How Wired is Qatar?

Qatar appears to be a well-connected country, as far as the internet goes. Next to the UAE, Qatar is the second most wired country in the Middle East, according to an Arab Advisors Group article. Furthermore, Qatar is a proud pioneer of ADSL (high-speed) internet in the Middle East, gaining the ability in 2002. Led by Qatar's homegrown telecommunications giant, Qtel, Qatar now boasts one of the largest internet presences in the Middle East.

A recent article published in The Peninsula claims up to 98% of primary and secondary schoolchildren in Qatar have access to the internet. Almost all these children use PCs for this purpose; however, the tablet revolution is beginning to gain a foothold in Qatar's classrooms. Although many parents support the idea of their children using the internet on a regular basis, they are worried their children will stop reading books. Furthermore, parents have raised the concern that although their children may be able to use their computers or tablets (for better or for worse), their teachers often have minimal experience with the technology.

But Qatari parents need not be afraid about the content their children view on the internet. The Government of Qatar has entire departments dedicated to identifying and blocking any web content that is contrary to Islamic code or critical of the Qatari leadership. But interested adults can bypass the online restrictions by accessing banned material through internet cafes, which are capable of breaking the bureaucratic firewalls.

If the internet is plentiful in Qatar, it is neither cheap, nor reliable. With packages costing between US$56-US$175, the average Qatari cannot afford to be wired at home. Furthermore, there is the constant problem of trans-Persian Gulf cable lines being cut by ship anchors. Many residents of Qatar choose instead to access the Internet through their iPhones and Blackberrys.

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