The Information Revolution in the Middle East and North Africa

by Grey Burkhart, Susan Older


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RAND is conducting a multiyear, multidisciplinary effort to explore the future of the information revolution throughout the world. This report focuses on the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). A number of factors--the likelihood that most of the region's countries will miss the information revolution altogether, while others experience a belated "information evolution"; the generally low level of information and communication technologies (ICT); and the irregular pattern of ICT diffusion and use--are likely to increase the development gap between MENA and Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and between rich and poor within MENA countries. The authors conclude that it is unlikely that any country in the Middle East or North Africa, including Turkey but possibly excepting Israel, will fully enjoy an information revolution during the next decade. There are too many impediments and too few champions, and--in most countries--too few resources. Fewer than three people in 10 have a telephone line, much less access to and interest in the Internet. Although the smaller, wealthier states have made the most progress toward information-centric futures, seeking to replace oil revenues that will diminish over time with other intangible products befitting their small sizes and lack of industrial base, the development of a technical industrial or service sector in particular and ICT issues in general are not important issues in most MENA countries.

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in RAND's National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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