Middle East Tech News: All You Need to Know From the Last Three Months


First published on Huffington Post.

The past few months have seen a raft of rich new research reports published about media and technology in the Middle East.

From a study into media use by Northwestern University in Qatar, through to the Dubai School of Government’s 6th Arab Social Media Report and ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller’s annual Arab Youth Survey; these detailed studies provide a number of fresh insights into evolving attitudes and technology based behaviours in this fast changing region.

I’ll say more about these efforts in the coming weeks; but for now there are two recurring themes from these studies which are worth highlighting – alongside 15 top stories featured in the infographic below.

1. The Middle East is not as different as you might think
The first recurring theme is a recognition that the region – whilst culturally distinctive – is not an outlier.

Facebook typically dominates social media usage in different Middle East countries, just as it does elsewhere; and young Arabs are just as concerned, if not more so, than their global peers about unemployment and the rising cost of living.

Meanwhile a study by ictQATAR’s research program, Rassed, found that Internet users across the region often had many of the same concerns towards issues such as data privacy and cyber safety as they did in other parts of the world.

It looks like we’re not so different after all.

That said, there are differences across the region, particularly around access to technology; a factor which consistently helps to explain differences in the Middle East’s digital habits.

2. Mind the Gap: explaining the Digital Divide

As Northwestern University in Qatar noted in their 2013 report on Arab media use, there is:

“…a genuine digital divide, between the four wealthy Gulf states – Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE – and those that do not share such abundance – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia. The digital divide demarcates technological abilities in the Arab world about as starkly as anywhere on earth.”

Although there are a number of efforts taking place to address this; the gap described by Northwestern is perhaps the primary reason for variations in service usage.

Instagram, for example, is considerably more popular in places such as Qatar – where smartphones are relatively abundant – than it is in countries like Tunisia or Egypt where access to this technology is much more limited.

Exploring Further
You can read more about these themes in the infographic below and in some recent presentations from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQATAR) [Disclaimer: I work there.]


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