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UAE tops ‘digital lifestyle’ rankings amid investment push

Dubai's Museum of the Future celebrates the digital age
  • Ranked first globally in terms of mobile internet speed
  • Investment in telecomms and digital is strategic pillar for country

The UAE ranks among the world’s leading countries in several digital life indexes.

It’s the first globally in terms of mobile internet speed, with the average speed in being 134.48 megabytes per second (Mbps) compared with the global average of 30 Mbps, according to a report published by the UAE’s Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) – which sourced its data from HootSuite and We Are Social.

The UAE ranked 13th globally in terms of home internet speed, with the average internet speed reaching 124.7 Mbps compared to the global average of 63.46 Mbps. 

It ranked second globally and first in the Arab region in terms of internet usage at a rate of 99 percent compared to the global average of 62.5 percent, indicating that the number of internet users in the UAE is 9.935 million.

It also ranked first in the Arab region and ninth globally in e-commerce, with the average annual per capita share of digital spending in the country standing at US$3,775, compared to the global average of $1,766. 

“Investment in telecommunications and digital has been a strategic pillar for the UAE,” Paolo Pescatore, founder at TMT consulting company PP Foresight, told AGBI. 

“It represents a strong foundation for future growth and productivity. The UAE was the first Arab country to launch 5G which underlines the desire for the government to be early adopters. The 5G rollout will help open up endless opportunities as a means of transforming all businesses and verticals.

“However, beyond the fast data speeds, the low latency and robustness of the network is where the future of real 5G will come into its own and help the country realise its bold ambitions for an automated and connected society.” 

Other industry experts also remain bullish on the outlook and prospects for the future growth of Dubai’s digital economy. 

“The UAE remains digitally mature,” Sandeep Ganediwalla, partner at Redseer Consulting in Dubai, told AGBI. “Looking ahead, we expect its digital competitiveness to improve further.”  

Ganediwalla attributes this to government resilience, a well-developed digital infrastructure and a change in consumer behaviour. 

“Government initiatives like e-government projects, 5G connectivity and smart city accelerator initiatives have impacted convenience and quality of life for residents who very easily engage with and are now accustomed to the digital city ecosystem,” said Ganediwalla. 

“Well-developed logistics infrastructure, high internet and smartphone penetration and mature e-commerce players have led to a surge in e-commerce usage in the region.

Ganediwalla noted that there has been a paradigm shift in UAE consumer behaviour as it has pivoted from being value-driven to convenience and ease seeking with the UAE’s young and tech-savvy population expected to augment this growth going forward. 

“Companies in this industry have a huge opportunity unfolding in front of them, being responsive to consumer behaviour changes remains key to capture potential gains,” he said.  

“Overall, the digitally favourable environment will support the digital economy to grow from $90 billion in 2021 to $250 billion by 2027.” 

However, while the UAE has taken huge strides in bolstering its digital credentials, Dubai ranked as the most expensive city for affordability of mobile data – with the average cost of one gigabyte equating to 0.55 percent of personal disposable income – according to a ranking of 30 global cities across four key pillars: connectivity, services, culture and sustainability, published by The Economist last month. 

“The competitiveness of digital behaviour is multi-faceted and is influenced by a variety of factors, including but not limited to, the affordability of the service,” said Ganediwalla. 

“Typically, UAE consumers are impacted more by the quality and readiness rather than the affordability. Consumers are inclined towards convenience and ease, what they seek is speed, accessibility, security, internet latency and better consumer experience. 

“Improving the competitiveness on the digital front will not have affordability of data as an issue, rather it would require other strategic initiatives from the government’s end like maintaining the 5G network infrastructure and improving consumer satisfaction towards digital government services.” 

Key outtakes from the TDRA Report 

UAE internet usage

  • First globally in the use of social media, with the average time spent on social media per capita at 106 percent, compared to the global average of 58.4 percent
  • 10th globally in terms of average time spent using the internet across all devices, whether computers or mobile phones, with an average of eight hours and 36 minutes, compared to the global average of six hours and 58 minutes
  • 12th globally in terms of time spent using mobile internet at four hours and 35 minutes, compared to the global average of three hours and 43 minutes

UAE e-commerce 

  • Ninth globally in e-commerce, with the average annual per capita share of digital spending in the country being some US$3,775, compared to the global average of $1,766
  • Ninth globally in terms of weekly e-household food purchases – equating to 33.4 percent of the UAE population 
  • 14th globally in online weekly purchases – equating to 59 percent of the population 
  • Among the top 20 countries in terms of digital content, with 68.1 percent of the population buying miscellaneous digital content on the internet

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