Number of Arab internet users set to hit 197m
More than half the population is forecast to be online by 2017, says report
The number of internet users in the Arab world is expected to reach 197 million by 2017, a penetration of over 51 percent from 32 percent in 2012, according to the first ever Arab Knowledge Economy Report 2014.
The report is a joint study done by Madar Research & Development and Orient Planet with an aim to research and examine the components and characteristics of the Arab Knowledge Economy and its contribution towards the overall development of the region’s economy.
The Arab Knowledge Economy Report 2014 focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of the region’s economy along with the opportunities and risks associated with it. The statistics and other valuable information featured in the report could act as an essential guide for government planners, economists as well as local, regional and global business communities in the move to acquire, create, disseminate and use knowledge more effectively for greater economic and social development.
Abdul Kader Al Kamli, CEO, Madar Research & Development, said: “Some of today’s developing countries will be tomorrow’s vibrant economies in the global market, which makes investment in innovation and education critical for transformation to a knowledge-based economy. The shift is highly significant in the Arab World, as it will enable a landscape of technological innovation, promote competitiveness, and empower local population with professional skills. Having realized the importance of knowledge-based economy in the socio-economic growth of a country, the GCC countries have launched their e-Governance programs, while Dubai, on the other hand, have entered into the next phase with the recent launch of Dubai Smart Governance. We are confident that the first Arab Knowledge Economy Report will be a great reference manual for Arab organizations, as they strategically plan their agenda for smooth transition based on knowledge and innovation. The report will also be useful for multinational corporations and businesses operating in the region along with potential investors in achieving outstanding financial growth.”
Nidal Abou Zaki, Managing Director, Orient Planet, said: “The 2014 Arab Knowledge Economy Report has been developed with an intention to provide critical and up-to-date information about the region in order to assess its position in terms of forming knowledge economies, which is decisive in formulating the framework to move forward. Our report is especially crucial to the assessment and development of the four major pillars of a knowledge economy; namely, Education and Training, Information Infrastructure, Economic Incentive and Institutional Regime, and Innovation Systems. Most of the Arab countries have made significant progress in establishing a knowledge-based economy and society. With its wealth in natural and financial resources, huge investments in technology infrastructure and visionary leadership, the region is rapidly catching up with progressive countries in terms of digital innovations.”
The report said the Arab countries are heading towards knowledge economy by improving their education sector through the adoption of new technologies, investment in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure, building firm research and development programs, and improvement in the overall business environment. The public-private partnership (PPP) is required to ensure smooth progress in knowledge related indicators and build an entrepreneurial culture that supports innovation. The UAE leads the Middle East with a global ranking of 38 in overall innovation performance while Dubai is the first city in the region to establish first knowledge clusters, including Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Knowledge Village. The UAE’s transformation to a knowledge-based economy is currently a key priority for the country with several innovations seen across prime economic sectors such as oil & gas, construction, healthcare and hospitality.
The report further said GCC countries comprise the 12th largest economic region in the world with a recorded gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 4.03 percent in 2013. The GCC also dominates the Arab World with its GDP of USD 1640.83 billion in 2013. Overall, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ranks first in the GCC and 19th in the world with $745.30 billion as GDP, followed by the UAE with a GDP of $398.32 billion.
Qatar, with a population of 1.91 million, emerges as the richest country per capita in the GCC and the second richest in the world with $105,169 in 2013, followed by Kuwait with $47,265.
In 2013, the GCC witnessed a population growth of 3.68 percent with Qatar leading at 11.36 percent, followed by the UAE at 5 percent due to the large influx of foreign workers. The local population of the UAE and Qatar comprise of 13 percent and 14 percent, respectively, of the total population.
The UAE topped the Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) among Arab countries, while it stood at 42 globally with a score of 6.94, closely followed by Bahrain at 6.9 and Oman at 6.14.
To date, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) have granted 858 patents to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, positioning it 29th in the world. Kuwait is at second place with 272 patents and Egypt at third with 212 patents, so far.
Madar Research & Development and Orient Planet have created a new Arab e-Performance Index based on six important global indexes, which includes the Global Competitiveness Index, Networked Readiness Index (NRI), ICT Development Index (IDI), Global Innovation Index, Knowledge Economy Index (KEI), and e-Government Development Index. For the Arab e-Performance Index for 2013-2014, Bahrain leads the GCC with an average of 66.55 followed by the UAE at 65.68.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on May 28, 2014