GCC countries achieved significant shifts in ICT use during the past two decades, making a huge difference in the services provided to users as they advance their digital infrastructure, according to the GCC ICT Use Index 2021, a report recently released by Orient Planet Research (OPR), an independent unit of Orient Planet Group (OPG), in collaboration with independent researcher and information and communications technology (ICT) expert Abdul Kader Al Kamli.
The report stated that GCC countries had strengthened their leading position at both regional and international levels with an increase of more than 98 per cent of internet users in 2021 and regional mobile subscribers now accounting for 137.66 per cent of its total population.
According to the report, the continuous entry of more private mobile service providers to the region has accelerated the rapid development of ICT services in the GCC countries, leading to a significant increase in users. Further, the region’s ICT development has helped strengthen its digital economy, enhanced the level of productivity and competitiveness, and created new methods to ensure direct access to the government e-Services, while keeping pace with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Nidal Abou Zaki, Managing Director, OPG, said: “The GCC countries have an advanced ICT infrastructure, making them highly competitive at the regional and global levels. Their robust digital transformation efforts and high scores in key ICT indicators show that the region is well-equipped to adapt to the changes brought about by the global ICT revolution that has been taking place since the 1990s. Moreover, the progress made in terms of the wide use of ICT created a positive impact on enhancing the lifestyle of citizens, strengthening the role of the digital economy, and positioning the Gulf countries as global ICT leaders, backed by a vision to keep pace with future developments and the implementation of economic diversification strategies for a post-oil era.”
Abou Zaki emphasized that the GCC countries are determined to accelerate their digital transformation and provide 100 per cent digital government services to the public. He added that the GCC region continues its efforts to offer digital government services which are shaping the future of governments and are utilizing the full potentials of the digital economy whether at the level of individuals, companies, or governments. These services enable the seamless exchange of data and information, increase productivity, boost competitiveness, and enhance human capacity development.
Abdul Kader Al Kamli said: “The GCC ICT Use Index report highlights internet and telecommunications prevalence in Arab Gulf communities. The report indicates four sub-indicators based on population and considers the high relative importance of ICT services and their implications on economies. It underlines the association between increased levels of broadband internet prevalence and significant economic gains, leading to higher gross domestic product (GDP) per capita growth.”
Based on the Gulf ICT Use Index and data from International Telecommunications Union, the prevalence of internet and telecommunications services in GCC countries is significantly above the global average. It is almost the highest globally in all regions, with the proportion of internet users in GCC countries compared with the population reaching 98.21 per cent, while the world average is 63 per cent. Total mobile subscribers in GCC countries account for about 137.66 per cent of the population, while the world average is approximately 55 per cent.
Data also indicated that, on average, the number of subscribers in fixed broadband services relative to the population was 20.88 per cent in the GCC countries. In comparison, the percentage of mobile broadband services subscribers averaged 138 per cent of the total population.
The UAE took the lead in the GCC ICT Use Index for 2021, achieving 5.43 points, followed by Kuwait with 3.74 points. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia ranked third with 3.64 points; Qatar, fourth with 3.62 points; Oman, fifth with 3.49 points; and Bahrain, sixth with 3.38 points.
According to the report, the UAE landed first in the total ranking for topping the four sub-indicators. The country ranked first in the number of internet users’ indicator with a rating of 100 per cent; mobile telephone service subscriber indicator with 185.78 per cent; fixed broadband subscription indicator with 32.81 per cent; and mobile broadband subscription indicator with 224.24 per cent.
Meanwhile, Kuwait ranked second with 3.74 points based on the sub-indicators. The country landed fourth in the number of internet users with a score of 98.60 per cent; second in the mobile telephone service subscriber indicator with 158.53 per cent; sixth in the fixed broadband subscription indicator with 1.73 per cent; and second in the mobile broadband subscription indicator with 127.44 per cent.
Saudi Arabia came third with 3.64 points, after it had advanced ranking in several sub- indicators. The Kingdom ranked fifth in the number of internet users at 97.86 per cent, with its score in the mobile service subscribers reaching 124.13 per cent; second in the fixed broadband subscriptions, 22.66 per cent; and fourth in the mobile broadband subscriptions, 118.86 per cent.
With 3.62 points, Qatar ranked fourth. The country was second in the number of Internet users (99.65%); fourth in the mobile service subscribers (131.84%); fourth in the fixed broadband subscriptions (10.28%); and third in mobile broadband subscriptions (120.31%).
Oman followed fifth with 3.49 points. It scored sixth in the number of internet users with a rating of 95.23 per cent; third in the mobile subscribers and fixed broadband subscriptions, 133.85 per cent and 10.85 per cent, respectively; and fifth in the mobile broadband subscriptions, 114.85 per cent.
Bahrain ranked sixth with 3.38 points. The country gained the third spot in the number of internet users with a rating of 99.54 per cent; sixth in the mobile telephone services subscribers (102.77%); fifth in the fixed broadband subscriptions (8.73%); and sixth in the mobile broadband subscriptions (109.37 per cent).
The findings also revealed that the UAE had the highest number of landlines among GCC countries as compared to its population with a score of 24.07 per cent, followed by Saudi Arabia (16.51%), Qatar (15.78%), Bahrain (15.67%), Kuwait (13.66%), and Oman (12.68%).
The GCC ICT Use Index report 2021 reviewed the member countries’ internet access services and their role in strengthening the digital economy. The report found that the UAE ranked first among GCC countries in terms of international bandwidth per internet user (bit/s), with an internet user share of 0.551 Mbps. Bahrain followed with an internet user share of 0.454 Mbps and Saudi Arabia with an internet user share of 0.351 Mbps. Qatar ranked fourth with an internet user share of 0.184 Mbps; Kuwait, fifth with an internet user share of 0.167 Mbps; and Oman, sixth with an internet user share of 0.152 Mbps.