Friday, April 24, 2015

Who owns the Internet in the Arab World?

When we are asked the question as to who own the Internet, we usually reply with the clichéd responses of either “everybody” or “nobody”. A research paper has been published by the Arab Media & Society, which states that these answers are not even close to correct regarding who actually owns the internet in the Arab countries.Internet access to the Arab world has come over a period of a few years.

  • According to a table provided in the published paper, Tunisia was first to get an internet connection in 1991.
  • They were followed by Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates in 1993. 
  • Then Jordan gained access to the internet in 1994
  • Lebanon, Bahrain and Morocco joined the group in 1995
  • Yemen followed closely by getting an internet connection in 1996
  • Qatar, Oman, Syria and Saudi Arabia in 1997

It is amazing to see that something that we take for granted in today’s time, was not even thought possible until about 20 years back. Even greater is the fact that these countries have been able to technologically modernize themselves in such a short period of time.Over the period of time, the competition within and amongst countries started to rapidly grow. The competition was basically of who would own the internet service providers or ISP’s. There were a number of reasons why these countries were competing to own the internet service providers, which included the high profits that they would earn in the years to come and even wanting to control the content available on the internet.

The power in ownership could be turned into political power, internet service providers have a complete list of who is accessing what online. Hence they hold the power of the biggest media source in the world and all the details of every subscriber’s activities online.The paper concludes by stating that at present there is no monopoly over the ownership of the internet in the Arab world, with an exception of Syria, who heavily regulate control over internet, and Bahrain, in which the phone company BATELCO dominates the internet.  The paper reports that recently Russian telecom giants have been trying to insert themselves into Arab internet.

I personally find it interesting that this research has indicated no Iranian patterns of ownership. I assume that this is the policy of the state; however it should be known that suspected cash infusions into political figures such as Hezbollah are accountable for some influence in the internet, if not having direct ownership.The original article definitely needs to be read by everyone. Although it is a 20 page PDF format report, I believe the interesting content of the report will make up for the length of it and I assure all my readers that it is not a report you will get bored, or fed up of reading. After all the human mind is an extremely inquisitive entity, am I right?

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