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World Bank report: High-speed internet key to MENA future

18 February 2014
World Bank report: High-speed internet key to MENA future

According to a report released this month by the World Bank, high speed internet access will be a key factor in expanding economic growth in the Middle East.

The report, ‘Broadband Networks in the Middle East and North Africa: Accelerated High Speed Internet Access’, highlights how broadband drives economic development and is core to the competitiveness of nations.  However, high speed internet penetration is still relatively low in MENA compared to emerging regions in Europe and Asia. With the exception of Gulf countries, where internet access is available to broad segments of the population, the report sees room for massive growth in internet services.

“The Middle East and North Africa region has been the cradle of science and technology and can again use modern technology to address the contemporary problems faced by the region,” said Inger Andersen, World Bank VP for the MENA region.  "We at the World Bank Group are committed to working closely with all countries in MENA to improve access and quality of broadband internet connection.”

The study also assesses the endowments of untapped fibre optic networks in the Middle East belonging to energy, electricity and transport utilities, and their potential contribution to the development of affordable internet services. If used more optimally, says the report, these networks could boost broadband access, including in rural areas. With 49,000km of fibre optics deployed by Algerie Telecom and over 20,000km owned by utilities, Algeria stands out as a potential regional leader. Also, Libya has extensive fibre optics networks owned by oil and gas companies that can play an important role for internet development.

Said Carlo Maria Rossotto, World Bank ICT regional coordinator in the MENA region and co-author of the report: “Broadband can radically change the socio-economic prospects for the region and contribute to higher growth and shared prosperity. Investing in broadband networks could create thousands of new jobs in infrastructure, while at the same time, developing a platform for broad-based, knowledge-driven employment in the region.”

You can read the entire report here.

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