What the 2016 We Are Social Digital Report tells us about the Middle East

For those unaware, each year digital agency We Are Social gathers insight and produces an incredibly comprehensive report on the state of digital across the globe.


So while the report’s geographic target spans from Argentina to Vietnam, we wanted to see what the results tell us about the digital and social activity of the Middle East today.

Internet users have grown by a whopping 17% this year and there are 7.5 million more active social media users than there were last year.

In the 2016 Digital Report, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE are all featured with many adopting social, the internet and mobile at a speed far exceeding our European and American counterparts.

Here are some things we learnt.

We own A LOT of phones

Arab mobiles

It’s not uncommon in the region to see people walking around with multiple phones – each serving a specific purpose. Qatar (209%), Kuwait (192%), Bahrain (188%), The UAE (187%), KSA (181%) and Egypt (102%) are all above the global average of 99% when it comes to active mobile phone connections.

The UAE is online… a lot!

UAE Google

The UAE’s residents are regularly online shopping with approximately 40% of the population having bought something online in the last month, compared with 27% in the UK, and 23% in KSA.

8.8 million people in the UAE, or 96% of us have access to the internet, putting the nation ahead of UK (92%) and USA (87%).

We bloody love social media


75% of Qatar, 68% of the UAE, 39% of KSA and 30% of the Egypt populations are active on social media, with the UAE and Saudi spending around three hours per day on their social activities, and the majority of people accessing the platforms on their mobile phones.

We’re (mostly) online and social media-ing on the go

Arab lots of phones

Considering countries across the region own at least one or two phones, it’s not surprising that we’re using them primarily to access the internet and social media channels, ahead of desktops. 55% of KSA, 50% of the UAE, and 22% of Egypt access web pages via mobile, putting KSA and UAE ahead of the global average (39%) and the UK (28%).


Across the region we’re devoting more of our free time to our screens, our growing dependence on mobile to access digital content means that digital advertising, specifically display advertising, is going to need to innovate out from its digital dark ages, and quickly, and with a growing online audience, the need for brands to develop high quality Arabic-language content is more important than ever. 

As the audiences continue to increase we’ll see a surge in brand led activations as corporations attempt to vie for our attention, barter for a share our loyalty and time, and ultimately part with our cash, which will only result in a more cluttered, noisy space.

Meanwhile, for non-digital media owners, they’ll be having an even harder job just to get us to look up from our phones every once in a while.


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