The Arab World Online 2017-2021: Digital Transformations and Societal Trends in the Age of the 4th Industrial Revolution
The Arab World Online Policy Report Series
48 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2017 Last revised: 13 May 2020
Date Written: October 25, 2017
How will the existence of one billion personal “Internet of Things” devices in 2021 affect Arab societies? What economic impact will 26.7 billion dollars of online monthly spending in the Arab region have? In 2021 how will 100% mobile penetration and 80% social media penetration rates in the Arab region transform the way people do business and interact with governments? These are some of the growth figures projected in this report based on the analysis of a decade of data related to information and communication technologies growth in the Arab region, as well as a current regional survey examining online usage trends, perceptions and concerns around a new breed of digital transformations in the Arab region. By 2021, it is projected that 47 million new internet users, 45 million new mobile broadband users and around 160 million new social media users will come online in the Arab region. Today, a new tidal wave of digital-age transformation is triggering historic societal changes across the Arab region. The main drivers of these radical changes are the rapid and large-scale digitization—and datafication—of Arab societies, the rise of smart cities implementations, the maturity of cognitive government approaches and the expanding impact of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR). This report, a third in a pioneering series of regional studies on societal digital transformation in the Arab region, aims to draw a comprehensive picture of many aspects the Arab World’s next phase of digital transformation. It examines a wide spectrum of societal perceptions, preferences, practices and concerns related to a new breed of digital technologies related to the 4IR. Based on thorough data analysis, and a regional survey of 20 thousand participants, the report includes the following:
1. Quantified insight into societal readiness and concerns about the following digital technologies associated with Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR):
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications;
- AI-based bots for business, commercial and political uses;
- Internet of Things (IoT) implementations;
- 3D printing;
- Driverless cars and autonomous vehicles;
- Drones and Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs);
- Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality;
- Blockchain applications;
2. Cybersecurity and Cyber-threats in the Region:
- Number of incidents related to cyber threats in the region;
- Perceptions on encryption;
- Concerns on cyberterrorism and cybercrimes;
- Cyberbullying, hacking identity theft, data breaches, ransomware and commercial exploitation;
- “Fake news” online concerns;
- Usage of cybersecurity applications (VPN, encryption, ad. blockers, passwords, etc.)
3. Internet of Things (IoT):
- First regional estimates of quantities of personal Internet of Things (IoT) in the region;
- Uses and breakdowns on IoT uses across the region;
- Smart home and Smart living usage trends in the region;
- Wearable IoTs and HETs, including smart watches, bracelets, VR headgear;
- Connected cars and mobility IoTs;
- Health and wellbeing IoTs;
- Home computing IoTs, including laptops, tablets, gaming, smart TVs, entertainment systems;
- Virtual Personal Assistants usage (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, etc.);
- Physical security systems, smart energy, smart meters.
4. The Apps economy:
- Numbers and uses of Smart phones in the Arab region;
- Voice and Video calling apps behaviors (Skype, etc.);
- Peer-to-peer and Instant messaging apps behaviors (including WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger), including for personal and professional uses.
5. Sharing Economy Services:
- Usage trends of sharing economy apps (including Careem, Uber, AirBnB, etc.);
- Societal impact of sharing economy apps;
- Concerns on sharing economy apps in the Arab region.
6. Online spending in the Arab region:
- Estimates of monthly regional spending and behaviors over two years;
- Trends in e-commerce and retail spending.
7. ICT Growth Trends in the Arab region 2010-2021:
- Mobile subscriptions and penetration;
- Internet subscriptions and penetration;
- Mobile broadband subscriptions and penetration;
- Fixed Broadband subscriptions and penetration;
- Fixed telephone subscriptions and penetration.
8. Behaviors of Internet Users in the Arab region:
- Online language preferences in the Arab region;
- Time spent online by device;
- News consumption online;
- Video and entertainment content consumption online;
- Internet cost, quality and access views.
9. Digital Government the Arab region:
- Open Data and Open Government views;
- Electronic participation in public policy;
- Preferences and satisfaction in government mobile apps, social media and portals.
The objective providing this rich and comprehensive data in the report is to inform policymakers and business decision makers in the Arab region on the scope and scale of these societal transformations. By doing so, it aims to contribute to evidence-based policy responses by governments, support business decision-making, and eventually contribute to efforts towards development and growth of the Arab knowledge economy in the ongoing era of the “4th Industrial Revolution” (4IR). The report explores policy directions related to privacy and ethical concerns as well as skills and education policy directions based on the findings.
Keywords: Digital Transformation, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, ICT, Cybersecurity, e-commerce, Robotics, Bots, cybercrimes, smart phones, apps
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