As countries in the MENA region leverage digital technologies to improve their governments’ services, a “digital gap” has occurred, according to PwC Middle East’s latest report Bridging the digital gap: The state of digital inclusion in the MENA region.
The region scored slightly lower than the worldwide average for digital inclusion than North America and Europe, according to a Roland Berger study that examined 80 countries to track the rate of digital inclusion.
The study evaluated digital inclusion using four metrics: willingness to adopt a digital lifestyle, ability to understand digital tools and procedures, affordability of digital access, and accessibility to digital equipment.
“Governments across the MENA region are investing in various digital inclusion initiatives. However, the effects of the digital gap vary from country to country. In the GCC region, digital inclusion is moving in the right direction, given the GCC’s admirable efforts. It has been found that in middle and low-income countries, significant challenges include gender lines, economic and digital privacy issues, and limited connectivity in certain rural areas, causing a noticeable slowdown,” said Fadi Komati, partner, digital, technology, and cyber security strategies and transformation.
There are several socio-economic advantages to digital inclusion. A recent World Bank analysis claims that the MENA region’s countries would see higher economic development, higher female labor force participation, and lower frictional unemployment if they adopted digital technologies.
According to the analysis, the GDP would increase by at least 46% over 30 years due to digital inclusion, with a benefit of close to $300 billion expected in the first year alone. The survey also forecast that over 30 years, the number of women participating in labor would quadruple from 40 million to 80 million and that frictional unemployment would decrease from 10% to 7% over six years to zero within sixteen.
“Though certain digital challenges in these countries remain, active steps have been taken towards improving digital inclusion. Egypt has made evident strides in the digital inclusion space by significantly improving accessibility, enhancing mobile data availability and coverage infrastructure, and enhancing affordability. These efforts, in addition to other initiatives witnessed in Morocco and Tunisia, show promising prospects in enhancing digital inclusion across middle and low-income countries, specifically, and the MENA region, generally,” said Joseph Abboud, partner, technology consulting, PwC Middle East.
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