With the continuing political crisis in Yemen, along with the youth revolution which has entered its fifth month, the number of internet users in Yemen has sharply increased, as has demand for new subscriptions to the service.
Bilal al-Ansi, the owner of an internet café in Yemen, said that the youth revolution and its events have coincided with a rise in the numbers of customers in his shop.
Al-Ansi said some patrons race to reserve seats at one of his 30 computers.
"This has never happened before, and I have been in this business for five years," he said, adding that most customers, including children, use the internet service to read news and browse social networking sites like Facebook.
According to YemenNet, the country's main internet service provider, the number of internet users and subscribers increased during the first quarter of 2011 when compared to the same period in 2010.
Figures show that there were 9,487 new ADSL service subscribers in the first quarter of 2011, up from 7,000 subscribers in the same period in 2010. Since the high-speed service was introduced in 2002, there have been 88,000 ADSL subscribers.
Additionally, the number of subscribers for the slower but more accessible dial-up service reached 500,000.
Amer Hazah, general manager of Internet and Data Transmission, discussed the development of internet services and people's increasing awareness, pointing to the importance of the internet as a tool that all of Yemeni society depends upon to conduct business.
"In view of the great demand from citizens for the service, the network will be expanded, and 100,000 subscribers will be added as a first step, and then 50,000 as a later step," Hazah said.
Servers detected a high demand for sites like Facebook and Google, Hazah added, noting that newspaper sites rank second among users. He said that the youth revolution was an important catalyst that prompted a greater demand for the internet, whether for social networking or the reading of news.
Hazah described service costs as "somewhat cheap," noting that "Yemen was ranked sixth among 19 Arab countries on the price scale established by the Arab Advisors Group."
Dr. Fouad al-Salahi, a professor of sociology at the University of Sanaa, told Al-Shorfa that in the early days of the revolution, young people were using the internet and social networking sites to inform each other about events that occurred in public squares.
According to al-Salahi, the youths later started using the internet to organise their activities and send information in real time. He said Yemen has about 1,000 groups representing the youth revolution in the square and demanding change and freedom in all provinces.
"This has led to the creation of dialogue groups through social networking sites as if the internet was the center of the revolution," he said. "The popularity of news sites and international TV channel websites, where they allow young people to express their views about issues in Yemen, has broadcast the attitudes of the street directly to the world."
Labib Shaef, director general of analysis and studies at the National Information Centre, estimated Yemen's total number of internet users at three million people.
"I consider this a great number," he said.
He attributed the increase in demand for the internet to the population's desire to follow political events for themselves because of conflicting reports in the media.
However, Shaef warned about the importance of expanding international cable links for the service because overwhelming user demand will slow its speed if the service infrastructure is not improved.