across the region 65% of users are men. 35% are female.
- Facebook’s Arabic interface has outstripped the site’s overall growth in the region by nearly double, reaching 160% year-on-year growth by May 2011. This is compared with overall subscriber growth of 87%. As a result, there are now more Facebook Arabic users in the MENA today than there were total Facebook users in the region two years ago.
- There are now 17 million tweets every day in Arabic. That is 1 billion tweets every two months. 1 out of 4 of these tweets are written in Arabizi the slang/alphabet used to communicate in the Arabic language over the Internet.
- Saudi Arabia is Twitter’s fastest-growing market, anywhere in the world, percentage-wise month on month, and it already has more Twitter users than any other country in the region. 40% of all Arabic tweets, half of Wikipedia’s Arabic content and 35% of all Arabic content on the web comes from Saudi Arabia.
- Part of this growth was stimulated by Twitter offering its mobile Web site in Arabic and Farsi. This was made possible earlier in the year by work done by a community of translators.
- Of the 150m LinkedIn members across the globe, 5.8m are in the Middle East. In contrast to Facebook, the gender skew is much less pronounced on this network – with 58% of members male, 42% female.
- This represents 3.8% of LinkedIn’s total members –not much different to the % of global Facebook users (4%) found in the region. Both networks opened their first offices in the region last year in recognition of the potential for growth.
- A third of LinkedIn members in the region work in High-tech or Manufacturing roles, with 12% working in engineering roles and another 10% in operations.
What are they talking about?
MENA social media users are much more likely to talk about politics, community issues and religion online than in other parts of the world. Does this chime with your own experience of these networks? What are your predictions for 2013?
I think Instagram is going to become even bigger in the region, but that’s another story for another time…in the meantime, browse through the slides below (see here) and let us know what excites you.
This is a cross-post of a recent article1 for the BBC College of Journalism website on some key digital developments in the Middle East during 2012. Of these, the rise of Arabic usage on Facebook is probably the most noteworthy.
Rise and rise of Arabic on Facebook in Middle East
Tuesday 8 January 2013, 16:22
Last year was another momentous one for the internet in the Middle East. Whilst not as high profile as the previous year, 2012 saw take up of ICT reaching record levels. It also showed that social networks still had room for growth, with both Twitter and Facebook expanding and evolving in the region over the last year.Both Facebook and LinkedIn opened their first offices in the region – a recognition of the growing importance of their MENA (Middle East and North Africa) membership base. Here are a few examples which show some of the key regional trends from the past year.
A report into ‘Arab ICT Use and Social Network Adoption’ by the Madar Research and Development Center in Dubai, contains a treasure trove of data on this front, including the revelation that mobile phone subscriptions in the Arab world nearly matched the region’s population – 346 million at the end of 2011. In countries such as the UAE and others bordering the Gulf, penetration rates exceed 125%, with Saudi Arabia enjoying a mobile penetration rate of 189.24%.
Anecdotally, I can report that in Qatar it is not uncommon to see drivers working multiple phones at the same time as negotiating rush hour traffic or a three lane roundabout. As someone who is still a relative newcomer to the region, I confess this is not a trick I have managed to master (or indeed attempt). Yet.
Over the summer it was reported that one hour of video per minute is uploaded to YouTube in the MENA, with users consuming 167 million video views a day. This is second only to the US. How many of those were PSY – Gangnam Style, is hard to say, but given the popularity of the song on the radio – and indeed with young dancers at various public events – my guess is probably quite a few.
Either way, bandwidth consumption in the region is growing at an average of 40% over the past year, leading Cisco to predict that the MENA will be the fastest growing region for Internet traffic across the globe in the coming years.
Social Bakers reported that Facebook had grown by 29% in the region during 2012, adding over 10M new registered users, a quarter of whom were in Egypt alone. Membership is growing fastest in Qatar, Libya and Iraq, with more than 115%, 86% and 81% new users respectively.
Much of this growth is driven by usage of Facebook’s Arabic interface, which is growing at almost double the site’s overall growth in the region. As a result, Arabic is now the most popular language on Facebook in the Middle East, whereas two years ago English had a 50% market share. It is a remarkable transformation, to the extent that there are now more Facebook Arabic users in the MENA today than there were total Facebook users in the region two years ago.
Twitter is also growing fast with 17 million tweets every day in Arabic. That is 1 billion tweets every two months. Much of this, about 40%, comes from Saudi Arabia but the volume of Arabic tweets is increasing across the region. The Dubai School of Government is reporting that the percentage of Arabic tweets in the region had increased from 42% of activity in September 2011 to 62% in March 2012.
In the same month, the main Twitter site was made available in right-to-left languages for the first time, a service recently introduced to its mobile site too.
I would expect that we will see these trends continue in 2013, but one area to potentially watch is e-commerce. Ofcom may have recently reported that UK consumers are a nation of online shoppers, but the picture in the Middle East is much more mixed. Even amongst ‘Digital Natives’ many still prefer to buy in person, even if they’re increasingly researching products and services online.
But in a region where many nationals love to shop, that may start to change. Arabian Business recentlyreferred to E-commerce in the Middle East as a ‘Virtual gold rush’ with sites like Namshi – an online shoes and clothing retailer recently securing $20m financing from JP Morgan Chase and Blakeney Management. For them, and others, 2013 promises to be a busy year.
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This is a cross-post of a recent article I wrote earlier this week for the BBC College of Journalism website which comments on 10 digital related stories from the Middle East, including research about young people and digital media and social media usage in the region.
With younger demographics and an expanding user base, communication technology in the Middle East is a hot topic, especially because of recent political changes in the region. Yet finding a good source of editorially neutral information on the subject isn’t easy.
So this summer I started producing a regular Digital Digest, both as a personal aide memoir and also, I hope, something of value to others who want a roundup of digital developments from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Here are few links to 10 stories which caught my eye over the past couple of months:
- Young people
Booz & Company, in partnership with Google, surveyed 3,000 digital users under 35 years of age across nine countries and identified three big trends among this group, 40% of the MENA population:
1. Communication with friends and family: the group has reduced direct personal contact with their family and friends as technology increasingly provides them with alternatives. Forty-four percent spend less time meeting close friends face to face and more time communicating with them online or over the phone.
2. Marriage: More than 60% in North Africa and the Levant approve of a member of their family marrying a partner he or she met online.
3. Religion: 70% of the group reported that technology allows them to explore the various facets of religion through websites.
The report also threw up a number of other interesting stats: 83% use the internet daily, with 40% using it for at least five hours a day. Sixty-one percent spend more than two hours per day on social networking sites.
Interestingly, whilst 76% access the web from home, only 16% do so from schools or other academic institutions. No wonder 43% of young Arabs believe education services require technological upgrades.
Perhaps, given these trends, it’s not surprising that 37% believe technology has reduced family communication and cohesion!
- Arabic language
This is an area which has seen a real resurgence online in the past 18 months.
One of these initiatives, Taghreedat, a group that aims to increase the amount of Arabic web content, isworking with TED International to localise the TED site into Arabic. This builds on other recent initiatives including efforts to introduce the first Arabic Tech/Web 2.0 Dictionary, offering Arab Twitter users their own search engine and working with The Wikimedia Foundation to create the Arabic Wikipedia Editors Program which will find and train Arabic Wikipedia editors.
Booz’s research showed that, among what it calls the ‘Arab Digital Generation’, 41% search the internet in both Arabic and English. Almost half say they’re unsatisfied with the quality of local websites or local versions of international sites.
Given the prevalence of smartphones and new technology in many parts of the region, it’s interesting to note that both of the voice recognition apps, Dragon Dictation and Dragon Search, which run on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch now fully support Standard Arabic and are free from Apple’s App Store.
- Governance and government control
Booz’s research also found that just 8% of young people use an online platform to connect with government or political leaders. Twenty-four percent believe media content is totally controlled by government.
That figure may be even higher in countries such as Jordan which recently passed legislation requiring “electronic publications” to get a licence from the culture ministry. Critics argued that the law will stifle freedom of expression online. The BBC reported that the law “gives the authorities the power to block and censor websites, whose owners will be held responsible for comments posted on them”.
Associated Press estimated that about 400 Jordanian websites would be affected by the new law. And in late August hundreds of Jordanian websites such as Jeeran, Jo24, Wamda and BeAmman went dark in support of #BlackoutJo - a protest against the bill, which was also publicly criticised by Queen Noor Al Hussein (below) before it became law:
- Citizen initiatives
Given this climate, it is interesting to see that seven Omanis have come together to draw up an ethical code for internet publications, bloggers and social media users in their country.
One of the group, Turki Al Balushi, was quoted in the Gulf News as saying: “There’s a kind of boom in internet users in Oman and we felt that as responsible users we need to draw a line, especially in the light of recent crackdown on users… Obviously this is not mandatory but a volunteer group that would help people in deciding what is right and what is not.”
In Egypt, Morsi Meter (below) was set up by a couple of young Egyptians to encourage citizens to monitor the new Egyptian president in order to see “what has been achieved from what he had promised in his program during his first 100 days in power”. It was recently awarded first prize by the World Summit Youth Award (WSYA): a global contest for young people who are using information and communications technology (ICT) to put the UN Millennium Development Goals into action.
- Social media
LinkedIn opened its first MENA office in October. The network has more than 175 million members worldwide, with more than 5 million in the MENA – a million of which are based in the UAE.
Even though Arabic is now the sixth-most popular language on the Twitter, accounting for almost 3% of all tweets, Facebook is still the dominant social media player in the region (below).
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My August round up for Digital Qatar of recent developments in the Internet and Tech space relevant to the Middle East. Stories of particular interest in this issue include the Top 100 Arabs on Twitter, use of the crowd to monitor the new Egyptian Presidency, as well as initiatives to teach children code and Google’s self-drive cars. You can download the slides from here.
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In this post I have summarized ten key data points relating to Qatar. These stats show how Facebook continues to dominate social media usage in Qatar, the rising popularity of LinkedIn and the true size of Qatar’s Twitterverse. The latter is smaller than perhaps you would think, with just under 60,000 Twitter users in Qatar.
Here are our Top 10 stats. Do any of them surprise you?
1. GCC countries dominate the top five Arab Facebook users as % of population. The UAE remains top of the Arab region, followed by Kuwait. Qatar is back in the top five. (Page 7)
2. Qatar has more *new* Facebook Users than any other country in the world (Jan. 3 – June 25, 2012), as a Percentage of Population at 12.6%. This is more than double Syria, the next country at 6.5%. Outside of the region, Iceland has seen the fastest growth at 4.4%. (Page 9)
3. 70% of Qatar’s FB users are male. 30% female. (Page 12)
There are just under 60,000 Twitter users in Qatar. (Page 15)
The top five generators of tweets in the Arab region during March 2012 were Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, and Bahrain. They generated 88% of the regions tweets. (Page 16)
Qatar generated 5,580,000 tweets in March 2012. In contrast, Kuwait generated 58,900,000. (Page 17)
This network is growing fast, from 3,588,215 regional users at the beginning of the February to 4,294,484 at the end of June. Young people (between the ages of 18 and 34) make up around 70% of LinkedIn users. (Page 19)
At 9.8%, Qatar is second in terms of LinkedIn Penetration in Select Arab Countries as a % of Population, just behind UAE at 12.8%. (Page 20)
YouTube playbacks doubled in the last year in the Arab region and 120% in the last six months (Page 23)
As mentioned in our Digital Digest last month, there are 167 million video views a day in the Arab region, putting the region in the number two spot in the world (behind the U.S. and ahead of Brazil).
We think most of the stats speak for themselves, but what do you think?
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This is a cross post from Digital Qatar, a blog for technology enthusiasts launched by ictQATAR in 2009 with the purpose of providing a platform for genuine thought and conversation in Qatar around everything ICT.
Digital Digest, Volume 2
by Damian Radclife · July 18, 2012
Last month we published our first Digital Digest, a round-up of the very latest digital trends and developments impacting Qatar and the MENA region. That edition has been viewed over 1,200 times in the past four weeks.
Thank you to everyone who read and shared it.
A lot has happened in the intervening month, from the launch of new tablets by Google and Microsoft, through to the publication of a range of new research about mobile and Internet use.
It was revealed that Saudi Arabia is Twitter’s fastest-growing marketpercentage-wise month on month and the network was also home to a campaign - #UAEDressCode – which provoked heated discussion across a range of social networks.
Meanwhile, French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) launched its iPad app in Arabic and Turkish based games company, Peak Games, became the world’s No. 3 social-gaming company in terms of daily active users. Are you one of their 9.4m daily players?
Finally, with Ramadan fast approaching, a designer from the U.K. has created a prayer mat, known as EL Sajjadah, that lights up when it faces Mecca. We would be interested to know what Digital Qatar readers make of the idea.
As always, please feel free to share these slides. You can email the link, tweet about specific stories or embed the full slides on your own site (NB, from here). We would also love comments and suggestions for future editions too, so feel free to contribute below.
Thanks for reading and Ramadan Kareem.