Google commissioned independent consultancy Public First to explore how Google products helped people, businesses, and workers in Saudi Arabia throughout 2021.
In this report, we explore how Google products (Search, Maps, Android, YouTube and Cloud tools) help people in Saudi Arabia keep up to date with the latest news and information, discover new local businesses, learn new skills, find jobs and get more done at work.
Google supports economic growth and digital transformation in Saudi Arabia
While the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 has made 2020 and 2021 a difficult period for everyone, it also helped accelerate other wider trends: the rise in e-commerce, a shift towards remote working and the use of digital to support lifelong learning. Google products played an important role in this transformation.
Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. In Saudi Arabia, this includes everything from helping a child with their homework, picking up a new recipe or DIY skill, making it easier to find new things to try, or just saving time. In our polling, we found little difference in usage of Google Search among different genders, ages, levels of education or income.
In the last two years, Google products helped people keep up to date with changing Government guidance around the pandemic, stay connected with friends and family, and reduce the disruption to education and schooling.
While Saudi Arabia has one of the highest levels of internet penetration, until recently e-commerce prevalence has lagged behind. RedSeer Management Consulting Firm estimates that e-commerce penetration more than doubled in Saudi Arabia from 5% to 10% between 2019 and 2021.
As people spent more time online and at home, businesses adapted too - 29% of businesses in Saudi Arabia started advertising online for the first time. Additionally, 68% of people in Saudi Arabia say that they regularly use Google Search to research a big purchase.
At the same time, platforms like AdSense, Google Play Store, Android and YouTube have made it easy for anyone to follow their passion, reach a worldwide audience and become a professional creator or developer, supporting tens of thousands of jobs across Saudi Arabia.
Google Search is now one of the most important places workers turn to when looking to find a new job. Once they are at work, they increasingly turn to Google Search to help keep their skills up to date.
At the same time, Google productivity tools such as Workspace are also essential for keeping workers and companies productive, whether they are working in the office or increasingly remotely. Over half (57%) of business leaders say that even when the pandemic recedes they think that they are likely to continue to make use of hybrid working.
In the last couple of years, having access to reliable information mattered more than ever. With a nationwide curfew in place for many months, that information was often delivered online. Decades of investment in digital infrastructure meant as the pandemic hit Saudi Arabia, 91% of the population was covered by 4G mobile broadband networks and three million homes had access to fixed broadband.1
For this report, Google commissioned independent consultancy Public First to explore how Google products helped Saudi Arabia’s workers, businesses, content creators and families throughout 2021.
In total, Public First estimates that Google helped support an estimated 12.2 billion SAR (range 8.3 - 18 billion) in economic activity in Saudi Arabia in 2021.
In this report, we explore Google’s impact in Saudi Arabia:
- For people, Google products made it easier to keep up to date with changing government guidance, stay connected with friends and family, and reduce the disruption to education and schooling.
- For businesses, Google helped support a rapid acceleration in e-commerce, as part of the wider growth of online retail across the Middle East and North Africa.
- For workers, Google apps helped keep them productive during a rapid shift to remote working, while helping many others find new jobs and build their skills.
The Value of Information
Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
For people in Saudi Arabia, that means:
- Saving time. In total, by making it easier to find information, we estimate Google Search saves the equivalent of an extra free day of time per person, per year. That’s enough time to read 1,000 pages, run five marathons or even drive from Medina to Jeddah and back three times.
- Staying informed. 62% of internet users in Saudi Arabia say that they used Google Search in the last week to keep up with the news.
- Finding entertainment. 68% of internet users in Saudi Arabia say they used YouTube in the last week to look for entertainment.
- Making purchase decisions. In Saudi Arabia, 56% of consumers start their online shopping journeys using search engines2 and 20% of consumers watch online videos when researching products and services vs. 7% in the UK3.
- Making it easier to try out new things or businesses. 66% of surveyed internet users in Saudi Arabia say they used Google Maps to find a local business, and 62% to find something new to try.
By offering many of its products free to users, Google makes it possible for everyone, no matter their background, to benefit from the power of digital search and online information. In our polling, we found little difference in usage of Google Search for those of different genders, ages, levels of education or income.
Business Profile is a service that allows business owners to manage the way their business appears on Search and Maps at no cost. With Business Profile, businesses can connect with customers, post updates, list products and services, accept online orders, and more.
In 2021, Google Search was an important platform through which people in Saudi Arabia kept up to date with official Covid-19 public health information:
For children and families, Google Search and YouTube helped keep learning going even when schools weren’t open:
At university, Google products helped students learn. 39% of students say that they use Google Search multiple times a day as part of their study or job.
YouTube Kids is a standalone video streaming service designed for parents and families with children under 13. YouTube Kids provides a family friendly environment by offering a range of parental controls and space for children to learn.YouTube has collaborated with a range of Arabic content creators in the region, such as El Schoola (educational channel covering Arabic, Science, Math, and more topics) and Iftah Ya Simsim (the Arabic co-production of Sesame Street), to provide more high quality Arabic content for families.
YouTube Kids offers a wide range of parental controls to allow parents to customise their child's viewing experience in the way that suits them.
Helping businesses find and reach customers
The internet makes it possible for companies of any size to reach the most relevant audience, wherever they may be in the world.
Saudi Arabia has long had a mature consumer internet market, with high levels of broadband and mobile connectivity and has amongst the highest smartphone penetration on the globe. However, until recently, this has not been matched by equivalent levels of take-up in e-commerce. According to a report published by Google and Bain & Company in 2019, 64% of internet users in Saudi Arabia reported shopping online, with an average of just two-three purchases per internet user. By contrast, in the UK 89% of internet users purchased online, with an average of 18 purchases.4
In recent years however, the pandemic looks to have accelerated Saudi Arabia’s transition to e-commerce dramatically, driving both people and businesses online. According to MasterCard, 77% of people in Saudi have shopped more online since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.5 Redseer6 Management Consulting Firm estimates that e-commerce penetration in Saudi Arabia doubled from 5% to 10% between 2019 and 2021.
We all know how stressful reading through pages and pages of dry text while studying can be. After realizing how important it was to make learning more fun and interactive, Noon Academy, an ad-tech application came to life by Mohammed AlDhalaan and Aziz AlSaeed. Noon Academy helps change the way people learn by offering groups of learners live and interactive tutoring sessions from world-renowned teachers. During the pandemic, this need was more apparent than ever, which is when Noon Academy started focusing on their YouTube channel to help students prepare for their Qudrat Exams, which are general aptitude tests for secondary students in Saudi Arabia. Noon Academy had over 40,000 hours of watch time and over 2 million views in 2021 alone, with more people relying on their engaging educational videos. Not only that, their channel subscribers grew organically by almost 30% in 12 months.
Google Shopping is a service by Google that makes it easy for users on Search to research purchases, find information about different products, their features and prices, and then connect with sellers to make their purchase. Google Shopping helps enable the acceleration of the ecommerce industry in Saudi Arabia.Businesses can create Shopping campaigns to promote their online and local inventory, boost traffic to their website or local store, and find better qualified leads.
With Covid-19 forcing many businesses to shut their physical premises, for the first time, tens of thousands of businesses moved online.7 Google Search and Google Ads played an important role in this surge:
Grow My Store
Retailers are a cornerstone of our societies, and one of the major contributors to driving economic recovery in the MENA region and the world as a whole. That's why Google launched the Grow My Store tool in Arabic and English last year, to support retailers in the MENA region. This free tool helps local businesses improve the shopping experience on their websites, attract more customers, enhance their online experience and make it easier for customers to make purchases.
Supporting Entrepreneurs on YouTube and Android
The internet has made it possible for everyone to be a creator. In the past, the biggest barrier to independent creators was often distribution: finding a way to let other people enjoy their writing, music, film, or art — and ideally, pay for it. Today, tools like AdSense, YouTube and the Play Store have allowed teams of any size to distribute content and earn revenue across the world. This has enabled a long tail of diverse content, fuelling new formats from serialised web fiction to vlogging.
Today, YouTube has a worldwide audience of over two billion users, with over one billion hours of content watched every day8 and over 500 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute.9 The top five Saudi based YouTube channels, by subscriber count, have over 41 billion views.10 This immense audience supports thousands of independent creators. In Saudi Arabia, the percentage of YouTube channels making six figures or more in revenue (SAR) is up over 20%, year over year and there has been a 20% increase, year over year, in the number of channels that exceed 1M subscribers.
YouTube creators based in Saudi Arabia include Mohamed Moshaya, a family-focused content creator, Abeer Sindar and The Saudi Reporters lifestyle content creators, Manola, a fashion, DIY and decor content creator, and Thmaniyah, a podcast and documentary platform.
For developers, Android provides access to over 2 billion monthly active users across 190 countries worldwide, with over 2.9 million apps available to download from the Play Store.11 Developers receive 70% of any income they earn through the Google Play Store, and in addition to direct revenue many other developers also receive a significant income from contract work developing apps for businesses and brands.
In 2020, people in Saudi Arabia downloaded 1.9 billion apps across Google Play and the Apple App Store. Public First estimates that the Android Developer Ecosystem is supporting at least 29,000 jobs with around a third of these being core software and app development jobs. Additionally, the number of developers in Saudi Arabia making $10,000 or more per month has grown by more than 15% in the last 12 months.
Manal’s passion, talent and contagious personality helped her build a strong community of DIY (Do it Yourself) and fashion design lovers. Her channel covers everything from upcycling dresses and even scarves to making trousers, repainting her own room to DIY Ramadan decor - Manal’s work has inspired others to take matters into their own hands. Her community often shares their own versions of her designs and ask her for tailoring and DIY tips. When she re-started her channel during the pandemic after a brief break, her subscribers grew by over 300% to date.
Maryam is an app developer. She developed her first Android app for her university graduation project in Saudi Arabia. She later became one of the first Android Google Developer Expert in the Middle East, a community of experienced developer experts, influencers and thought leaders, and was the first Saudi female member. During the pandemic, Maryam started a user group to develop programming resources in Arabic like Kotlin. She hosts regular training sessions on Android, software development, data analytics and cyber security and continues to inspire many other Saudi women to join her passion for mobile app development.
Supporting News Publishers
Search and News help drive traffic to local news sites. Google pays out billions of dollars every year directly to the publishing partners in its ad network. In terms of traffic, Google drives 24 billion clicks per month (9,000 clicks per second) from Google Search and Google News results to publishers’ websites globally.
Google has a team dedicated to helping news publishers in MENA maximise their revenue and monetization on Google's ad tech solutions, as well as offering tools like News Consumer Insights to help publishers better understand their reader preferences and journey.
In the last three years, Google trained 15,000 journalists, students and media professionals on Google News Lab curriculum including topics like data journalism, fact checking, visual data journalism and YouTube content strategy. Trainings were held in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and Algeria/
Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge
- In 2018, Google announced the first GNI Innovation Challenge in MENA, an open-call for project funding to publishers and newsrooms focusing on reader engagement and new reader revenue.
In the last two rounds of the GNI Innovations Challenges, Google selected 19 projects from eight countries (UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia) and awarded a total of 1.8M USD.
Finding jobs and building skills
Today, when people need to find a new job, Google Search is often the first place they turn:
Google products can be particularly important for underrepresented and vulnerable groups. Based on our polling, Public First estimates that every month:
- On average 5 million women in Saudi Arabia use Google Search to look for a new job every month.
- 1.8 million job unemployed people in Saudi Arabia use Google Search to help prepare for a job interview.
Maharat min Google
To address the growing skills gap in the MENA region’s workforce, and to help ensure that opportunities created by technology are available to everyone, Google launched Maharat min Google in 2018, an upskilling program in Arabic to help people get ready for future job opportunities, advance their careers, or grow their businesses. Maharat min Google provides free courses, tools and in-person digital skills training to students, educators, job seekers and businesses. The online platform in Arabic includes 100 lessons and tutorial videos covering digital marketing courses including search engine marketing, understanding consumer insights, fundamentals of machine learning, basics of code, and more.
Since the program’s launch in 2018, 1.5 million individuals have been trained in digital skills and the majority of the individuals trained are based in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Iraq.
Helping Workers Collaborate Online
With much of the physical economy shuttered throughout 2021, an increasing number of businesses were forced to shift online:
Online tools such as Search, Maps, and Google Workspace are increasingly important for a wide range of jobs — helping people in Saudi Arabia work better.
Before the pandemic, 16% of people in Saudi Arabia told us that not having access to a search engine at work would cause a few issues and mean a few tasks would take longer, today, 67% of online businesses in Saudi Arabia said that Google products like Workspace were essential or important to their business in enabling remote working.
Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite) is a package of cloud-based services that can provide a company or school with a whole new way to work together online—not just using email and chat, but over video conferences, social media, real-time document collaborations, and more.
Google Workspace plans provide a custom email for businesses and include collaboration tools like Gmail, Calendar, Meet, Chat, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Sites, and more.
To build a broader picture of the benefits, we conducted extensive public polling to ask people and businesses how they made use of Google products, and what difference they made to their leisure, work and society:
- Working with panel provider Dynata we polled 1,000 adults across Saudi Arabia to get a representative sample. In this poll we asked 70 questions about their experience using Google and other online products.
- Working with MSI we polled 500 senior business managers in small, medium and large businesses across Saudi Arabia, asking them 50 questions about how Google and online tools are supporting their businesses.
Public First is a member of the Market Research Society. The full tables for all the data used in this report is available to download from our website.
While Google commissioned this report from Public First, all economic estimates are derived from official, third party sources and Public First’s proprietary information.
For our higher end estimate, we estimate the size of the Google Ads market based on:
- A top-down estimate based on Google’s published numbers for revenue by region (US, EMEA, APAC), apportioned out by Saudi Arabia’s share of the regional e-commerce market.
- A bottom-up estimate combining estimates of the average number of Google Search ads seen, with third-party data on average Cost Per Click (CPC) and Click Through Rates (CTR) drawn from AdStage and WordStream.
For our lower end estimate, we estimate the size of the Google Ads market based on:
- A top-down estimate, based on PWC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook data on paid search market, and Statcounter data on Google’s share of the search market
- A bottom-up estimate combining estimates of the average number of Google Search ads seen, with third-party data on average Cost Per Click (CPC) and Click Through Rates (CTR) drawn from AdStage and WordStream.
This lower end estimate is equivalent to the methodology used in our previous impact report for Saudi Arabia.
Following the methodology of the U.S Google Economic Impact Report, we then scale this revenue by an assumed Return on Investment (ROI) factor of 8, from:
- Varian (2009) estimates that businesses make on average $2 for every $1 they spend on Google Ads.
- Jansen and Spink (2009) estimate that businesses receive 5 clicks on their search results for every 1 click on their ads.
- Google estimates that search clicks are about 70% as valuable as ad clicks.
- Total ROI is then 2 * spend + 70% * 5 * 2 * spend – spend = 8 (spend).
This growth is similarly scaled by the ROI factor of 8 and divided by GDP.
Our central estimate is the geometrical mean of our higher and lower end estimates.
More information on this methodology is available at https://economicimpact.google.com/methodology/
We estimate the share of this value created by new online sales by the proportion of estimated spend from companies who say that they used Google Ads for the first time as a result of Covid-19.
Similarly, we estimate the share of this value supporting small businesses by the proportion of estimated Google Ads’ spend from companies who have less than 250 employees.
Android Developer Ecosystem Jobs
To find the estimated total number of Android jobs in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt we used the geometric mean of three estimates:
- Adjusting DAXX’s estimate of the total number of Android jobs in USA by the ratio between that country’s population and the population of the USA
- Adjusting DAXX’s estimate of the total number of Android jobs by the ratio between that country's GDP and the GDP of the USA.
- Apportioning worldwide Android job numbers by an estimate of each country’s share of total global downloads or revenue, based on the methodology below.
For UAE and Saudi Arabia, we used AppBrain data, choosing the US, UK and German markets as representative markets and counted the number of times the developer of an App on the ‘top grossing’ or ‘most installs’ list for a given country is mentioned. This was repeated for the ‘top developer’ list. The average ranking was then found across the markets and a simple power law was applied to the rankings to estimate the market share of a given country (i.e. the revenue coming to an app developer does not decrease linearly with its average app ranking such that the developers of the best ranking apps account for significantly more market share than those below it).
We then combined these estimated shares with DAXX’s estimate of total worldwide 2020 app economy job numbers of 14 million (DAXX) and PPI’s estimate of the average percentage of app economy development jobs that are in Android.
- RedSeer Primary Research and Analysis, August 2021
- Extrapolating from our business polling