DiSTO Kuwait

Kuwait Context

  • Kuwait is 56th in the world ranking for human development (UNDP)
  • According to the World Economic Forum, it ranks 1st worldwide for mobile coverage, 2nd in cell and broadband subscriptions, and 14th for home computers
  • Mobile penetration rates are estimated as high as 240% and internet land coverage is 100%, according to the Central Authority for Information Technology
  • Despite its high levels of digital penetration, and one of the world’s highest per capita Gross National Incomes (GNI) (World Bank), the 2019 World Economic Forum ranks  Kuwait as only the 54th most competitive country
  • With an expatriate population of approximately 70% (Central Statistics Bureau) and high levels of income inequality, the DiSTO Kuwait project will explore relationships between these extreme offline conditions and the population’s online outcomes 


The DiSTO Kuwait project comprises the adaptation, validation, and implementation of DiSTO’s methodology and framework to the Kuwaiti context, including the development of an Arabic version of its key scales. The long-term ambition is to collect national-level data using these modified tools, which can then inform local academic and policy discussions, while also contributing to broader comparisons by providing data from Kuwait to larger evaluations of global media conditions and social changes.

The project has been developed in two stages: (1) an exploratory research and (2) the full study, informed by the findings obtained through the preliminary exercise.

Exploratory study


This first stage involved work on a preliminary subset of DiSTO questions and exploratory cognitive interviews. A special emphasis was given to the methodological challenges of adapting DiSTO’s global tools to local conditions within a Middle Eastern country.

Project Activities

  • A visiting fellowship in collaboration with the London School of Economics and Political Science during which DiSTO’s measurement tools were adapted and translated (including back translation) for testing and validating in Kuwait.
  • 32 cognitive interviews in both Arabic and English were conducted with selected respondents to determine the applicability and their varied understandings of the primary questionnaire. This vital qualitative data showed cultural specificities of engagement with digital media across a range of different socio-demographic groups.
  • The evaluation of the state of international and domestic ICT data about Kuwait, aiming to identify potential gaps that could be addressed with greater information about digital media use and their outcomes (i.e. the contributions from DiSTO data).


The visiting fellowship for Dr Fahed Al-Sumait was granted by the LSE Kuwait Programme, funded by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences.

Full project


This project represents the first application of the DiSTO methodology to an Arab context, thereby making inroads into the Middle East region where both income and digital inequalities are extreme and digitisation is taking place at a rapid pace.

Project Activities

  • Questionnaire adaptation, translation and validation
  • Pilot testing and scale refinements, done through pilot surveys with individuals representative of the population
  • Cognitive interviews
  • Data collection from a national sample of individuals representing the Kuwaiti population (citizens and expats)

Funding Support

This project is funded by the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Publications and Presentations

  • Al-Sumait, F & Navarro, C. (2023). Kuwait's Enduring Digital Divide. Socio-Demographic Characteristics Relative to ICT Access, Skills, and OutcomesLSE Middle East Centre Paper Series.
  • Kuwait's Digital Inequalities Report 2022

Download the report here

Suggested citation: 

Al-Sumait, F., Helsper, E.J., Navarro, C. Al-Saif, N., & Raut, N. (2022). Kuwait’s Digital Inequalities Report. From Digital Skills to Tangible Outcomes project report. Available at: https://www.lse.ac.uk/media-and-communications/assets/documents/research/projects/disto/Kuwait-report.pdf 

  • Closing the Digital Divide: a Key Step Toward a Knowledge-based Economy. KFAS Magazine July-September 2023.
  • Al-Sumait, F., Helsper, E. J., & Rahali, M. (2023). Adapting global methodologies to digital inequalities research in a multicultural Arab environment. Convergence, 29(4). https://doi.org/10.1177/13548565231174594
  • Al-Sumait, F., (2022). Inequalities: The Persistent Obstacle to Kuwait’s Digital Transformation. The London School of Economics Middle East Centre. Available at https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mec/2022/06/29/inequalities-the-persistent-obstacle-to-kuwaits-digital-transformation
  • Al-Sumait, F. (2018). From Tankers to Tablets: Is Kuwait Ready for a Digital Evolution?  The London School of Economics Middle East Centre. Available at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mec/2018/08/24/from-tankers-to-tablets-is-kuwait-ready-for-a-digital-evolution
  • Al-Sumait, F. “Evaluating Kuwait’s Digital Ecosystem: A Corresponding Fields Model for digital Exclusion.” The Middle East Studies Association Conference. New Orleans, LA. 2019
  • Al-Sumait, F., Helsper, E. & Rahali, M. “Cross-cultural complexities in digital inequalities research: A Case Study of Kuwait.” International Association for Media and Communication Research Conference, Nirobi, Kenya. 2021
  • Al-Sumait, F., Helsper, E. & Rahali, M. “Exploring (and Contesting) the Reproduction of Technological Imperialism: Adapting Digital Inequalities Research to a Multicultural Arab Environment.” British Society of Middle East Studies Conference. St. Andrews, Scotland. 2022
  • Al-Sumait, F., Helsper, E., Navarro, C., Al-Saif, N., & Raut, N. (2022). “Transitioning from Tankers to Tablets? Assessing Inequalities in Kuwait's Digital Readiness.” Research Seminar. Middle East Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Research team


Dr. Fahed Al-Sumait is an Assistant Professor at the Gulf University for Science and Technology and Co-Pi on the DiSTO-Kuwait research project. His research background is in Communication studies. 


Nouf Al Saif is the Research Associate for the DiSTO project in Kuwait, where she is also a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Mass Communication and Media at the Gulf University for Science and Technology.



Cristina Navarro is an Associate Professor of communication at Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait. Her research interests include online public relations, social media communication, professionalism leadership and PR competencies, knowledge and skills.