40 recent Internet and Technology developments you may have missed
from – and/or potentially impacting on - Qatar and the Middle East
Issue 5: Nov/Dec 2012
Contents: Issue 5: Nov/Dec 2012
1. Recent developments in the MENA region
• 2012 Arab ICT Adoption
• Google launch ‘Arabic Web Days’
• New data: Facebook in the MENA
• E-commerce – a mixed picture
• In Brief: Social Media News
• In Brief: Content related news
• In Brief: Technology News
• In the spotlight – Tweeting in Arabic
2. Wider Internet & Society Research
• Research: Social Media Report 2012 – 7 key trends (Global)
• Youth: Technology changing reading habits (USA)
• Technology: Inside Google’s Data Centers
• Internet Governance: WCIT
• Assistive Technology: Stories from MADA
3. Coming Up – three emerging issues
• Research: The end of SMS?
• Technology: The 100m Club
• Governance: Vint Cerf on how we regulate the Internet
1. Recent developments in the MENA region
Including: 2012 Arab ICT Adoption, Google launch ‘Arabic Web Days’;
2012 data: Facebook in the MENA, and Tweeting in Arabic
Images: http://bit.ly/WQctXW and http://bit.ly/pP7fgl
1.1 2012 Arab ICT Adoption
Six key stats from the “Arab ICT Use and Social Network Adoption report”
published by the Madar Research and Development Center, in Dubai.
1. Saudi Arabia has a mobile penetration of 189.24%.
2. All GCC countries achieved penetration rates over 125% in terms of mobile
3. Mobile phone subscriptions in the Arab world nearly matched the region's population –
346 million at the end of 2011.
4. There are 96 million Arab internet users.
5. Bahrain is the only Arab country with zero
narrowband Internet subscribers.
6. Bandwidth consumption has grown at an average
of 40% over the past year.
Images via : http://bit.ly/chFUt and http://bit.ly/ZzR5b1Source: http://bit.ly/YEIG4F
1.2 Google launch ‘Arabic Web Days’
• In November, Google announced “Arabic Web Days” a month long series of online
and offline events designed to boost the amount of Arabic content online.
• Arabic speakers make up more than 5 percent of the global population yet Arabic content
on the web makes up just 3 percent of the total online digital content.
Images: http://bit.ly/V2x7ir , http://bit.ly/W1tV5nSource: http://bit.ly/107274Z
• Partners included: Vinelab, Wamda, Yamli and Taghreedat, as
well as Twitter, Wikipedia, TED, Soundcloud, Al Arabiya,
TwoFour54 and the Qatari Computing Research Institute.
• Activities included Hangouts on Google+ a YouTube Tweet
Up in Doha, developer training focused on Arabic localization,
webmaster tools, SEO and YouTube for Business, as well as
the region's first Arabic infographics competition.
• Google also launched an Arabic only blog, and a promotional
YouTube video in Arabic to support the initiative.
See: www.arabicwebdays.com and youtube.com/arabicwebdays
1.3 New data: Facebook users in the MENA
• Facebook has grown by 29%
in the MENA region during
2012, adding over 10M new
• Membership is growing fastest
in Qatar, Libya and Iraq, with
more than 115%, 86% and
81% new users respectively.
• Egypt has 17M online
Facebook users. The highest
of any country in the region.
• 2.5M new people in Egypt
joined Facebook since January
2012, the highest absolute
user growth of any country in
1.4 E-Commerce – a mixed picture
• A report by Booz & Company, in partnership with Google, of 3,000 digital users from nine
MENA countries born between 1977 and 1997 noted that when it comes to e-commerce:
• However, Arabian Business referred to E-commerce in the Middle East as a “Virtual gold
rush” in an article which stated that e-commerce related transactions is worth about
$11bn a year in the Middle East.
• The UAE's online spending equated to 55 percent to 60 percent of total GCC e-
commerce sales. Saudi Arabia was the second largest market, with an estimated
$520m, followed by Qatar ($375m), Kuwait ($280m), Bahrain ($175m) and Oman ($70m)
- according to data from Visa.
• Wamda and AB also reported on Namshi, an e-
commerce site which launched in 2011 selling shoes
and clothing in the Middle East. In September it
secured $20m financing from JP Morgan Chase and
“They increasingly research products and services online, but they still prefer to buy in person.”
“…members of the ADG (Arab Digital Generation) — and the overall population in the region—are
reluctant to engage in online commercial activities, due to a lingering mistrust of e-commerce.”
1.5 In Brief: Social Media News
• There are 17 million tweets every day in Arabic.
- That is 1 billion tweets every two months.
• 1 out of 4 tweets written in Arabizi – (Arabizi is slang/an alphabet used to
communicate in the Arabic language over the Internet)
Source: Kaveh Gharib, localization project manager, Twitter via http://bit.ly/12hwCX3
• 40% of all Arabic tweets, half of Wikipedia’s
Arabic content and 35% of all Arabic content on the
web comes from Saudi Arabia: http://bit.ly/12peESt
• Twitter now offers its mobile Web site in Arabic
and Farsi. This was made possible through the
support of their community of translators.
• The main Twitter site has been available in these
two languages, as well as Hebrew and Urdu, since
March (the first time Twitter was available in right-
1.6 In Brief: Content related news
In December Apple launched the iTunes Store, in the
GCC (including UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and
Oman), featuring local artists such as Nancy Ajram,
Myriam Fares and Amr Diab.
Users could previously buy and download apps through
iTunes in the region, but not songs.
Tfour.me notes however that “users in the region still cannot
purchase movies or TV shows, as they have been able to do for
years in the US and many other countries.”
Techcrunch's Darrell Etherington
reported that Apple "now reaches
60.96 percent of the world population
through its music stores, well ahead of
Microsoft’s next closest 16 percent.”
Half of the Arabic content on the Internet is replicated on different websites and written
in weak Arabic, according to Fayeq Oweis, Arabic localization manager at Google. c.33 per
cent of it is restricted to members of online forums inaccessible to the public: http://bit.ly/V5Mztw
Online daily deals provider Groupon is planning
to open offices in Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait
and several in Saudi Arabia. Source: http://bit.ly/P1xAPo
“Kuwait and Qatar have been showing very
strong GDP growth over the past couple of
years and due to the size of them – they
have a large expat community – it’s an
interesting market because you can go in
there and start business very quickly.”
Groupon CEO Alexander Kappes
1.7 In Brief: Technology News
• Nationwide LTE comes to Kuwait. Zain Kuwait has launched 4G services under the brand
name Wiyana Connect 4G LTE. It is available for all compatible mobile phones, tablets,
routers, hotspots and dongles. Source: http://bit.ly/WKnD0v
• Oman’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) is working to provide basic
telecoms services to over 150 villages in remote and rural areas of the country.
• A price cap for Kuwaiti ISPs by the Ministry of Communications in Kuwait is anticipated to
see prices drop by up to 40%: http://bit.ly/VqhKhY
• BBC News reports that Saudi male guardians are
now receiving automatic text messages when
their female dependents leave the
Images: http://bit.ly/W1DAcm and http://bit.ly/12OB6ns
1.8 In the Spotlight: the rise of tweeting in Arabic
In previous issues we have explore the increased importance of Arabic language across
social media communities. Data from the 4th edition of the Arab Social Media Report,
produced by the Dubai School of Government shows some of the extent of this growth.
*new slide, insert figure 17 and the source:
01211214516440000.pdf - page 41
NB: Confusingly chart 17 (page before) has data right to left, chart 16 runs left to right.
But the above shows a discernible spike in Arabic tweets across many of these countries.
2. Internet & Society: Wider Research Update
Includes: Nielsen’s Social Media Report 2012, how technology is changing
young people’s reading habits and Google’s Data Centers.
Images: http://bit.ly/WKpDpo and http://bit.ly/PliCVP
2.1 Social Impact: Wider Research
Nielsen published their “State of the Media: The Social Media Report 2012”
It identified seven major global social networking trends (below).
1. Mobile: More people are using smartphones and tablets to access social media.
2. Proliferation: New social media sites continue to emerge and catch on e.g. Pinterest.
3. The Global Living Room: TV-watching is becoming an immediate, shared, experience.
4. Social Care: Social media is an increasingly important channel for customer service. Nearly half of
U.S. consumers reach out directly to brands and service providers to voice satisfaction or complaints,
or simply to ask questions.
Images: http://bit.ly/Um6WVI , http://bit.ly/10ijt0CSource: http://bit.ly/YovVMs
5. Social Word of Mouth: We are tapping into group beyond people we know.
6. Hyper-Informed Consumers: Using social media to make purchases based on
other consumers’ experiences as well as to find deals.
7. Opportunity for Engagement: “Roughly one-third of social media users find ads on social
networking sites more annoying than other types of Internet advertisements…”
But “more than a quarter…say they are more likely to pay attention to an ad shared by one of their
social connections” and “more than a quarter…are ok with seeing ads on social networking sites
tailored to them based on their profile information.”
2.2 Youth: Technology changing reading habits
of young Americans
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has
• Among Americans who read e-books, those under age 30
are more likely to read their e-books on a cell phone (41%)
or computer (55%) than on an e-book reader such as a Kindle (23%) or tablet (16%).
• Overall, 47% of younger Americans read long-form e-content such as
books, magazines or newspapers. E-content readers under age 30 are more
likely than older e-content readers to say that they are reading more these days
due to the availability of e-content (40% vs. 28%).
Images: http://bit.ly/VAPycd , http://bit.ly/Vfkm3q
• In total, 83% of Americans between the ages of 16
and 29 read a book in the past year.
• 75% read a print book, 19% read an e-book, and 11%
listened to an audiobook.
As the chart overleaf shows, young people
also consumer e-content differently too.
2.3 Technology: Inside Google’s Data Centers
In October Google offered users an insight into their giant data centers, including tours
in Street View and photo albums from a number of centers around the globe.
Image: Google's data center in Douglas County, Georgia.
“These colorful pipes send and receive water for cooling our facility. Also pictured is a
G-Bike, the vehicle of choice for team members to get around outside our data centers.”
2.4 Internet Governance: WCIT
The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) took place
in Dubai (Dec) to discuss/modify the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs).
Much media coverage focused on a potential change of ownership regarding these
regulations (see, for example Forbes’- ‘Why is the UN Trying to Take over the Internet?’) as well as whether the
ITRs should include specific reference to the Internet itself.
• Other topics discussed included cyber-security, “sender party pays” which would have
required Web content providers – like Google or Facebook – to pay ISPs for the traffic
they send over those networks, and managing spam.
• 55 countries refused to sign the new ITRs including the U.S., U.K. and Japan.
• 89 out of the 144 eligible to sign did so. Full list: http://www.itu.int/osg/wcit-12/highlights/signatories.html
“The ITRs are part of a treaty framework that establishes general principles
to guide the governance and operation of international telecommunication.”
“…I believe this is simply a recognition of the current reality — the two worlds
of telecommunications and Internet are inextricably linked.”
Hamadoun Touré, Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union. (Via LawFare.)
There’s some useful summaries of the Conference – offering both sides of argument e.g.
• The New York Times (which includes an interview with Andrey V. Krutskikh, a Russian Foreign Ministry official)
• The Washington Post (which extensively quotes Terry Kramer, the U.S. ambassador to the World Conference)
• LawFare (which also includes the draft resolution)
“…the Internet isn't about control. It isn't about censorship. It's about freedom and discourse and
kitten videos. It's as insanely powerful as it is intemperately ridiculous.To nations who exist to control
their populace, the Internet is a Wild West of chaos and disruption. Powerful, yes, but power that -- in the
minds of their leaders -- should reside in the hands of the leadership, not the citizenry.”
David Gewirtz for ZDNet Government : http://zd.net/SNUpJg
And here’s two memorable (if long) quotes looking at the outcome.
“The most important result of the conference has been to demonstrate that the world now splits into two
camps when it comes to the internet: one is comprised of more authoritarian countries, which would like to
turn back the clock and regain sovereignty over their own national bits of the internet; the other wants to keep
the internet and its governance as it is (bearing in mind that some of its members’ motives may not always be
as pure as they pretend).This sounds much like a digital version of the cold war. The funny thing is that
the leading countries in the two camps are the same two that were at loggerheads until the iron curtain
parted. One must hope that the failure of the WCIT is not a first step towards raising a digital one.”
Babbage, in The Economist: http://econ.st/Y06y2A
2.5 Assistive Technology
• Gloves that translate sign language into speech.
“The device consists of a pair of gloves worn by the sign language user, which contains 14 flexible
sensors, a microcontroller and a Bluetooth transmitter on each hand.
The sensors instantly and continually detect the words that are being signed, and this information is
then sent to the Enable Talk app on the conversation partner’s smartphone.” http://bit.ly/UIKEd8
• Mada launches Reader-Writer to support learning needs of people
with different disabilities in cooperation with Sensory Software, a
British-based assistive technology manufacturer. http://bit.ly/W1yhtE
• Mada-Vodafone to help people with disabilities by initiating
‘Accessibility for All’ initiative to provide permanent offers for
customers with disabilities. http://bit.ly/VivATT
• Check out the new #Braille Sonar App for #iOS (right)
• "Voice Guide" and "Explore by Touch" coming to Kindle Fire
and Kindle Fire HD 7" Early Next Year http://bit.ly/UhqQgk
• App aims to help blind visitors find their way around city
The 100m ClubInternet RegulationThe end of SMS?
3. Coming Up – three emerging themes
The end of the SMS?
On December 3rd 2012 the SMS turned 20.
The first ever text was sent on 3 December 1992, when a 22-year-old British engineer
called Neil Papworth used his computer to send the message “Merry Christmas” to an
Orbitel 901 mobile phone.
• Last year, global SMS traffic increased to 7.4 trillion messages, up 44% from 2010.
• Informa forecasts that SMS traffic will reach 9.4tn messages in 2016 and generate
US$127billion in revenue.
Images: http://bit.ly/Qi3fMm , http://bit.ly/oi843
But in markets with high smartphone penetration the
SMS may be in decline as tools like BBM and WhatsApp
become the messaging tools of choice.
• Ofcom reported that the first half of 2012 saw two quarterly declines in the volume of
SMS messages sent in the UK (Q1 2012: 39.1 billion; Q2 2012: 38.5 billion), falling
slightly from their peak of 39.7 billion in quarter 4 in 2011.
• However, the SMS isn’t dead yet. The UK regulator noted that:
– UK 12-15 year olds are the most prolific texters, sending an average of 193 texts every week,
almost four times as much as the UK average. More than double the figure 12 months ago.
– Girls text 35% more
than boys with older
girls (12-15 year olds)
sending an average of
221 messages a week.
– The average 8-11
year old sends 41
texts each week,
almost double the
number (23) sent in
3.2 Technology – 10 countries have 100m mobile subscriptions
3.3 Internet Governance:
- Vint Cerf on how we regulate the web
Writing for CNN, Vinton Cerf, Google's chief internet evangelist, outlined some of
his views on how the Internet should be regulated arguing against some of the
changes proposed at WCIT.
Here’s some key quotes:
Images: http://bit.ly/XMPBIT , http://bit.ly/12QwFbV
“Let us be clear: We do not advocate for an end to the ITU.
The UN agency has helped the world manage radio spectrum and wired and wireless
telephone networks, bringing much needed investment to the developing world.
But this inter-governmental agency is the wrong place to make decisions about the
future of the internet. Only governments have a vote at the ITU.
This includes governments that do not support a free and open internet.
Engineers, companies, and people that build and use the web have no vote.
The multi-stakeholder model of internet policy development that is the hallmark of the
Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers,
the Internet Governance Forum, the Regional Internet Registries, among many others, is the
only sensible way forward.”
Read the full article: http://bit.ly/QSEoV1
“While some governments argue that the
internet needs new global rules to speed
its rollout in the developing world, we
believe the present market-driven
approach is best positioned to keep up
with the net's exponential growth.
Broadband services are being rolled out.
Service interruptions remain rare.
Within a few years the net is predicted
to be serving four billion users –
more than half of humanity!”
“A state-controlled system of regulation is not only
unnecessary, it would almost invariably raise costs
and prices and interfere with the rapid and
organic growth of the internet we have seen since
its commercial emergence in the 1990s.”
Images: http://bit.ly/12HmnLT and http://bit.ly/YPCgzP
Read the full article: http://bit.ly/QSEoV1
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