KUWAIT: The development of high speed Internet (broadband networks) is necessary in Kuwait and across the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region to help solve unemployment, create economic growth and social inclusion among others. According to a World Bank report launched in Kuwait entitled 'Broadband Networks in the Middel East and North Africa: Accelerating High Speed Internet Access', while Internet access covers large segments of population in the Gulf region, MENA is far behind Europe and some emerging markets in Asia in terms of broadband networks. Kuwait, for example, lags behind other countries in the GCC in terms of broadband penetration. Speaking with Kuwait Times, Carlo Rossotto, Lead ICT Policy Specialist and ECA/MENA Coordinator, said development of broadband networks can accelerate economic growth and create new job opportunities, especially for women and young people. "Home broadband penetration in Kuwait is significantly lower at 32 percent against 69.4 in the UAE, 69.4 percent in Qatar, 88.9 in Bahrain and 51.7 percent in Saudi Arabia. Even in mobile broadband connection, Kuwait is slightly lower in the GCC – mobile broadband penetration in Kuwait is at 67 percent against 74 percent in Bahrain and 69.2 percent in the UAE, although Saudi Arabia is a bit lower at 55.9 percent," he said. According to Rossotto, Gulf countries including Kuwait and the rest of the MENA region have the potential to be leaders in ultrafast broadband. Among World Bank recommendations is to increase competition, better regulatory frameworks, creation of open market policy, improvement in the use of existing fiber optics, electricity and transport utilities and strengthening PPP (Public Private Partnership). "Here in Kuwait you introduced healthy competition in the mobile segment and it is producing a very good result. You have three operators here and they are all innovative and professionals. They are offering new services, and the market is open to competition. But there is a monopoly in the case of international gateways however – in this segment, you see higher prices. The cost of international calls in Kuwait (compared to Germany or other European countries) is higher, so breaking this monopoly will help," he added. Rossotto said the World Bank report is important because the Middle East and North African region has been experiencing many economic challenges related to lower growth and high unemployment, especially among women and young people. "In the North African region, the Internet is not affordable in a large part, especially in Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen – these are the countries where Internet subscription can cost a third of the income of low-income families. Affordability is the issue. The GCC is doing well, but it also important that countries in the region increase competition in the market," he reiterated. Rossotto noted as per extensive research, the impact of broadband in economic growth is huge. "For every ten percent increase in broadband penetration, the GDP grows by 1.4 percent It creates a platform where software companies can create new services and improve service delivery. It create jobs among graduates and among skilled workers. In 2020, jobs all over the world will be contracted and executed online, so clearly to have a very clear and extensive broadband platform will give opportunities to everyone. It allows employment of young people – human resources that are technically and technologically savvy," he added. By Ben Garcia
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