Google said it helped to drive more than $6.3 billion into the economies of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in 2021 on the back of technologies that are helping to support the growing digital economy.
Services of the Google ecosystem have been estimated to steer about Dh11.3bn ($3bn) in the UAE and 12.2bn riyals ($3.25bn) in Saudi Arabia, the Alphabet-owned company said in its inaugural Google Impact Reports for the respective countries.
The company's Android Developer System was also instrumental in supporting around 50,000 jobs in the UAE, it said.
The research, conducted by London agency Public First, surveyed the effect on local businesses, developers and content creators, and society as a whole, tracking the transformation of economies after the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the challenges it posed, Covid-19 helped accelerate e-commerce, remote working and the use of digital to support lifelong learning, the report said.
Google has continued to support the Middle East and North Africa region with its programmes designed to accelerate digital development and promote an inclusive ecosystem for businesses and the workforce built on innovation.
In October 2020, Google unveiled a $13 million fund to help one million people and businesses in Mena learn advanced digital skills, grow their businesses by the end of 2021 and support the region's economic recovery.
In July last year, Google was among the technology majors that partnered with the UAE government to train 100,000 young people in computer programming. The five-year initiative also aims to create 1,000 digital companies to boost the Emirati economy and increase government support for start-ups from Dh1.5bn to Dh4bn.
"We're deeply committed to continue investing and doing more through programmes and local partnerships," said Anthony Nakache, managing director of Google Mena.
Google's reports showed that the e-commerce sector, particularly, was at the forefront of the rising trends as people spent more time online and at home. Businesses in the UAE also adapted, with 35 per cent of those polled in the country starting to advertise online for the first time, Google said. For every Dh1 spent on ads, companies received Dh8 back, the search engine company said.
The UAE has one of the highest internet penetration levels in the world, but it had been lagging in e-commerce adoption rates until the pandemic encouraged more online activity. E-commerce penetration more than doubled in the Emirates ― to 12.1 per cent from 5.6 per cent ― between 2019 and 2021, according to consultancy RedSeer.
Google in November said that the UAE was poised to overtake the UK in the adoption of e-commerce as more companies in the Emirates expand their presence online and digital assets become an important part of consumers' perceptions of brands.
The UAE's e-commerce market is projected to grow 60 per cent to more than $8bn by 2025 from 2021, EZDubai and Euromonitor International said in a March report.
In Saudi Arabia ― where e-commerce doubled to 10 per cent between 2019 and 2021, according to RedSeer ― about 29 per cent of companies used online ads for the first time, which in turn returned eight riyals for every riyal spent. The Android Developer System supported about 29,000 jobs in the kingdom.
“In the last couple of years, Covid-19 has helped accelerate some pre-existing trends, such as the rise of e-commerce, the shift towards remote working and the use of online tools to support life-long learning," said Jonathan Dupont, a partner at Public First.
In Egypt, meanwhile, Google's services were able to drive about 11.2bn Egyptian pounds ($605m) in economic activity, according to the report for the country.
E-commerce recorded rapid acceleration, with 34 per cent of businesses advertising online for the first time, with each pound returning a profit of eight pounds. RedSeer estimates that internet penetration in the country more than doubled to 3.6 per cent from 1.5 per cent between 2019 and 2021.
In terms of hybrid working, organisations in the UAE had the highest interest, with almost two thirds of business leaders saying they would continue using this model even if the pandemic recedes. In Saudi Arabia, this figure is at 57 per cent, while in Egypt it is 59 per cent.