State of the Middle East: Global Digital Statshot of Q3 2020

The last few months of 2020 have really turned the world upside down. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a surge of people working from home (a first in many countries where the culture for it wasn’t even present) and schools switching to online learning. Online activity spiked as if a new trend almost broke the Internet.

As always, we have We Are Social and Hootsuite to thank for their quarterly insights report. The past quarter has really highlighted what apps, platforms, and services really became essential (if that’s how I’d describe it) for people around the world. I’m here to help highlight what’s important for the Middle East region just like the previous ones.

Without much further ado, let’s dive in to see how the world navigated COVID-19 pandemic from their homes.

Social Media and Internet FTW

Backbone of everything that happens online is the Internet, and that also saw a significant number of people coming online for the first time. It’s definite that more than 55% of the world’s population is now online through some form of electronic device.

With the Middle East, it’s always the battle of who has the fastest Internet connection speeds. Mobile is quite prevalent in the region, and the month of July clearly puts only three countries in the Top 10 worldwide with the fastest mobile internet connection speeds: UAE (#2 with 107.53 Mbps), Qatar (#4 with 83.83 Mbps), and then Saudi Arabia (#10 with 66.54 Mbps). This clearly puts them above the global average of 34.7 Mbps.

When it comes to the fixed connection speeds, no Middle East country cracked the Top 10 rankings as it’s mostly Asia dominating the list.

Ad blockers have been on the rise worldwide as browser makers take steps to integrate them. Just in the past months, the average percentage of users who used ad blockers was at 47%. Internet users in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE ranked above the average by a good margin, which clearly implies that users are taking more measures to avoid ad pop-ups bothering them while browsing from home.

With video conferencing usage skyrocketing and multiple brands jumping in to scale up their backend to cope with demand, there isn’t a country-level breakdown but the uptick has been felt on a global level.

Social Media in the Middle East

With estimates of the global population at around 7 billion, the biggest highlight is that more than half the world has been using social media in the past months.

Comparing the active social media users to the population of each country, the UAE has come out on the top with Saudi Arabia trailing 10 places behind. It puts both countries in the Middle East above the worldwide 51% average.

When it comes to daily time spent on social media, the worldwide average puts it at 2hrs and 22 min. UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and India (in order from largest to smallest) cleary put them above that threshold. It shows just how much the lockdown confinements have played into their online activity; turns out Facebook is the dominant social network.

Shopping online

E-Commerce adoption isn’t that high in the Middle East region, but that changed in the past months. The worldwide avarage of ecommerce adoption puts it at 74%, but the Middle East has few countries that put them below that mark. Saudi Arabia saw 72%, followed by UAE at 66% and then Egypt at the end with 54%.

Mobile e-commerce paints a different picture, where 52% of users worldwide purchased something via their mobile device. Saudi Arabia is above that average with 62%; this is likely due to the prevalence of mobile devices in the country and the ubiquity it brings along. UAe is just below the avarage with 49%, followed by Egypt at 39%.

Putting the annual ecommerce growth rate into perspective, the worldwide a verage puts it at 18%. UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have it at 34%, 21%, and 20% respectively.

Quite a read, isn’t it? Those are just some of the key takeaways from the latest report. If you’re interested in seeing it all in more details, it’s embedded below. Happy reading!

Author: Yasser Masood

Think of me as a grassroots community evangelist. Juggling social media while covering technology/digital trends across the Middle East and crossroads of society and culture, while unearthing other perspectives that pique my interests.

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