Screen Shot of Hootsuite report illustrating time spent on media
CAIRO – 30 May 2018: As Internet users reach 49.23 million people in Egypt, penetration reaches almost 50 percent, seven percent less than the percentage of the population living in urban areas within the country, according to a report by We Are Social and Hootsuite titled Digital in 2018. Internet penetration is higher in Egypt than Africa; reaching 49.5 percent last December, according to Internet World Stats, compared to an overall penetration rate of 35.2 percent in the continent.
Digital in 2018 relies on information from the United Nations as well as official country-based and international statistics, statements from officials, regional research by international organizations, GSMA intelligence, reputable media sources and several analytical websites and agencies, like Kepios analysis. It puts active social media users at 39 million, which entails penetration is at approximately 40 percent, and active mobile social media users are at 35 million, meaning about 36 percent of the population use their mobile devices to visit social media platforms.
Similarly, a report by the Egyptian Ministry of Communication and Information technology reveals that internet users in the country reached 33.19 million in April 2017; a 7 million increase from the number of internet users a year earlier.
Subscriptions for ADSL, the high-speed internet service provider, reached an all-time high of 4.57 million, an increase from April 2016’s 4.05 million, according to the report. Similarly, mobile phone data users reached 33.22 percent in April 2017, up from 27.37 percent in April 2016. This significant and steady increase in internet users has led research organizations, like international statistics platform Statista, to suggest that internet user penetration in Egypt will reach 53 percent by 2019. More businesses are also expected to have online presence over the next few year.
The quick increases seen in the internet industry, coupled with the fact that Egyptian users have been on the internet for a shorter amount of time on average in comparison with other countries, suggests that the industry is set to continue growing at a high pace during the next few years. Egyptians have been on the internet for five years, versus the 7.6 years on average for citizens of other African countries, according to a report published by the Northwestern University in Qatar. The report that surveyed more than 6,000 people from six Arab countries puts penetration at 50 percent in Egypt.
But what do Egyptians use the Internet for?
Egypt Today interviewed 50 people in different shopping centers, 50 university students and 100 people on the street, from varied backgrounds, with the aim of finding out how much time they spend online, what they do online and which device they usually utilize when browsing the web.
Out of the 200 people surveyed, 82 percent indicated that they access the internet, 84 percent of whom said that they use the internet on a daily basis. All 50 university students indicated that they use the internet on a daily basis; interestingly, this also holds true for all those interviewed in shopping centers. Those who revealed that they do not use the internet cited reasons like not knowing how to use it or not being technologically-savvy. Northwestern University’s study reports that 33 percent of those who do not use the internet in Egypt do not find it useful or are not interested in its use, according to a survey they conducted.
Screen Shot of Hootsuite report showing a snapshot of the country's key digital statistical indicators
All respondents in our survey who were internet users cited interacting with friends, partners and loved ones at home and abroad as a primary reason for using the internet. As it stands, the percentage of people taking part in online calls has now increased to 43 percent, up from 2015’s 37 percent and 2013’s 8 percent, as per the study carried out by Northwestern University. The second most-cited reason for using the internet was conducting research; meanwhile, the third and fourth most-cited reasons were checking news agencies and media outlets, and online shopping, respectively. Research carried out by other agencies and organizations support these findings.
In January 2018, SimilarWeb released its ranking of top websites accessed by Egyptians. The first 10 websites suggest, when aggregated, that the Internet is mostly used for searching information, followed by social media usage, checking news and media and online shopping. Alexa’s rankings of top websites visited reflected a similar result.
Meanwhile, consultancy and analysis platform GlobalWebIndex found that the average time Egyptians spend on social media platforms each day from all devices is three hours and nine minutes. Meanwhile, Egypt’s internet users spend about three hours and 19 minutes on average viewing broadcasts, streaming videos and playing online games. Meanwhile, Egypt’s internet users spend about an hour and 11 minutes on average streaming music every day. According to Facebook’s records, there are 39 million Egyptians registered on Facebook and 10 million active Instagram users.
Screen Shot of Hootsuite report showing profile of Facebook users
Internet users also use the Internet for training and e-commerce. Research carried out by the Northwestern University found that four percent of Egyptians go online to participate in job training programs, online degrees or training and certification problems.
Reflecting somewhat similar findings, the Egypt Today survey found that 79.8% of those who use the internet have searched online for products and services or have visited an online retail store. Despite this high percentage, only about 30% actually purchase a product or service online, and barely any admitted to online banking. Speaking about why they do not buy online as often as they check for prices online and why they do not engage in online banking, many of those interviewed cited security and the lack of clear guidelines penalizing hackers.
A common belief among those surveyed was that information and money online are not safe and could be hacked. One of those interviewed gave the example of recent Bitcoin hacks, suggesting that e-banking, albeit useful and efficient, could be easily targeted. Thus, cybersecurity was cited as the main reason for not working online. This finding fits with that of the World Bank Global Financial Inclusion Data, which reveals that the percentage of the population aged over 15 participating in online banking services is limited and minimal. A mere two percent of male Internet users make use of Internet payments, while only 0.8 percent of women do so.
Screen Shot of Hootsuite report illustrating the most active social media platforms
Fiber technology expected to increase internet penetration
On March 13, Egypt inaugurated two factories set to produce fiber optic cables with the aim of revolutionizing internet connection between cities, while also meeting local demand and exporting regionally. Sixteen cities, so far, are slated to be connected via fiber optic cables.
The move towards the production and export of fiber optic cables comes under the government’s smart cities move and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s “Egypt Produces Technology” initiative.
In cooperation with China, the smart cities will be built with advanced technological infrastructure based on fiber optical cables offering high speeds in the transmission of digital data and information ranging between 100 to 200 megabits per second, depending on the technological structure’s strength.
The factory aims to manufacture the “core” or mold, a thin ultra-clear glass transporting light, which is one of the most important components of fiber optical cables. Only a limited number of factories globally produce this material, meaning that Egypt is set to penetrate a critical market that enjoys very high demand.
The factory will also manufacture micro-trenching cables, a new technology that can be implemented without digging up the roads via a technique called blowing fiber. These cables, which save 30 percent in time and money, require only 10 centimeters below the surface of the ground.