A survey conducted by a research body at Princeton University revealed the emergence of large gaps among Arabs in the ways of using the Internet, and other differences in how different ages deal with information on the Internet. The survey also revealed a remarkable acceleration in digital transformation in the region, which has a population of more than 400 million people.
The research center said in a statement that “the biggest gaps between different social groups are – as expected – between youth and older groups.”
Gaps in North Africa
The Arab Barometer (a research body to measure trends and opinions in the Arab region) said that the biggest gap came in Tunisia in the case of daily use, with 91% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 saying that they use the Internet on a daily basis, while only 51% of Those aged 30 and over are using the internet at the same rate. After Tunisia, came Algeria, where 91% of the younger ages said they use the Internet daily, or nearly 9 out of 10 people, while 68% of the ages over 30 said they use it daily. And the least age gap was in terms of the demand for daily use in Jordan, as the figures showed the convergence of use between adults and children.
Abdul-Wahab Al-Kayyali, a researcher at Princeton University and the supervisor of the survey, said in response to inquiries from the “Riyada” page about the meaning of the numbers revealed by the poll “One of the explanations for the age gap in the use of the Internet may be that the generational conflict in the Arab countries is raging and intensifying, and one of its aspects is digital literacy versus digital illiteracy.” “The younger generation has a greater and wider digital knowledge than the older generations, and also trusts the information it receives through social media sites more than the older generations,” he added.
However, Kayali said that what will result from these age differences in Internet consumption on the ground cannot be determined with certainty yet, and “we cannot be certain that this has positive or negative effects, but it is certain that digital consumption is reflected in freedom of expression and the level of The social freedom – if not necessarily the political freedom – that the younger generation feels, as well as the social and technical skills that this generation possesses, as it tries to find work and a place in countries and economies whose structures are old and dilapidated.
The survey also revealed differences according to the level and degree of education, as the survey said that the biggest gap came in Morocco, where 91% of those with university education say that they use the Internet on a daily basis, while only 56% of those with a secondary education (i.e., less than university) say They are using the internet at the same rate. There were other gaps in Internet use between those with a university education and their peers with a secondary education and below.
Communication and news sites
The poll – which was announced last February – also found that social networking sites have become a major source for many Arab citizens in terms of getting urgent news, and Jordan is making progress in this field. Half of Jordanians said they rely on social media as their main source for breaking news. Jordan follows Lebanon and Algeria, where 43% of the respondents in the two countries say that they rely on these sites as their main source of news, and 36% of both Tunisians and Moroccans say they rely on these sites as a source of news. “If between a third and a half of the citizens of these countries depend on social media sites to get breaking news,” the Arab Barometer statement said.
Kayali told the “Reyada” page that the differences are not necessarily affected by financial income, and “with the exception of Tunisia and Morocco, the data do not indicate a large gap in Internet consumption and reliance on social media to obtain news according to income level. Therefore, we cannot link trends with income with the same amount of confidence that can be.” Relate it to age and educational attainment (where the gaps are larger). “
Previous studies of the University of Michigan have shown that Arabs who are less educated and incomes are “the most likely to believe in the wrong information presented on the Internet and the most spread of it,” against the background of the spread of fabricated news through various media, the spread of false information campaigns, and the expansion of defamation. And sexual harassment in cyberspace.
But Kayali had a more conservative opinion this time; He said, “There is no doubt that digital consumption has political and economic repercussions. For example, the massive youth presence on social media sites may be linked to another trend we have measured in the Arab Barometer, which is the ability of young people to define themselves as“ not religious. ”However, I cannot be certain. That these changes are negative or positive, or that young people are more likely to believe propaganda than others. “
Al-Kayali added – in his comment to the “Riyada” page, “Propaganda exists and flourishes before the Internet and social networking sites, and if I wanted to speculate on the most popular group, I would say that they are the generation that is accustomed to receiving their news from a media platform that suits their own inclinations or political or ideological orientations. I think that youth is thanks to it. Their digital knowledge has a greater ability to detect propaganda and distinguish it from real news, but this is my personal opinion that is not supported by any data. “
Regarding the Gulf region, Kayali said that previous polls showed that Kuwait (the only Gulf country surveyed) was a pioneer in using the Internet, and relying on social networking sites as the main source for getting breaking news. “Therefore, we can say with confidence that despite the lack of data for the Gulf region, the Gulf can be included with conclusions about the expansion of the use of the Internet and the reliance on social media as the main source of breaking news,” he said.
© Al Jazeera 2021