We live and work in a 24/7 connected world, with more people spending a growing portion of their day online.
According to the 2018 Global Digital reports from Hootsuite and We are Social, an incredible 4 billion more people worldwide are using the internet – this translates to an estimated half of the world’s population is now online and this represents an increase of 7 percent year on year. We are also spending more time on the internet, with the average now estimated at third of our day online – according to Global Web Index. Just imagine eight out of every 24 hours of the day, over two days a week or 104 days of the year.
What I found even more interesting here, is the behavior pattern, which directly links the time spent online with how long the individual has been using the internet for. A survey conducted by Mideastmedia.org in 2017, found that GCC nationals who had used the internet for more than two years, spent a min of 21 hours per week online, and for those who had used it for more than 10 years, spent a minimum of 29 hours per week online.
What keeps us online and connected? At a consumer level there are multiple reasons but the desire to be up to speed with the latest developments, gossip and news around the world is one of the biggest drivers. We don’t like to not be in the loop. Also, the personal as well as professional need to communicate with people, businesses, and other networks across different geographies with no downtime keeps us ‘consuming content and eating up bandwidth’. The impact is that our world has changed thanks to the internet and it’s all about the ‘now’ now.
Social media uptake is also on the rise, with more than 3 billion (increase of 13% year on year) people not wanting to be ‘left out’ around the world and using social media each month and surprise, surprise 90 percent of us doing this on our mobiles – we are a society on the move whether we are in Mali, Massachusetts or the Middle East we aren’t in one place very long. This accelerated adoption of the internet and social media platforms boils down to ease of access to the net and affordability of data plans and Apple & Samsung.
In the Middle East, WhatsApp use is huge, with majority of people in communities using it across the region – an incredible two thirds of the population. Whether it’s to chat to a friend in Dubai or your Mum in India or to get the latest updates about the school fete or the teachers birthday present there are large parts of every society using it.
Approximately 75 percent of internet users across the Middle East region use Wi-Fi or mobile data packages to connect, according to data from Global Web Index. It’s important to note here that use of Wi-Fi varies across different markets in the region, depending on infrastructure and Wi-Fi accessibility. UAE scores the highest with 97 percent of the population using Wi-Fi to go online, followed closely by 91 percent in Lebanon, 87 percent in Qatar and 81 percent in KSA.
Connectivity demands are only going to grow year-on-year with accelerated adoption of internet of things (IoT) worldwide, as well as greater use of tech and Wi-Fi to share critical data in a number of industries including healthcare, transport and retail. The sharing of content generally will increase exponentially, with video streaming on the rise and one of the main drivers of Internet traffic going into the future. The Middle East and Africa region is predicted to experience the biggest growth in internet traffic over the next five years.
Regional governments, operators are ahead of the curve and have already started investing heavily in infrastructures, with the GCC states among the first in the world to deploy commercial 5G networks. Operators such as Etisalat and Ooredoo are already conducting 5G trials. The ultimate objective being enhanced performance and increased capacity, providing users & businesses with state of the art IoT and communication services. In the UAE, mobile IoT networks have been successfully set up to connect sensors securely and ensure that critical state initiatives such as UAE’s Smart Dubai are a success by providing uninterrupted, secure, scalable connectivity in a heavily congested urban environment.
Another huge collaboration worthy of a mention, is Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, joining with Softbank, and other investors including Apple, Qualcomm and Abu Dhabi based Mubadala to launch an incredible USD 93 billion global technology investment fund aimed at AI, Robotics and VR. So many exciting initiatives to write about and will keep you updated in my upcoming writings.
Technology is the future and the Middle East region is very much on the forefront of this with exciting announcements being made on a regular basis, securing investments and collaborations with leading multinational tech brands to build a future ready economy and, truly advanced connected communities.