More than 30% of people in Qatar have a Facebook account and Qatar is among the fastest growing countries in terms of new users per capita (almost a 15% increase in 2010). To say Qatar really likes Facebook may actually be an understatement.
A new report from the Dubai School of Government, the Arab Social Media Report, took a look at Facebook usage among Arab countries, and not surprisingly, the GCC is leading the way in usage, with Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain on par with a lot of Western nations in terms of Facebook penetration.
The report looked at various indicators to assess which trends and factors affect Facebook usage, including digital access, Internet penetration, income and Internet freedom. Digital access, income and Internet penetration had strong correlations to usage (logically the higher the score on each, the higher the level of usage), but interestingly Internet freedom did not seem to be a barrier to usage. Some of the countries with the lowest scores in Internet freedom (yes, Qatar is one of them), had the highest rates of usage. Of course, if Facebook were to be blocked in a country, one would assume usage would drop greatly. Thankfully no Arab countries are currently blocking it (although we have of seen it blocked for periods in different countries).
The report also showed that, like most of the rest of the world, Facebook is most popular among youth, and with the Arab region being so young, it seems quite logical to expect continued rapid growth. An area in which the Arab region differed greatly from the rest of the world was in gender-usage. More males than females use Facebook in Arab countries (Qatar is 69 percent male, 31 percent female), whereas females account for more than 50% of usage worldwide. Reasons for this big difference would be interesting to examine more in depth.
It would be also fascinating to know a bit more about the actual breakdown of users in Qatar. Are those using Facebook here expats, or is it just as popular among the local population? Also I would like to know if the researchers took into account people with multiple Facebook accounts – say one for their family and another for friends. ictQATAR is doing a major research project on Qatari youth and ICT, so hopefully there will be some more insight coming on the profile of Facebook users here soon.
Clearly the rapid rate of adoption of Facebook in Qatar – especially among youth – is something for everyone to keep in mind – whether you are a policymaker, educator or marketer. Facebook is a platform that truly supports open communication and participation – and has the power to mobilize people. A young generation of Facebook users is going to expect more say in just about everything – as we are seeing! The potential for growth in Facebook and social media in the Arab world in huge – most countries are still catching up with the rest of the world, but my guess is they will soon. Are we ready?