The number of Internet users in the Arab World is expected to reach 197 million by 2017, a penetration of more than 51 percent, up from 32 percent in 2012, according to the first Arab Knowledge Economy Report 2014 conducted by Orient Planet, the Middle East representative of Eurocom Worldwide, and Madar Research & Development.

The Arab Knowledge Economy Report 2014 focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of the region’s economy along with the opportunities and risks associated with it.

Says Abdul Kader Al Kamli, CEO of Madar Research & Development, “Some of today’s developing countries will be tomorrow’s vibrant economies in the global market, which makes investment in innovation and education critical for transformation to a knowledge-based economy. The shift is highly significant in the Arab World, as it will enable a landscape of technological innovation, promote competitiveness, and empower local population with professional skills.”

The report says Arab countries are heading towards knowledge economy by improving their education sector through the adoption of new technologies, investment in the information and communications technology infrastructure, building firm research and development programs, and improvement in the overall business environment.

The UAE leads the Middle East with a global ranking of 38 in overall innovation performance while Dubai is the first city in the region to establish first knowledge clusters, including Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Knowledge Village. The UAE’s transformation to a knowledge-based economy is currently a key priority for the country with several innovations seen across prime economic sectors such as oil and gas, construction, healthcare and hospitality.

According to Nidal Abou Zaki, managing director, Orient Planet: ”Most of the Arab countries have made significant progress in establishing a knowledge-based economy and society. With its wealth in natural and financial resources, huge investments in technology infrastructure and visionary leadership, the region is rapidly catching up with progressive countries in terms of digital innovations.”