GMSA, or Groupe Speciale Mobile Association – an advocacy group for mobile operators and their partners – has issued a new study indicating that over half of the population comprising the 19 markets of the Arab States is now subscribed to mobile devices. The study, entitled “Arab States: Mobile Economy 2014”, speculates that the situation presents opportunities for mobile-driven social and economic growth.
While some countries in the group have somewhat low mobile subscription rates – South Sudan’s sits at 16 percent, for example – others such as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have subscriber rates exceeding 75 percent of their populations. Per capita rates aside, the largest markets in the group include Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt – the the biggest of the bunch, with 44 million subscribers as of the end of last year.
Part of the reason for such growth, according to the study, is the Arab States’ relative lack of fixed-line communications infrastructure. The mobile revolution, with its influx of relatively cheap mobile devices, has allowed the populations in these areas to access communications technologies to a hitherto unprecedented degree. For many, especially in Northern Africa, the glut of mobile phones also presents new opportunities to access financial institutions.
As the GMSA calls on Arab States to realize the potential of this situation by embracing the mobile industry to improve communications service and access, drive innovation, and even help with disaster and crisis management, there could be some major opportunities for biometric security providers to lend a hand and provide solutions, just as how biometrics technologies are currently being enlisted to help India’s poorest citizens get connected to civil services, for example.