WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Technology's pivotal role in the change that swept the Arab world in late 2010 and early 2011 underscores how quickly its young people are gaining access to information and communication technology. Gallup surveys conducted before the unrest show 87% of 15- to 29-year-olds across the Arab League say they have cellular phone access, up from 79% in 2009. Home and community Internet access are up, too, but not nearly as much.
These findings are based on the recently released fourth installment of Gallup's report, The Silatech Index: Voices of Young Arabs, which charts Arab League members' progress from 2009 to 2010 toward creating a better climate for job creation and entrepreneurship. The Silatech Index is the product of a multiyear initiative, undertaken by Gallup in partnership with Silatech, that explores young people's opinions on entrepreneurship and employment challenges across 20 countries in the Arab League and the Somaliland region.
Young Arabs' reported cellular phone access increased more than any other indicator the Silatech Index tracks. This shift creates opportunities for mass communication with this key demographic as well as possible business opportunities. Most of the growth is taking place in middle- and low-income countries, where young Arabs' access to cell phones increased to 87% and 81%, respectively. At 98%, cellular phone access remains nearly universal in high-income countries.
Although Internet access did not increase as much as cellular phone access, a majority of young Arabs (62%) say they have access to the Internet in their communities, which broadens their access to all sorts of information, be it political, economic, educational, social, or job-search related. Young Arabs are more likely to say they have community Internet access than home access (22%), highlighting the particularly important roles that Internet cafes, schools, and other community hot spots play.
Young people in middle-income Arab countries gained more access to the Internet at home and in their communities in 2010, although they are still not as connected as young Arabs in high-income countries. Community access to the Internet for those in middle-income countries increased from 63% to 69%, and home access increased from 18% to 22%.
Home Internet access increased as well in high- and low-income countries, but young Arabs in these countries reported somewhat lower community access in 2010. Access in low-income Arab countries significantly lags behind that in middle- and high-income countries, signaling that more investment in technology is needed to improve the flow of information in these countries.
Greater cellular phone and Internet access increases young Arabs' exposure not only to news from around the world, but also to job opportunities in their communities and around the region. Economists and industry leaders can capitalize on the growing connectivity and pursue new models to generate income and connect job seekers with employment. Some social enterprises in the region are already using 2G cellular phone technology to connect young people to job opportunities. Leaders should push for more innovations that remove obstacles for young Arabs.
In addition to examining overall trends in young Arabs' access to information and communication technology, the latest Silatech Index report includes detailed country-level findings from the Arab countries surveyed. The report also maps other challenges and strengths within the region and across countries, including sharp declines in satisfaction with affordable, available housing and growing optimism about local economic conditions.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews with more than 16,000 country nationals, aged 15 to 29, conducted in two separate waves of data collection between February and December 2010 in 20 countries in the League of Arab States and the Somaliland region of Somalia. Similarly, Gallup conducted two waves of data collection in 2009. For results based on the total sample of national youth, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±3.3 percentage points to ±6.9 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question working and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.