The amount of people who have internet access or have a smartphone continues to grow, and emerging markets are expanding their reach online. In social media and internet usage, rates are increasing annually, quickly reaching the levels seen in already developed countries.
In more developed countries like the US, social media and internet use has plateaued.
Recently, Pew Research Center released their results from a 37-country survey.
Although developing countries (such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt) are still behind on internet usage, they continue to gain higher levels of use while developed countries are barely seeing growth.
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According to Pew, In USA, there was only a 3% increase in internet usage from 2015 – 2017 while Canada only had a 1% increase in the same amount of time. Germany comes behind with a 2% increase, going from 85% (2015 and 2016) to 86% in 2017.
However, countries such as Lebanon have been making constant gains, going from 41% in 2013 to 72% last year.
There are many reasons behind the closing gap between developed and developing countries in internet usage, such as
- Many developed countries have already reached such a high level of internet penetration and usage that it becomes statistically almost impossible to continue growth
- Developing countries tend to have higher birth rates, which can drop penetration/use levels once they reach the minimum age to be surveyed
However, Pew’s survey does not contain MENA’s 3 main internet and social media users, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. So, Think Marketing went on the hunt to find our growth and rates.
Internet in MENA
MENA’s relationship with the internet hasn’t been consistent, and entirely depends on the country and its economic levels.
While developed countries have plateaued, most of MENA continue to see constant growth.
In We Are Social’s digital reports, Egypt’s fluctuating rates can be attributed to the facts that WAS was not able to get information from “National Regulatory Authorities” until 2017, and Egypt’s sharp increases in population.
Social Media in MENA
Social media has grown to encompass almost every aspect of our lives in the MENA region, but the numbers show that the relationship hasn’t always been steady.
Social media use for Saudi Arabia and Egypt is precarious, with only the UAE seemingly having a steady relationship with social networking.
UAE’s stable relationship also makes it the clingiest of the 3 countries, with 99% of the population using social media (We Are Social).
In many countries surveyed by Pew to have high internet usage, only a small segment of those users uses social networks. In Germany, where 87% of the population uses the internet, less than half use social media.
With 88% using the internet, the UK continues the trend with a low number of social media usage at only 60%.
That changes the importance for marketers, as internet use should not be seen as correlating with social media use.
Combining this information alongside Pew’s research brings a big clue for both social networking sites and marketers alike.
Although developed countries have higher levels of internet usage, social media use in many of those countries are either stagnate or decreasing. Such as the Netherlands’s drop from 70% to 61% in one year.
This is while both internet and social media use continues to bloom in MENA.
As we can see, there is still a lot of potential to be had in MENA, even more so than in many developing countries, for growth.
In Egypt, the booming startup culture is a testament to that growth, as they take advantage of the growing online resource. The fact that we continue to see growth works well in the country’s favor, as interest in the region and country could rise.