Lack of digital infrastructure contributes to high rates of youth unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa, a new report says.
The report, “COVID-19 and Internet Accessibility in the MENA Region”, was published in mid-December by the U.S.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. It assesses the readiness of countries in the MENA region to shift employment online, in terms of both Internet availability and digital literacy among the populace.
Its authors, Alexander Farley and Manuel Langendorf, argue that increasing Internet accessibility and investing in digital infrastructure development can help governments’ efforts to form a digitally-enabled economic recovery strategy.
While the MENA region is projected to have 160 million potential digital users by 2025, the paper draws a bleak image of its Internet infrastructure and accessibility.
Last year, 34 percent of the population in Arab states was not using the Internet, according to data from the International Telecommunication Union. In 2019, the GSMA, an organization that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, found that almost half the people in countries such as Egypt and Lebanon, which have a mobile broadband network, are not using the Internet. Around 60 million people in the MENA region were not covered by a mobile network.