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Where next for mobile 
in the Middle East? 
Damian Radcliffe @damianradcliffe 
Cardiff University November 2014
Running Order 
1) MENA overview 
2) Policy considerations 
3) Reasons for optimism
MENA 
overview 
Key points
1. Digital Pioneers 
Key Data Points: 
• UAE and Qatar have the world’s highest level of smartphone penetration (80%). 
• ...
2. Digital Divide 
Key Data Points: 
• Wide variance in advanced technologies usage e.g. 2G vs 3 or 4G. Tablets etc. 
• Wo...
3. Drivers of use vary 
Key Insights: 
• Has been an agent for change. 
• Status – not services – is often a driver for de...
4. Penetration vs Depth of Use 
Key Insights: 
• High levels of take-up, especially in GCC. 
But: 
• Lack of awareness, sk...
5. Balancing ICT and cultural values 
Key Data Points: 
• Internet users in the region want to see more filtering of onlin...
Moving Forward
1. Closing Digital Divides 
Key issues: 
• North Africa vs. GCC 
• Key Demographics: Women, Youth and Rural Communities. 
...
2. Plan now for new divides 
Key Points: 
• 2 and 3G vs 4 and 5G. 
• And potential solutions; like Mozilla's $25 smartphon...
3. Demand led new services 
Key Insights: 
• Meets consumer needs, not driven purely by tech possibilities. 
• Mobile frie...
4. Arabic Digital Content for Mobile 
Key Data Points: 
• Only 3% of the Internet is in Arabic. 
• But fifth most widely u...
5. Address privacy concerns 
Key Insights: 
• MENA audiences are strongly against data repurposing. 
• But less concerned ...
Reasons to be cheerful
1. MENA’s Youth Bulge 
Key Insights: 
• Tech savvy. Entrepreneurial. Want Arabic content. 
• Mobile natives. 
• Very heavy...
2. Great case studies exist 
• Anou is a mobile website allowing Moroccan artisans with low tech-skills to sell 
items dir...
3. New services and collaboration 
Key Insights: 
• MOU between GSMA and the 8 major mobile operators for network sharing....
4. Audiences find their own solutions 
Key Insights: 
• The rise of Chat Apps. 
• Conservations around closed networks on ...
5. Tech Parity 
Key Insight: 
• MENA households full of technology. Great foundation to move forward.
Find out more 
• We Are Social: Social, Digital & Mobile in 
The Middle East, North Africa & Turkey 
[July 2014] 
• GSMA: ...
Thanks for listening 
Damian Radcliffe is a journalist, researcher and analyst. 
He runs the Rassed research programme at ...
Where next for mobile in the Middle East?
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Where next for mobile in the Middle East?

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Slides for a conference on "Ubiquity, Mobility, Globality: Charting Directions in Mobile Phone Studies" hosted by the Center for Global Communication Studies, at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.

See: https://www.asc.upenn.edu/news-events/events/ubiquity-mobility-globality-charting-directions-mobile-phone-studies

I participated in a Panel on: "Mobile and its Effects on Global Markets" - http://www.global.asc.upenn.edu/app/uploads/2014/10/ubiquity-mobility-globality-agenda2.pdf

Published in: Education

Where next for mobile in the Middle East?

  1. 1. Where next for mobile in the Middle East? Damian Radcliffe @damianradcliffe Cardiff University November 2014
  2. 2. Running Order 1) MENA overview 2) Policy considerations 3) Reasons for optimism
  3. 3. MENA overview Key points
  4. 4. 1. Digital Pioneers Key Data Points: • UAE and Qatar have the world’s highest level of smartphone penetration (80%). • 50% of YouTube views in Saudi Arabia - and 40% in UAE - are via mobile devices. • Across 19 Arab countries there are 404 million mobile connections. – Up from 19 million in 2002. Only sub-Saharan Africa has seen faster growth.
  5. 5. 2. Digital Divide Key Data Points: • Wide variance in advanced technologies usage e.g. 2G vs 3 or 4G. Tablets etc. • World Bank has reported that 60% of people in Algeria, Djibouti, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen, "cannot afford fixed and/or mobile broadband services". • There are 195 million subscribers for MENA’s 404 million mobile connections.
  6. 6. 3. Drivers of use vary Key Insights: • Has been an agent for change. • Status – not services – is often a driver for device ownership.
  7. 7. 4. Penetration vs Depth of Use Key Insights: • High levels of take-up, especially in GCC. But: • Lack of awareness, skills, issues of DRM and availability, often means low breadth and depth of technology usage (e.g. number of apps used, or even downloaded).
  8. 8. 5. Balancing ICT and cultural values Key Data Points: • Internet users in the region want to see more filtering of online content. • Especially material which could be harmful to children, pornography and racist/discriminatory content. • Traditional methods of banking and commerce – face-to-face – prevail.
  9. 9. Moving Forward
  10. 10. 1. Closing Digital Divides Key issues: • North Africa vs. GCC • Key Demographics: Women, Youth and Rural Communities. • Skills. • Affordability. • Infrastructure.
  11. 11. 2. Plan now for new divides Key Points: • 2 and 3G vs 4 and 5G. • And potential solutions; like Mozilla's $25 smartphone
  12. 12. 3. Demand led new services Key Insights: • Meets consumer needs, not driven purely by tech possibilities. • Mobile friendly.
  13. 13. 4. Arabic Digital Content for Mobile Key Data Points: • Only 3% of the Internet is in Arabic. • But fifth most widely used language worldwide, spoken by at least 293 million . • More articles on Wikipedia in Norwegian than Arabic.
  14. 14. 5. Address privacy concerns Key Insights: • MENA audiences are strongly against data repurposing. • But less concerned about being monitored online data collection. • Transparency of industry practice; and improved consumer awareness needed.
  15. 15. Reasons to be cheerful
  16. 16. 1. MENA’s Youth Bulge Key Insights: • Tech savvy. Entrepreneurial. Want Arabic content. • Mobile natives. • Very heavy users of technology – yet also feel ICT is detrimental to family relationships, despite preferring electronic interaction above face-to-face.
  17. 17. 2. Great case studies exist • Anou is a mobile website allowing Moroccan artisans with low tech-skills to sell items directly to online buyers around the globe. http://www.theanou.com/about
  18. 18. 3. New services and collaboration Key Insights: • MOU between GSMA and the 8 major mobile operators for network sharing. • 3G and 4G roll out in markets – e.g. Iraq and Algeria - previously left behind.
  19. 19. 4. Audiences find their own solutions Key Insights: • The rise of Chat Apps. • Conservations around closed networks on the rise. • Instagram and WhatsApp as tools for mCommerce.
  20. 20. 5. Tech Parity Key Insight: • MENA households full of technology. Great foundation to move forward.
  21. 21. Find out more • We Are Social: Social, Digital & Mobile in The Middle East, North Africa & Turkey [July 2014] • GSMA: The Mobile Economy 2014, ARAB STATES [October 2014] • ictQATAR: Research round-ups (monthly and quarterly) “The attitudes of online users in the MENA region to cybersafety, security and data privacy.” [En/Ar] (September 2014) • World Bank: Report, Broadband Networks in the Middle East and North Africa: Accelerating High–Speed Internet Access (February 2014)
  22. 22. Thanks for listening Damian Radcliffe is a journalist, researcher and analyst. He runs the Rassed research programme at Ministry of Information and Communications Technology in Qatar; and is an Honorary Research Fellow and PhD Student at Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. He has written about the Middle East, journalism, technology and innovation for a range of outlets including: Abramis Academic Publishing, BBC College of Journalism, Huffington Post, journalism.co.uk, Knowledge Bridge (Media Development Loan Fund), NESTA, Online Journalism Blog, Ofcom, Routledge, Your Middle East and ZDNet. View Damian’s extensive writing and research portfolio at: www.damianradcliffe.wordpress.com/writing or email him damian.radcliffe@gmail.com

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