By Telecom Lead Team: ITU is looking for ensuring a
transparent and predictable regulatory environment that fosters investment,
stimulates competition and helps reduce prices for ICT services in the Middle
Data from ITU’s ICT Adoption and Prospects in the Arab
Region 2012 report reveal that, over the past five years, mobile cellular
subscriptions has almost tripled, from 126 million in 2006, to nearly 350
million in 2011. At the beginning of this year, regional mobile cellular
penetration reached 97 percent, ten percent higher than global penetration.
However, the report warns that such figures can obscure wide
disparities between the region’s hyper-connected economies and its less
connected nations. For every 100 people in Saudi Arabia, there are around 188
mobile phone subscriptions; in Djibouti, there are fewer than 20.
More than 80 percent of the population in Qatar uses the
Internet, but the figure is below five percent in Mauritania, Iraq and Somalia.
Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with their higher incomes, have
more than twice as many Internet users per 100 inhabitants as non-GCC
ITU estimates show that less than 30 percent of the
population was online at end 2011. Fixed broadband penetration stood at just
above two per cent – well below most other regions, and under the world average
of around nine per cent.
In the 21st century broadband networks must be considered
basic infrastructure, just like roads, railways, water and power networks.
Broadband is a powerful social and economic enabler, and will help accelerate
progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, now just three years away,” said
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun TourÃ©.
The Middle East region’s active mobile broadband penetration
– estimated at around 13 per cent – lies below the world average of 17 per
According to ITU’s ICT Development Index (IDI), of the
16 Arab States included in the index, five lost ground between 2008 and 2010
and dropped in the global ranking. Four countries maintained their positions
and seven (Algeria, Comoros, Egypt, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia)
improved their IDI rankings. Top of the regional list was the UAE, which was in
32nd place out of 152 in the global IDI rankings. Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi
Arabia filled places 44, 45 and 46, respectively.