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Multiple geographies of the Arab Internet

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Abstract:

The Arab world plays a relatively minor role in the rapidly changing geographies of global cyberspace. This paper explores the multiple geographies of the Arab Internet. First, it addresses Internet penetration rates, which averaged 7.8 per cent in 2006, although these varied widely among and within the region's countries. Between 2000 and 2006, the number of users jumped by 830 per cent, indicating these geographies are in rapid flux. It then examines the telecommunications infrastructure of the Middle East and North Africa, including fixed and mobile telephone networks and Internet cafes. Third, it turns to the reasons why the Internet has experienced relatively late adoption among Arab countries, including the dominance of the Latin alphabet, high access costs reflecting state-owned telecommunications monopolies, low Arab literacy rates, and restrictive gender relations that keep the proportion of female users low. The paper pays special attention both to government censorship of the Arab Internet as well as resistance to such controls and attempts to utilize the Internet counter-hegemonically. Finally, it explores the impacts of the Internet on some Arab societies, including the opening of discursive communities of politics, the Palestinian–Israeli conflict, Iraq and electronic commerce.

Keywords: Arab; Internet; cyberspace

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2007.00717.x

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA, Email: bwarf@coss.fsu.edu 2: Geography Department, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YB

Publication date: March 1, 2007

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