Arab Social Media Report
The Arab Social Media Report Series is produced by the Dubai School of Government's Governance and Innovation Program. It is a recurring study that explores growth and usage trends of social media in the Arab region, through the analysis of Facebook and Twitter users in all 22 Arab countries, as well as Iran, Israel, and Turkey.
Each issue of the Arab Social Media Report Series highlights a specific theme related to social media, covering diverse topics such as general usage trends, its impact on civil movements, and its role in Arab women's empowerment. It also studies the potential of using Web 2.0 applications for increasing collaboration and knowledge sharing among government entities, citizens, and the private sector.
Its initial focuses included but were not limited to:
- Penetration trends of social networking services in the Arab region
- Growth rate, including demographic and gender breakdowns
- Sociopolitical factors which affect adoption of tools in different Arab countries
- Impact on citizen engagement and social inclusion, as well as innovation and entrepreneurship
- 1 General Usage Trends
- 2 Editions
- 2.1 Edition #6: Citizen Engagement and Public Services in the Arab World: The Potential of Social Media (June 2014)
- 2.2 Edition #5: Transforming Education in the Arab World: Breaking Barriers in the Age of Social Learning (June 2013)
- 2.3 Edition #4: Social Media in the Arab World: Influencing Societal and Cultural Change? (July 2012)
- 2.4 Edition #3: Civil Movements: The Impact of Facebook and Twitter (May 2011)
- 2.5 Edition #2: The Role of Social Media in Arab Women’s Empowerment (February 2011)
- 2.6 Edition #1: Facebook Usage: Factors and Analysis (January 2011)
- 3 Infographic
- 4 References
- 5 External Links
General Usage Trends
Facebook Users & Country Population in the Arab World (2011 April 5)
|Country||Number of Facebook Users||Population||Facebook Penetration (%)|| Number of New Facebook Users
(Since 2011 January 5)
| Growth in Facebook users (%)|
(Since 2011 January 5)
Twitter Users & Country Population in the Arab World (2011 January 1 to 2011 March 30) All numbers and data are averaged between the dates of 2011 January 1 to 2011 March 30. (* 2011 populations, from United Nations ILO Department of Statistics)
|Country||Number of Twitter Users||Population *||Twitter Penetration (%)|| Estimated Twitter Volume
|Estimated Number of Daily Tweets||Significant Events|
|Bahrain||61,896||822,510||7.53%||1,350,000||15,000||February 14th protests|
|Egypt||131,204||85,950,300||0.15%||2,160,000||24,000||President Mubarak leaves office in February 2011; Tunisia has January 14th protests|
|Saudi Arabia||115,084||26,777,613||0.43%||2,250,000||25,000||March 11th protests and the lead-up to its March 20th protests|
|Syria||40,020||23,008,268||0.17%||783,000||8,700||Failed call to protest in Syria on February 4|
|Tunisia||35,746||10,476,355||0.34%||576,000||6,400||January 14th protests; new prime minister appointed on February 27th|
Edition #6: Citizen Engagement and Public Services in the Arab World: The Potential of Social Media (June 2014)
Aimed to focus on the impact of social media use on citizen engagement and public service delivery in the Arab region".
Edition #5: Transforming Education in the Arab World: Breaking Barriers in the Age of Social Learning (June 2013)
Analyzes patterns, demographic breakdowns, and usage trends of social media platforms in the Arab region, as well as assesses the impact of social media on education and life-long learning in the region.
Edition #4: Social Media in the Arab World: Influencing Societal and Cultural Change? (July 2012)
Assessed the shift in regional trends, wherein the societal impact of social media usage changed from "if" to "how", "why", and "what's next". Findings addressed the impact of social media on freedom of expression and media consumption behaviors, to its empowerment of youth and women, and its role in popular civic movements. Analyzed Facebook and Twitter, as in previous studies, and added LinkedIn.
Edition #3: Civil Movements: The Impact of Facebook and Twitter (May 2011)
"Civil Movements: The Impact of Facebook and Twitter" by Dubai School of Government - Governance and Innovation Orogram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Co-authored by Racha Mourtada and Fadi Salem.
The number of Facebook users in the Arab world increased by 30% in the first quarter of 2011.
- General Facebook Uptake:
The number of Facebook users has risen significantly in most Arab countries, most notably so in the countries where protests have taken place.
- Facebook Uptake During Protests:
Countries where protests occurred all showed a notable positive growth rates -- between double and triple -- when months preceding and following 2011 protests were compared with the same months in 2010. The only exception was Libya, which experienced a 10% growth rate in 2010 but a 76% drop in 2010, which can likely be explained by a number of expat workers leaving or switching Facebook locations. Egypt constitutes about a quarter of total Facebook users in the Arab region, and close to 2 million new Facebook users between January 5 and April 5, 2011 -- which was more than any Arab country, and coincided with the country's civil movements.
- Social Media & Movements (Facebook)
Facebook pages were likely not the defining or only factor in mobilizing protests, but were certainly a factor. This varied in different countries; in countries like Syria and Yemen, with relatively low Facebook penetration, it can be argued that Facebook's role was not central -- but it may have been a tool for a core number of activists who were able to mobilize through the internet, in addition to using real-life networks. Many of the calls to protest in the Arab region were initially made on Facebook (save for the first protest in Tunisia). The illustration at right indicates countries where a Facebook page's call to protest on a given date was made, and whether or not the protests were subsequently manifested in the streets. In all cases but one -- the initial failed call to protest in Syria on February 4 -- this has proven true.
- Social Media & Movements (Twitter)
A direct correlation exists between sociopolitical activities and an increase in Twitter usage. The volume of daily tweets increased in the following countries and circumstances:
- Bahrain - During its February 14th protests
- Egypt - During Tunisia's January 14th protests and President Mubarak leaving office in February 2011
- Saudi Arabia - During its March 11th protests and the lead-up to its March 20th protests
- Tunisia - During its January 14th protests and when a new prime minister was appointed on February 27th
- Facebook Usage During Civil Movements in Tunisia and Egypt (Similarities)
In both countries, Facebook users were of the opinion that Facebook had been used primarily to raise awareness within their countries about the ongoing civil movements (31% in both Tunisia and Egypt), spread6 information to the world about the movements (33% and 24% in Tunisia and Egypt respectively), and organize activists and actions (22% and 30% in Tunisia and Egypt respectively). Less than 15% in either country believed Facebook was primarily being used for entertainment or social reasons. Almost 60% of Facebook users in each country felt that the main impact of blocking the Internet was a positive one for the social movements. In both countries, social media was the prime source for information on civil events and movements, with local media trailing by a fairly large margin. The least reliable source of data for respondents from both countries was state-sponsored media.
- Facebook Usage During Civil Movements in Tunisia and Egypt (Differences)
Primary languages used to communicate via Facebook differed between Tunisia and Egypt; 75% of Eyptian users communicated in Arabic while only 51% of Tunisian users did; the remainder of Egyptians communicated using English while most of the remaining Tunisians communicated in French -- with a very small minority (less than 1%) communicating in English. Another major difference was that in Egypt, respondents were more likely to vote for a candidate who used social media (71% as opposed to Tunisia's 48%), while Tunisian respondents were more likely to view a candidate using social media as negative (16% versus Egypt's 6%) or as having no impact (36% versus Egypt's 22%).
- Twitter Usage:
Within the countries study, the most Twitter users are in Turkey, followed by UAE, Qatar, and Egypt. The fewest Twitter users reside in Comoros, Mauritania, Djibouti, and Somalia. The most popular trending hashtags across the Arab region in the first quarter of 2011 were:
- #egypt - 1.4 million mentions
- #jan25 - 1.2. million mentions
- #libya - 990,000 mentions
- #bahrain - 640,000 mentions
- protest - 620,000 mentions (not a hashtag)
Edition #2: The Role of Social Media in Arab Women’s Empowerment (February 2011)
Focused on the role of social media in Arab women's empowerment, conducted as a collaborative effort between the Governance and Innovation Program and the Gender and Public Policy Program at the Dubai School of Government. It addressed the following main questions:
- What are the factors contributing to the low level of social media use among Arab women, as compared to men’s usage and to the global female average?
- Do Arab women perceive social media as useful to their needs?
- What are the usage trends?
- Can social media potentially increase women’s civic participation in the Arab world and contribute to their political and economic empowerment?
Edition #1: Facebook Usage: Factors and Analysis (January 2011)
This report analyzed data on Facebook users in 22 Arab countries, plus Iran and Israel. Many of the more detailed demographic breakdowns of the study, including those related to age and gender, exclude Syria and Sudan, due to US technology sanctions.
"Facebook Usage: Factors and Analysis" by Dubai School of Government - Governance and Innovation Orogram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Co-authored by Racha Mourtada and Fadi Salem.
- Annual Growth Rate
Between January 2010 to December 2010, the number of Facebook users rose from 11,978,300 to 21,361,863 -- a 78% annual growth rate. With around 4.7 million Facebook users, Egypt constitutes about 22% of total users in the region.
- Facebook Penetration
The UAE is the top Arab country in terms of Facebook penetration to percentage of the population (at 45%), as well as among the top 10 in the world, alongside countries like Iceland (#1), Hong Kong (#2), US (#8), and Australia (#10). A larger view of the 22 countries studied put Israel just behind the UAE with 43% penetration, followed by Bahrain and Qatar at about 34%. Lebanon and Kuwait followed at 23% and 21% respectively, and Somalia and Iran ranked lowest at merely 0.08% and 0.17%, respectively. By the end of 2010, the country average for Facebook user penetration in the Arab region was 5.94%.
- Age Breakdown
Youth between the ages of 15 and 29 make up 75% of Facebook users in the Arab region, and more generally, comprise around one-third of the region's internet population. The UAE is the most balanced in terms of adult and youth Facebook users, with 45% of users over 30 and 55% between 15 and 29. Qatar and Kuwait follow with similar numbers, while countries like Somalia, Palestine, and Morocco rank lowest, at around 16% over 30 and 84% between 15 and 29.
- Gender Breakdown
An average male to female ratio of 2:1, compared to almost 1:1 globally. Lebanon is the most gender-balanced of the Arab countries, at 45% female to 55% male users, followed closely by Bahrain, Jordan and Tunisia, while at the other end of the spectrum, Facebook users in Somalia and Yemen are overwhelmingly male, at 15% female and 85% male in Somalia, and 19% female and 81% male in Yemen.
- Social Media Uptake & Political Events
There is a direct correlation between political events and the uptake of social media. During the civil movements in Tunisia and Egypt during December 2010 and January 2011, the proportion of Tunisian citizens connected through Facebook increased by 8% during the first two weeks of January, and the usage shifted from being merely social in nature to becoming primarily political. From 2010 December 20 to 2011 January 5, the number of Facebook users remained unchanged, holding at 1,820,880; between 2011 January 5 and 2011 January 17, the number of users increased from 1,820,880 to 1,970,200.
- Factors That Influence Uptake
The study analyzed the different Arab countries by way of the following factors and discovered:
- Digital Access Index (DAI): Developed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as a composite representing the overall ability of individuals in a country to access and use new ICTs, on a scale from 0-1; a correlation exists with Facebook penetration for countries with high DAI, but less so for countries with medium DAI, indicating that other factors are influential.
- Internet penetration: High internet penetration does not necessarily correlate with high Facebook penetration; a few Arab countries such as Djibouti and Iraq even have more Facebook users than Internet users, indicating that many Facebook users in these countries rely on mobile access.
- Income (FDP per capita): Correlations between income and Facebook penetration at either end of the spectrum (i.e., countries with either very high or very low Facebook penetration), but less so for countries with a medium rate of Facebook penetration.
- Internet freedom: Counter-intuitively, filtering does not seem to correlate with Facebook penetration. Some countries with lower scores (i.e., more pervasive filtering) have relatively high Facebook penetration (Figure 18). In fact, the top three Arab countries in terms of Facebook penetration (UAE, Bahrain and Qatar) have the lowest Internet Freedom rankings.
- Global Gender Gap Index: Developed by the World Economic Forum to benchmark national gender gaps on economic, political, education- and health- based criteria; no correlation, as the Global Gender Gap Index amongst the countries studied is relatively consistent but the Facebook uptake demographics are not.
- Human Development Index (HDI): Developed by the UNDP to measure countries' progress across the three dimensions of life expectancy, education and GDP per capita; correlates with Facebook penetration rates, though with exceptions, as countries with high Facebook penetration rates also have high HDI, but not all countries with high HDI necessarily have high Facebook penetration rates (e.g., Saudi Arabia and Libya).
- Arab Social Media Report, ArabSocialMediaReport.com. Retrieved 2015 December 21.
- Arab Social Media Report: The Role of Social Media in Arab Women’s Empowerment, MBRSG.ae. Published 2011 January. Retrieved 2015 December 21.
- [http://www.arabsocialmediareport.com/UserManagement/PDF/ASMR%20Report%201.pdf Facebook Usage: Factors and Analysis], ArabSocialMediaReport.com. Retrieved 2015 December 29.
- Civil Movements: The Impact of Facebook and Twitter, ArabSocialMediaReport.com. Retrieved 2015 December 29.
- Protests mark fourth anniversary of Bahrain uprising, Aljazeera.com. Published 2015 February 14. Retrieved 2015 December 30.
- The Arab Social Media Report- Edition #6, MBRSG.ae. Published June 2014. Retrieved 2015 December 21.
- Transforming Education in the Arab World: Breaking Barriers in the Age of Social Learning, MBRSG.ae. Published 2013 June. Retrieved December 22.
- The Arab Social Media Report-Edition #4, MBRSG.ae. Published 2012 July. Retrieved 2015 December 21. Cite error: Invalid
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- Expats flee chaotic Libya en masse, Aljazeera.com. Published 2011 February 27. Retrieved 2015 December 29.
- Arab Social Media Report, ArabSocialMediaReport.com.