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Technology offers hope for young Arabs

by david.nunes

Technology Offers Hope for Young Arabs, New Study Finds

90% of Omani Youth Believe Technology Encourages Them To Be More Entrepreneurial, According to New Horizons Study

Muscat, Oman

Eight out of 10 young people in the MENA region are optimistic about their prospects in the coming year, although 45 percent of employed young people are not doing the work they would like to do, according to a new study published today.

The extensive new online survey, ‘New Horizons: Young, Arab and Connected’, was commissioned by Ooredoo to provide a snapshot into the digital attitudes and aspirations of young people across the Middle East and North Africa. Surveying more than 10,500 young adults in 17 countries across the region, including 118 digitally connected youth in Oman, it is one of the most in-depth research projects on the subject yet undertaken, conducted during a period of intense social and political change.

Among the top findings of the research relevant to Oman:

· When Omani youth were asked about what is particularly important to them when selecting a telecom operator, they had greatest consensus on speed of Internet service (83%), geographic signal coverage (77%) and value for money (69%).

· More Omani youth feel that restrictions on social media are about right, compared to restrictions on viewing certain websites or using VOIP (e.g. Skype). Those who feel restrictions on using social media are about right comprised 62% of respondents, whereas those who feel that restrictions on viewing certain websites and using VOIP are about right, were only 45% and 24% of respondents respectively.

· 62% of Omani youth believe there are good options for small businesses and entrepreneurs; 52% of Omani youth intend to start an online business and 11% have already started an online business.

· While 34% of Omani youth buy online, a nearly equal portion (32%) intends to purchase online in the future.

The findings provide important insights into the hopes of young people in the region today, and in particular, underline the extent to which young people are focused on the potential of communication technology to drive human growth and social development.

H.E. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al Thani, Chairman, Ooredoo, said “Young people in the MENA region have embraced technology as a means to transform their lives. What this research shows is that young people remain optimistic despite the challenges they face and they are using technology to proactively seek out new opportunities for self-development. Companies, governments and organisations need to recognise this creative spark, and find ways to nurture it, so that we receive the full benefit of young people’s contribution to our societies.”

Greg Young, CEO of Nawras in Oman, said: “In Oman, we are committed to supporting and stimulating human growth in the communities where we operate. We believe ICT has an important role in helping the country’s young people realise their full economic potential and this research provides valuable insights for identifying opportunities to help them do so.”

In spite of the well-publicised challenges that MENA has faced in recent years, the research suggest that a community of digitally active young adults is forging a ‘connected path’ to greater opportunity, understanding and equality via technology. In total, 91% of respondents agree that ‘technology is the basis of a modern, forward-thinking & functioning society’ and 89% believing that ‘technology opens up communication channels to promote peace and understanding’.

While the report highlights degrees of variability between different countries, there are striking similarities in responses from men and women in the study, suggesting a growing consensus in views on technology between genders. Despite two thirds of Internet users currently being men, the report highlights the level of encouragement for women to play a more equal role: 72% of men and 77% of women agree that women should be given equal business opportunities.

One key regional difference flagged up in the study is the gap between those countries with developed infrastructure and those countries struggling to overcome more basic requirements, such as access to reliable electricity, and the impact this gap has on the hopes and aspirations of the young people affected. The report identifies the financial impact of differences in income across a broad cross-section of countries. While most respondents claim to have enough or ample financial resources to make ends meet, 20% of respondents claim their households do not have enough money for their basic needs.

Even in the most depressed economies, the Internet emerges as a key factor for young people in terms of nurturing creative talent as an educational platform and helping prepare young people for a life in business. More than 80% believe the Internet enables them to continue their education beyond what is possible in their country.

One major area of insight in the study is the changing patterns of behaviour online among young Arab nationals. While more than a quarter of time online is spent playing games and entertainment, there is evidence to suggest that increasingly young people are using Internet access to improve their life opportunities.

In a typical day, according to the study, 18% of the time on the Internet is used to communicate, followed by 16% for learning, education or training, 15% on work activities and 12% looking for jobs and other employment opportunities. The report also showed that young Arabs appear to prioritize speed over access restrictions, new products and customer service, with 70% of youth considering the speed of the Internet as the primary consideration when selecting a provider.

The study suggests that usage patterns and ways that young people access content is changing in the MENA region. The use of Smartphones has exceeded the use of non-Internet connected mobile phones among regional youth overall. Even in markets where owning a smartphone is out of reach, 90% of young people have been able to access a shared device, according to the report.

The Internet also emerges as a source of significant support for helping young people to find and secure employment. 91% of respondents believe the Internet can nurture their entrepreneurial potential, with 83% expressing a desire to have their own company and 66% believing the Internet can help source funding. However, among the potential challenges identified by respondents are the legal hurdles of establishment of a company in their respective countries. Nearly six in 10 think it is important to overcome the legal restrictions of setting up a business, but difficult to do so.

Copies of the full report ‘New Horizons: Young, Arab and Connected – An Ooredoo survey of digital attitudes and aspirations across the Middle East and North Africa’ are available on a dedicated microsite www.ooredoonewhorizons.com

About Ooredoo

Ooredoo is an international telecommunications company with headquarters in Qatar and with over 92 million subscribers worldwide. It operates networks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Ooredoo possesses strong experience in South East Asia, with operations in Indonesia, Singapore, Laos and the Philippines.

Ooredoo, formerly known as Qtel Group, delivers mobile, fixed, broadband internet and corporate managed services tailored to the needs of consumers and businesses across markets in the Middle East, North Africa and South-East Asia. As a community-focused company, Ooredoo is guided by its vision of enriching people’s lives and its belief that it can stimulate human growth by leveraging communications to help people achieve their full potential. Ooredoo has a presence in markets such as Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Algeria, Tunisia, Iraq, Palestine, the Maldives and Indonesia. The company was named

‘Best Mobile Operator’ of 2013 at World Communication Awards.

The company reported revenues of $9.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2012 and had a consolidated global customer base of more than 92.9 million people as of 31 December 2012. Ooredoo’s shares are listed on the Qatar Exchange and the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. www.ooredoo.com

Research Methodology: The research was carried out with 10,642 young adults (18-30 years old) from across MENA where 3,488 completed our full online survey from 16th to 26th of August 2013. This research was conducted by FTI Consulting for Ooredoo. For more information on the research methodology: market-research@fticonsulting.com


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