Göran Marby says internet addresses in local languages, including Arabic, will attract more people to the internet. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Internet penetration in the Middle East tripled in the past eight years, from 20 per cent in 2009 to 60 per cent this year, a top official told Gulf News.

A new system introduced in 2010 to create internet domain names in Arabic helped boost internet use in the region, said Göran Marby, president and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit body that oversees internet addresses. The ICANN is responsible for managing and coordinating the Domain Name System (DNS) to ensure that every address is unique and that all users of the internet can find all valid addresses.

“The penetration in the region was 30 per cent in 2014 and today it is around 60 per cent,” he said. However, he clarified that this high rate of internet penetration does not reflect digitisation of the economy or related standards. In some of the smaller GCC states like the UAE, the internet penetration is well above the world’s average and growing quickly, already exceeding 90 per cent. The UAE, especially Dubai, is a highly digitised economy [and society].

Many other countries in the Middle East, however, have to go a long way in digitisation, despite the region’s 60 per cent average internet penetration rate, he explained.

However, he said, ICANN does not measure its success in penetration or percentages. “We measure success in making people to connect. We want internet to make world a better place.”

Internet addresses in local languages, including Arabic, will attract more people to internet in the coming years.

Earlier, Arabic names were used as internet addresses but they were in the English alphabets because non-Latin characters had limited use at the second, third or even fourth level. The new Internationalised Domain Name (IDN) web addresses with the generic top-level domain (gTLD) introduced in 2010 enabled the users to register and use domain names based on their local language scripts. These included users of language based on right-to left script such as Arabic and users of languages based on non-alphabetic scripts such as Mandarin Chinese.

A gTLD (generic top-level domain name) is the top-level domain name of an internet address that identifies the generic domain class such as .com (commercial), .org (for non-profit organisations), and .gov (government agencies) etc.

“Local script is one way to making it easier for the next generation to come online,” Marby said.

One billion more people, mostly from rural areas across the globe, will access internet in the next eight years, using their local languages in non-Latin scripts, he said.

Of the current world population of 7.6 billion, an estimated 3.5 billion to four billion people are interest users, which will increase to 4.5 billion to 5.5 billion by 2025, Marby said.

Most of those new users will be accessing the internet on smart phones. They will be from rural areas, who do not know English. “Most of them may not have read or written English [in life]. At the moment, most of the people who access internet [of around four billion] understand English,” he explained.

As internet helps connect people, it will be used more for connecting people with things in the coming years. “My summer home [abroad] is connected to my mobile phone [through internet]. I can watch in real time what is going on there.” He said internet would be used more for such purposes in future.


A global meeting in Abu Dhabi will discuss developing policies for the internet Domain Name System.

The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) is hosting ICANN60, the 60th public meeting of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre from Monday to November 3.

Around 2,000 delegates from 140 nations across the globe will attend the meeting, said Göran Marby, president and CEO of the ICANN, the non-profit body that oversees internet addresses.

The sessions will enable discussions on a broad range of internet-related topics and inform the audience on latest issues of concern to the stakeholders.

At the opening ceremony on Monday, Hamad Obaid Al Mansouri, director-general of the TRA, and Dr Stephen Crocker, ICANN Board chair, will address the audience.

The meeting is a free event open to anyone interested. They can register at www.icann60.abudhabi