Eight out of 10 young people in the MENA region are optimistic about their prospects in the coming year, although 45% of employed young people are not doing the work they would like to do, according to a new recently published study.

Chairman of Ooredoo, HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, said:

Young people in the MENA region have embraced technology as a means to transform their lives. This research shows that young people remain optimistic despite the challenges they face and they are using technology to proactively seek out new opportunities for self-development. Companies, governments and organisations need to recognise this creative spark, and find new ways to nurture it, so that we receive the full benefit of young people’s contribution to our societies.”

The extensive new online survey, ‘New Horizons: Young, Arab and Connected’, was commissioned by Ooredoo to provide a snapshot into the digital attitudes and aspirations of young people across the Middle East and North Africa. Surveying more than 10,500 young adults in 17 countries across the region, it is one of the most in-depth research projects on the subject yet undertaken, conducted during a period of intense economic, social and political change.

Among the key findings of the research:

  • Nine in 10 young MENA citizens believe that access to the Internet and mobile digital technology can help them realise their personal aspirations for employment, entrepreneurial opportunities, education, banking and healthcare.
  • 91% also believe that technology is the basis of a modern, forward-thinking and functioning society,but that its potential as an economic tool has not yet been realised for young people across MENA.
  • 81% of young Arabs are optimistic about their immediate futures, despite reporting significant economic and educational hurdles.
  • 45% are not doing the work they would like to do.
  • 72% of men and 77% of women agree that women should be given equal business opportunities.
  • More than 80% of youth believe the Internet enables them to continue their education beyond what is possible in their country.

The findings provide important insights into the hopes of young people in the region today, and in particular underline the extent to which young people are focused on the potential of communication technology to drive human growth and social development.

In spite of the well-publicised challenges that MENA has faced in recent years, the research suggest that a community of digitally active young adults is forging a ‘connected path’ to greater opportunity, understanding and equality via technology. In total, 91% of respondents agree that ‘technology is the basis of a modern, forward-thinking & functioning society’ and 89% believing that ‘technology opens up communication channels to promote peace and understanding’.

While the report highlights degrees of variability between different countries, there are striking similarities in responses from men and women in the study, suggesting a growing consensus in views on technology between genders. Despite two thirds of Internet users currently being men, the report highlights the level of encouragement for women to play a more equal role: 72% of men and 77% of women agree that women should be given equal business opportunities.

One key regional difference flagged up in the study is the gap between those countries with developed infrastructure and those countries struggling to overcome more basic requirements, such as access to reliable electricity, and the impact this gap has on the hopes and aspirations of the young people affected.

The report identifies the financial impact of differences in income across a broad cross-section of countries.While most respondents claim to have enough or ample financial resources to make ends meet, 20% of respondents claim their households do not have enough money for their basic needs.

Even in the most depressed economies, the Internet emerges as a key factor for young people in terms of nurturing creative talent as an educational platform and helping prepare young people for a life in business. More than 80% believe the Internet enables them to continue their education beyond what is possible in their country.

One major area of insight in the study is the changing patterns of behaviour online among young Arab nationals. While more than a quarter of time online is spent playing games and entertainment, there is evidence to suggest that increasingly young people are using Internet access to improve their life opportunities.

In a typical day, according to the study, 18% of the time on the Internet is used to communicate, followed by 16% for learning, education or training, 15% on work activities and 12% looking for jobs and other employment opportunities. The report also showed that young Arabs appear to prioritise speed over access restrictions, new products and customer service, with 70% of youth considering the speed of the Internet as the primary consideration when selecting a provider.

The study suggests that usage patterns and ways that young people access content is changing in the MENA region. The use of Smartphones has exceeded the use of non-Internet connected mobile phones among regional youth overall. Even in markets where owning a smartphone is out of reach, 90% of young people have been able to access a shared device, according to the report.

The Internetalso emerges as a source of significant support for helping young people to find and secure employment. 91% of respondents believe the Internet can nurture their entrepreneurial potential, with 83% expressing a desire to have their own company and 66% believing the Internet can help source funding. However, among the potential challenges identified by respondents are the legal hurdles of establishment of a company in their respective countries. Nearly six in ten think it is important to overcome the legal restrictions of setting up a business, but that it is difficult to do so.

Copies of the full report ‘New Horizons: Young, Arab and Connected’ – An Ooredoo survey of digital attitudes and aspirations across the Middle East and North Africa’ are available on a dedicated microsite.