Mobile ownership

According to the Kepios Digital 2020 report, the percentage of mobile connections is 83 percent in 2020, with an increase of 4.3 percent over the previous year and a total 14.31 million mobile connections. Previous data from International Telecommunication Union (ITU) show that the percentage of mobile phone subscribers has steadily and constantly increased since the introduction of mobile phone services in 2000, with some exceptions probably related to fluctuations in the population size coinciding with intensifying levels of the conflict in the country.

Overall, while mobile phones are used almost universally, there are disparities and complexities: People in rural areas are less likely to have access to connectivity and limited access to Internet-enabled phones. Moreover, the level of tech literacy may differ a lot. Observation suggests that mobile phones are mostly and predominantly used to stay in touch with family members and acquaintances, and collect information and be updated to news on the current events.

However, at different degrees, mobiles are also used for entertainment (listening to music and watching videos on YouTube, but also playing video games and quizzes) to escape from work- family- and war-related issues. An ICT4Refugees research of 2016 found that these platforms are so dominant that many refugees do not use websites or even know how the Internet works. They found email is rarely used and “smartphones are not typically regarded as a portal through which one can independently search for information […] rather information flows are overwhelmingly peer-to-peer.” (p 11)

Since 2011, the Ministry of Telecommunications has significantly and regularly increased mobile phone rates, a measure that has benefited the two mobile phone companies, Syriatel and MTN, owned by well-connected entrepreneurs. The latest such increase, was decided in June 2016. Data communications through the 3G network cost SYP11 per megabyte, but due to the sharp devaluation of the Syrian pound, prices are no longer descriptive.