(photo credit: JPost Staff)
Unrelenting growth in mobile-phone ownership in Arab states is bolstering young
people’s sense of political and economic opportunity, and rising Internet access
is bringing them in contact with new sources of jobs and information – though at
a more modest pace.
RELATED:Peace Talks: Leapfrogging the Arab SpringPeres asks US lawmakers to aid 'Arab Spring'
These are the findings of an ongoing multiyear Gallup
Poll study conducted across the Arab world and released this
Eighty-seven percent of those between 15 and 29 years of age in 20
Arab League countries had mobile phone access in 2010, a jump from 79% the year
before. Much of that growth came in middle and low-income countries – cellphone
use in highincome countries is nearly universal at 98%.
community Internet access were up as well, though not by as
Sixty-two percent of young Arabs said they had Web access in their
communities (up from 59% the year before), but only 22% of respondents had home
Internet (up from 19%). The findings, according to the report, highlight the
particularly important roles played by Internet cafes, schools and community
centers where young people can go online.
The poll is the fourth
installment of the Silatech Index survey, which aims to chart the views of
16,000 young people in the Arab world on job creation and political freedom. The
poll has a 3 to 7-percentage point margin of error.
neighbors, middle-income countries Jordan and Lebanon performed roughly on par
with the broader survey results, and the Palestinian territories registered no
perceptible change in mobile-phone and Internet access between 2010 and
Syria lost ground relative to other Arab states, with Internet and
mobile access trailing those of comparable GDP. Mobile-phone access in the
country was at just 74%, compared to the 94% median score of middle-income Arab
Internet access is similarly low – 60% of Syrian respondents had
Web access in their community (compared to a median of 79% for all the
countries) and only 17% at home.
The figures were worse still in Egypt,
where just 11% of young people had home Internet access, and half had Web access
in their community.
The index’s previous installment, released last
month, found young Arabs desperate for political and economic reform, but having
their ambitions blocked by rigid, intolerant societies in which they fail to
reach their potential.
The results now appear prescient, signaling the
depth of popular discontent that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and is
now undermining the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. In both uprisings, Webbased
technology was key in organizing protests and solidifying opposition to
autocratic regimes that kept tight lids on job markets and the flow of
Web accessibility broadens young Arabs’ “access to all sorts
of information, be it political, economic, educational, social or job-search
related,” the report said. “Even though they are one of the healthiest and
best-educated generations in the region, young Arabs still have difficulties
obtaining access to employment and enterprise opportunities.”