Internet users in the Arab world are expected to register 197 million in 2017, indicating a penetration of 51%, up from 32% in 2012, according to a report by Dubai-based research firms Madar Resarch and Devleopment and Orient Planet.
The increase would register approximately 3% above the world average at the time, the report added.
Released on Tuesday, the Arab Knowledge Economy Report is the first of its kind, providing an in-depth look into the economic and innovation potential of Arab countries.
According to the study, the number of internet users in 18 Arab countries in 2012 surpassed 111.7 million, marking an 18.8% increase compared to the preceding year, when the number of users registered 93.8 million.
“Internet user growth is being driven by steady progress shown in traditionally low-penetrated countries, such as Tunisia, Yemen and Sudan,” the study said, noting that Tunisia registered the “strongest” growth in internet users in 2012, as it grew by 31.5% year on year.
The study also said that the Arab World has recorded the largest growth in Internet users since 2001, compared with other regions in the world; the number of citizens accessing the Internet in the region has soared by more than 600%.
Although most of the Arab countries have accomplished significant progress in the knowledge and innovation sector, much still needs to be done, the report read. The countries will face “many challenges” in transforming into an information-based economy, the report added, “which requires implementation of key cross-sectoral reforms in education, research and innovation, and Information Communication Technology (ICT) domains, among others”.
In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, the number of internet users is forecasted to reach more than 40 million by the end of 2017, marking a 67% increase, the study said, noting that the GCC countries comprise the 12th largest economic region with a 4.03% GDP growth in 2013.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology reported in May that around 138,000 new users entered the internet market in the first quarter of 2014, adding that the total number of internet users in Egypt rose to 2.77 million by the end of March, compared to 2.63 million in December, marking a 5.2% increase.