Yousef Arikat

Internet Governance and the Middle East

Yousef Arikat
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In the Middle East three themes are currently being discussed by the Internet community: Advocacy, policy and technology. The aim is to strengthen participation on Internet policies, Internet governance, security and privacy, freedom of expression and rights on the Internet.

Internet governance is complex and highly decentralised. That means the Internet is governed in a “multi-stakeholder” (rather than a multilateral) fashion. According to De Nardis Internet Governance can be divided into six themes:

  • Architecture-based intellectual property rights enforcement
  • The policies enacted by information intermediaries
  • Cyber security governance
  • Governance of routing and interconnection
  • Internet standards governance
  • Control of critical Internet resources

The digital divide

In order to close the digital divide it is important to provide Internet access at an affordable cost and quality. This will have a positive impact on various other areas such as

  • Economic equality
  • Social mobility
  • Democracy
  • Economic growth

Let's look at some aspects of Internet governance in more details.

Internet penetration

There are about three billion users on the Internet worldwide. Two thirds are from developing countries. There are 2.3 billion mobile subscribers of which 55% in the developing world. The Internet penetration worldwide is measured to be 42.3%. In the Middle East it is slightly higher at  48.3%. See below the penetration rate for various regions (source: Internet World Stats ).

Internet Penetration Figure 1: Internet penetrations worldwide

It is also interesting to look at the languages used on the Internet (see Figure 2). Arabic is among the top four with 4.8% (source: Internet World Stats ).

Internet Languages Figure 2: Main languages used on the Internet


According to the Center for Strategic & International Studies , organisations such as government agencies and high tech companies experienced 155 successful and significant attacks since 2006. For some this led to financial losses of more than a million dollar. 70% of executives from financial institutions believe that cyber security is a strategic risk for their company. In Figure 3  you can see the percentage of cyber attacks for a number of countries compared to the gross domestic product (GDP).

Cybercrime Figure 3: Percentage of cyber attacks

A recent expert report states that the cost of cybercrime comes to an estimated total of 400 billion USD. The cost of cybercrime in terms of percentage of GDP is 0.8%. In comparison, the cost of global drug trade comes to 0.9%.

Europe and the Middle East

In the Internet governance we are seeing three  camps: western nations, authoritarian nations and the undecided. The European Commission has repeatedly called for a system of Internet governance fully entrusted to the private sector without Government interference in the day-to-day management, and has supported an open, multi-stakeholder policy dialogue on Internet governance and development. The Arab region supports the transition of technical coordination of the Internet’s name and numbering resources from the United States to an international organisation, meeting the expectations of its multi-stakeholders.

Final remarks and future steps

The Middle East should aim to strengthen its stake. Middle East Internet users should gather knowledge about Internet Governance at the regional or international level and create a framework that accommodates both, greater security and continued growth. Universities world wide equipped with advanced research resources  have a special role to secure cyberspace and academic freedom that ensures social and natural sciences.
Other questions that might have to be answered in the future are:
  • How to refine and update Internet Governance by a single set or rules?
  • What are the Internet’s architectural principles?
  • What are its core values and how are these values being upheld or diminished as the Internet evolves?
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About the author

Yousef Arikat Based in Jericho Palestine

Currently, a lecturer in Computer engineering and Information Systems subjects for ten years at Al-Quds Open University - Palestine . With past experiences in Computer systems and managements at local organizations since 1994. My qualifications include MSc in Computer and Electronic engineering from AlQuds University and BSc in Electronic, Computer and Systems Engineering from U.K. Researcher in Internet governance ,Soft computing Neural Networks and Short Essay Grading and Knowledge Engineering. Published and Presented in Conferences and seminaries in Palestine and Jordan.

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