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Gulf region out-tweets rest of the Arab world

Gulf residents post half of all Twitter messages in the Arab world, new study finds.

DUBAI //Gulf residents lead the Arab world in using Twitter, a social media report has found.

Residents in the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia posted half of the region's tweets in the first three months of the year.

The Arab Spring uprisings proved the most popular topics in the region for the first quarter, according to the Dubai School of Government's second Arab social media report.

But governments and companies were also making their presence known in the messages of 140 characters or less said Racha Mourtada, a co-author of the report, which was released on Sunday.

"The [topics] that were tweeted most about at this time definitely have to do with the revolutions but there are other conversations going on," Ms Mourtada said.

An estimated 6.6million people use Twitter in the region, about one-sixth of them "active", or tweeting at least once every two weeks.

Among Arab nations, the UAE had the most active users, with slightly more than 201,000. Next came Qatar with 133,000, Egypt with 131,000, Saudi Arabia with 115,000 and Kuwait with 113,000.

As a percentage of the population, Qatar came in first at 8.5 per cent of residents using Twitter, then Bahrain at 7.5, the UAE at 4.2, Kuwait at 3.6 and Lebanon at 1.9 per cent.

Population figures were taken from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for consistency across countries.

In Kuwait, which had the highest share of the Arab world's tweets at 16 per cent, the parliament and private sector were active users, said Ms Mourtada.

While marketers are starting to embrace Twitter, governments have proceeded with caution.

"Some were more inclined to use it, embrace it, engage with citizens, and some were trying to block it or control it," said Ms Mourtada.

Twitter use remains lower than that of Facebook. Ms Mourtada said that may be partly because Twitter's interface is not yet available in Arabic. The UAE has the highest Facebook use in the Arab region and the fastest growth rate.

In the first three months of the year, 290,000 people in the UAE, or 6 per cent of the population, joined the social-networking site, followed by Kuwait and Tunisia with 5 per cent each.

A total of about 2.4million people in the UAE use the site, or about half the population, based on ILO figures.

The next Arab countries with high "Facebook penetration" were Bahrain at 37, Qatar at 31 and Kuwait and Lebanon at 26 per cent each.

The Emirates leads even when using the Government's recently released higher population tally of 8.26million.

Based on government population tallies, Facebook use in the UAE is 29 per cent of residents, just above Qatar's 28, Bahrain's 25 and Kuwait's 23 per cent.

The report's figures were for the period between January 5 and April 5.

chuang@thenational.ae

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