Arab Internet Use Growing

The number of Internet users in Arab nations will soon reach the 1 million mark, according to a study by Dabbagh Information Technology.

In the four-month period ending April 30, 1999, the number of ISP subscribers in Arab nations increased from 236,000 to 338,200. There is an average of 2.5 users per account in each nation, except Egypt, where the average users per account is four.

Much of the credit for the growth in the region’s Internet users goes to the opening of the Saudi Arabian market earlier this year. Local access in Saudi Arabia attracted more than 26,000 subscribers in its first four months of availability, the survey found.

Along with the growth in Internet users, consumers in Arab nations are also spending more online. In the year ending in April, 1999, Dabbagh found that Arab consumers spent $95 million on goods purchased over the Internet. Nine percent of the respondents have made an online purchase, compared to 4 percent in 1997. One-third of those surveyed have made only one online purchase.

The most popular item purchased online by Arab Internet users was software. Almost half (48 percent) of the respondents bough a computer program online during the 12 months preceding the survey. Books came in second (28 percent), followed by computers and peripherals (26 percent), audio CDs and CD-ROMs (11 percent), and domain registrations (10 percent). Gifts, electronics, apparel, and travel items were also bought online the study found.

The majority (82 percent) of online purchases made by Arabs were made from international vendors, owing mainly to the shortage of local online merchants in Arabia. Amazon.com was the most popular international vendor among Arab Internet shoppers.

Almost half (48 percent) of the shoppers in the survey said they shopped online because of the availability of consumer products not found in local markets. Forty-five percent cited the ease of making an online purchase, followed by the convenience of comparing products (32 percent), comparing prices (24 percent) and ease of payment (21 percent). Credit cards were the most popular form of payment used by online shoppers in the survey.

The study was based on a sample of 1,000 Internet users.

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