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Find out which craze is turning into an obsession in the Arab world

The Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) has released a report titled The Arab World Online 2017 which examines the digital transformations and societal trends brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Arab region.

There are surprising findings on artificial intelligence (AI) applications such as online bots, autonomous vehicles, UAVs, drones, robotics, in addition to virtual and augmented reality (VR & AR), 3D printing, Blockchain technologies, cryptocurrencies, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

“According to our research, there are more than 460 million personal IoT devices in the Arab region used by 173 million internet users today. The number of personal IoT devices will almost double to 890 million by 2020 and will interact with 208 million users in the region,” said Fadi Salem, MBRSG’s Director of Research and Advisory and author of the study.

“This will require new sets of policy responses.”

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Ready for the fourth revolution

More than 70 per cent of internet users said that they are willing to use 3D printing applications if made available at reasonable costs. Likewise, personal robotics, virtual reality and driverless car applications were viewed as something 50 per cent of respondents are willing to use if relatively cheap.

Meanwhile, readiness for using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles UAVs and drones is the lowest in the region compared to the other emerging technologies.

When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), the study reveals that AI applications, such as AI-based chatbots, are for the most part positively viewed by the public.

Nevertheless, respondents expressed concerns regarding privacy, safety and the ethical implications of artificial intelligence, especially in autonomous cars.

“ In total 59 percent of internet users in the Arab region are concerned about AI in general or about AI-related applications such as driverless cars,” Salem added.

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Virtually unprotected 

People around the region have voiced concerns regarding cyberterrorism, cybercrimes and cyberbullying.

“The top 5 cyber Arab internet users are cyberterrorism, cybercrimes, cyberbullying, fake news online, and commercial exploitation,” Salem added.

On average, 75 per cent internet users in the region said that they have experienced at least one type of cyber threat during the past two years. These include viruses, scams, hacking, bullying, harassment, identity theft, data breaches, extortion or ransomware.

Around 8 per cent of internet users in the region said that they do not take any cybersecurity measure when online, while 1 in 5 does not use any antivirus application, and only 40 per cent of them use Firewall applications when online.

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Social tendencies

More than 92 per cent of respondents reported using the internet for socialising on monthly basis, making it by far the most popular online behaviour, while some 79 per cent of people said that they consume news online on monthly basis.

Additionally, 77 per cent of users in the region use the internet for career-oriented goals on a monthly basis, whereas 72 per cent consume music, video and multimedia online, 26 per cent use it monthly for gaming purposes, and 68 per cent use it for educational activities, including researching and taking online courses.

E-Commerce was less prevalent in the region with 40 per cent of respondents doing online shopping and retail activities at least once a month, while a third of them (33 per cent) use online government services online on a monthly basis.

The report also estimates that online monthly spending online has increased from $2.7bn dollars two years ago, to $7.3bn dollars today.