The Arab Digital Generation

ArabDigitalGens

Internet use is low but rising in the Arab world. One group is ahead of the curve, however: the so-called Arab digital generation. These young, enthusiastic users of information technology show distinct characteristics, both in their approach to IT and in other aspects of their lives. This brief examines the group, based on Understanding the Arab Digital Generation, a 2012 report produced through a collaboration between Booz and Co. and Google, and several supplemental sources.

3 KEY FINDINGS

  • The “Arab digital generation” is a small fraction of the population of the Middle East and North Africa, but may be a leading indicator.
  • Its members are far more immersed in IT than the average person in the Arab world.
  • A key uncertainty that bears watching is whether the group provides early indication of a more connected future for consumers in the region, or is a distinct outlier.

3 WAYS TO DEFINE THE GENERATION

About 10 million people comprise the ADG. They represent only a fraction (4%) of the world’s 260 million most active technology users. But their numbers are growing, and the ADG is projected to reach 13 million by 2014.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has a young population. Some 40% were born between 1977 and 1997.

A subset of this cohort is highly active online, and Understanding the Arab Digital Generation examines this group, which the report abbreviates as ADG. Its members are highly educated, highly connected, and the Arab world’s lead users of Internet and mobile technology. The report defines this group as:

  • 15-to-35-year-olds
  • Consistent Internet users who own a computer or smartphone
  • Members of at least one social media site

SOCIAL MEDIA USE

As of 2012, social media use for selected countries stood at:

  • Lebanon 34%
  • Tunisia 34%
  • Egypt 30%
  • Jordan 29%7

In these countries, 60–68% of social media users express political ideas on social networks.

3 REASONS FOR USE

Personal entertainment is the most important reason for using the Internet; watching short videos is one of the most popular daily activities.9 In fact, the Internet has “clearly overtaken” traditional media as the must-have technology for young, wired consumers in the region. Consider this data:

  • Members of the ADG now spend more time on the Internet than on TV, radio, or print media
  • Three-quarters(78%)saidtheywouldratherlivewithout television than the Internet if forced to choose
  • Social networking is also popular: 61% spend more than two hours per day on social networking sites. Use of the Internet for work is less common: 28% use the Internet for professional reasons.

TRAJECTORY

The trajectory here is uncertain, as it depends on at least two factors:

  • Whether the ADG are leaders or social outliers—theymaybe leading their societies toward new values and behaviors, or they may be detached from them
  • Whether their new ideas are the result of their youth and socioeconomic class rather than their use of technology
  • It is likely that the ADG at least signals some of the future values and beliefs of the educated middle class in the region, and as such is worthy of observation and engagement by organizations interested in the region, its consumers, and its future.