"Over the past five years, the Arab States region has made significant progress when it comes to ICT uptake. The number of mobile-cellular subscriptions in the region has almost tripled, from 126 million in 2006, to nearly 350 million by the end of 2011, when mobile-cellular penetration reached 97 per cent - ten per cent higher than the world average. At the same time, Internet usage, and in particular broadband Internet access, is still limited. Based on ITU estimates, less than 30 per cent of the population in the region were online at the end of 2011 and fixed broadband penetration stood at just above two per cent, well below most other regions and the world average of around nine per cent. While most countries in the region have launched 3G mobile-broadband services, and more and more people are using the mobile network to access the Internet, the region’s active-mobile broadband penetration – estimated at around 13 per cent – lies below the world average of 17 per cent.
In terms of the Arab States regional initiatives, a country-by-county comparison shows that one of the key challenges in the region is to further expand the roll-out of broadband networks, particularly to rural and remote areas. By fostering the digital switchover, governments can also take advantage of digital broadcasting technologies, including Mobile and Internet Protocol TV. This report highlights that the region has witnessed significant growth in the supply of Arabic digital content in the form of online portals and applications. Regulators are also progressing in establishing Arabic domain names, which will promote local content and languages, and help more people join the information society. To this end, governments are encouraged to provide regional media players, as well as local entrepreneurs, with incentives to increase the supply of local content. Finally, the report concludes that ICT developments in the region could be accelerated by enhancing the development of open-source software and improving cybersecurity. Some governments have been proactive and abundant opportunities remain to create more accessible, and safer applications and services.
To ensure that all citizens in the region can fully benefit from the potential of ICTs, there are a number of steps that governments could take. These include ensuring a transparent and predictable regulatory environment that fosters investment, increases competition in both fixed (wired) and wireless technologies and helps reduce prices for ICT services. Countries are further encouraged to formulate an ICT plan or strategy and set concrete targets which can help evaluate policies, track progress, and identify shortcomings in their markets."