Middle East technology: The good, the bad and the ugly told in these key stats

We've pulled together 19 facts and statistics that shed light on tech in this complex region.

Uber is in the Middle East to stay, buys main rival Uber acquires Middle East ride-hailing service Careem in $3.1 billion deal.

The Middle East and North Africa region is large and diverse, with a correspondingly complex relationship to changes in technology.

Its nations are seeking to harness the potential of blockchain, automated transport and smart cities, grappling with the potential for fintech and online shopping, as well as addressing cybersecurity issues and complicated relationships with VoIP and messaging app providers.

Because of that complexity, we've identified a set of key facts and statistics to help you understand take-up and usage of tech in the region.

Middle East broadband and internet usage

  • The region has fewer than 10 broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. Yet the region has more than 120 mobile phone subscriptions for every 100 inhabitants. This is one of the highest mobile subscription levels in the world. Source: World Bank, October 2018
  • In five years, the region will have 549 million internet users. That's 32% of the population, up from 388 million, or 23%, in 2017. Source: Cisco, February 2019
  • In Israel, 88% of adults own a smartphone phone, one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world. Just 2% have no mobile at all. Source: Pew Research Center, February 2019
  • Countries such as Palestine, Iraq, and Algeria have some of the slowest mobile internet speeds in the world. Qatar is the only country in the region in the top 10. Source: Hootsuite and We Are Social, January 2019
hootsuitewearesocialjan19mobilespeeds.jpg

Qatar is the only country in the region to rank among the world's best nations for mobile internet connection speeds.  

Image: Hootsuite/We Are Social

Middle East data usage

The average mobile subscriber in the region consumes 3.7GB of data per month, one of the lowest amounts in the world. This is predicted to rise to 19GB a month by 2024. Source: GSMA, February 2019 

IP traffic is growing fastest in the Middle East and North Africa, followed by Asia Pacific. Traffic in the region will grow at a CAGR of 41% between 2017 and 2022. Source: Cisco, February 2019

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Average data consumption by mobile subscribers in the region is among the lowest in the world.

Image: GSMA

The future of mobile

  • There are expected to be 30 million 5G subscriptions in the Middle East and North Africa in five years' time. The first commercial 5G deployments in the region are expected to launch in 2019. Source: Ericsson, February 2019
  • Mobile broadband subscriptions across the region are predicted to double in the next six years, up from 860 million in 2018 to 1.63 billion in 2024. Source: Ericsson, February 2019
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Mobile broadband subscriptions are predicted to double in the next six years to 1.63 billion.

Image: Ericsson

Social media in the Middle East

  • The UAE and Qatar with 99% and Kuwait on 92% have some of the highest levels of social-media penetration in the world. South Sudan has one of the lowest with 1.8%. Source: Hootsuite and We Are Social, January 2019
  • Among internet users, just 9% of Qatari nationals use Facebook. This compares with 90% of Egyptians and 38% of Saudi nationals who go online. Five years ago, the number of Qatari nationals using Facebook stood at 47%. Source: Northwestern University in Qatar, February 2019
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Among internet users, just 9% of Qatari nationals use Facebook.

Image: Northwestern University in Qatar

Middle East's digital divides

  • In the region, 44% of people have access to mobile broadband but do not subscribe to it. Source: GSMA, February 2019 
  • Some 75% of Tunisians aged between 18 and 34 years own a smartphone, compared with just 18% of those aged over 50 years. One in 10 Tunisians reports owning no mobile at all. Source: Pew Research Center, February 2019
  • By 2022, the region's average fixed broadband speed will reach 20.2Mbps, considerably behind the global average of 75.4Mbps. Although this represents 2.6-fold growth from 2017's 7.8Mbps, average fixed broadband speeds will still be the slowest of any region in the world. Source: Cisco, February 2019

Region

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

2022

CAGR

(2017–2022)

Global

39.0

45.9

52.9

60.4

67.9

75.4

14%

Asia Pacific

46.2

62.8

79.4

87.5

92.7

98.8

16%

Latin America

11.7

15.7

19.7

22.0

25.0

28.1

19%

North America

43.2

56.6

70.1

79.6

87.9

94.2

17%

Western Europe

37.9

45.6

53.2

60.8

68.4

76.0

15%

Central and Eastern Europe

32.8

35.0

37.2

40.8

43.7

46.7

7%

Middle East and Africa

7.8

9.7

11.7

15.7

17.6

20.2

21%

By 2022, the region's average fixed broadband speed will reach 20.2Mbps. Image: Cisco

Tech startups

Middle East unicorn Careem, a ride-hailing service, now has more than one million drivers, known as 'captains'. Uber acquired the company at the end of March 2019, in a deal worth $3.1bn. Source: Careem, March 2019

Nearly 40% of the region's most successful startups come from the UAE. Amazon's acquisition of ecommerce platform Souq.com for $580m holds the previous record for the region. Source: Wamda, February 2019

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Nearly 40% of the region's most successful startups come from the UAE.

Image: Wamda

Employment

University graduates constitute nearly 30% of the unemployed pool in the Middle East and North Africa. Unemployment among Arab youth was a major driver in the Arab Spring. Source: World Bank, October 2018

Some 92% of employees in the Middle East would be willing to consider working on a freelance basis, just behind Mexico with 94%, and China on 93%. "Yet developing a strategy to attract and retain gig workers is near the bottom of the list of HR priorities for 2019." Source: Mercer's 2019 Global Talent Trends study, February 2019

Regulation

Of the 193 member states that are part of the ITU, 45% have no clear policy statement on net neutrality. This is highest in the Arab States, with 80% of countries, and the Americas with 71.4%. Source: UN Broadband Commission, September 2018

In Lebanon, Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, there is a desire for tighter internet regulation. Among Arab nationals, only internet users in Qatar and Tunisia took a contrary view. Source: Northwestern University in Qatar, February 2019

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In Lebanon, Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, there is a desire for tighter internet regulation.

Image: Northwestern University in Qatar

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