Arabnet digital summit was wrapped up on Saturday following five days of excessive talks, panels and workshops at Habtoor Hotel in Beirut.
During Forum Day 2, a panel was organized to discuss building a digital hub in Lebanon. The panel, moderated by Cleartag CEO Tarek Dajani, included Dr.Saad Andary, Vice Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Salam Yamout, National ICT Strategy Coordinator at the Presidency of Council of Ministers, Fares Abi Nassif, Advisor to the Minister of Telecom, Diana Menhem, UNDP economic officer at IDAL and Tarek Sadi, managing director at Endeavor Lebanon.
According to Andary, Lebanon has the potential when it comes to entrepreneurship. He hoped the new law on developing financial markets will boost entrepreneurship in Lebanon and highlighted several approaches by the Central Bank in this regard.
Yamout underlined the “vision” of the council of ministers to turn Lebanon into a digital hub. “Lebanon has potential human resources,” he added. “The Council of Ministers is aware of the importance of technological progress and some of the ministers have started working to push this sector forward,” he said.
“The ministry of telecommunications is currently focusing on the digitization of sectors such as education, healthcare, banking and other sectors on one hand; and encouraging entrepreneurship in the digital sector on the other,” Abi Nassif said.
According to Menhem, “infrastructure and education are the pillars of establishing an environment of creativity and knowledge, which in turn will make Lebanon a digital hub.” Menhem revealed that IDAL is planning to amend its law. “According to the new law, startups will enjoy tax exemptions with easier terms,” she said. The new law is currently being studied by the concerned ministerial committee, she added.
“Laws and financial systems play a very important role in turning Lebanon into a digital hub,” Sadi said. “Nonetheless, developing university research and studies is as important,” he added.
The Future of News
Social media and citizen journalism have become necessary elements in the making of news. Arabnet organized a panel with professionals from the media industry to discuss how their media outlets are meeting the new demands.
According to Been Rooney from the Wall Street Journal, the future of the news is in multiple channel distribution. “Print is definitely one part, but it is no longer important as before,” he added.
Rooney added that every journalist now has a duty to be careful when using material or footage from outside his media outlet.
CEO & Founder of Demotix, Turi Munthe, said traditional journalists should manage networks properly to reinforce their brand, i.e. trust. “The only value in journalism is trust,” he said. He also asked whether the audience will continue to trust journalists enough to keep paying for information.
Nart Bouran, Head of SkyNews Arabia, said “we cannot forget the influence of social media and social networking tools.” However, “you should trust citizen journalism more of it comes through professional news providers,” added. According to Bouran, “it is not just about videos and high viewership numbers; it is about having access to videos that have been authenticated and verified.”
Head of SkyNews Arabia also said that the main objective of the his channel is to be able to deliver news in any form required, adding that “we will try to go live as much as possible, as nothing tells a story better.”
Also, Jan Rezab, co-founder and CEO of Social Bakers highlighted the importance of measuring social media online. Social Bakers is platform to get ranking for companies present on social media via their posts. According to Rezab, every brand that wants to monitor social media, must choose the right metrics. “Building good social content is very important: a good mix of pictures, posts and videos is the best on your Facebook pages and twitter profiles,” he suggested.
The gaming industry in the region is growing, and with the huge potential it is demonstrating, a panel to discuss this potential and the major obstacles its growth is facing, was organized by Arabnet.
Founders of At7addak.com, Falafel Games, GameTako and Nezal Entertainment took part in the panel. According to Abdullah Hamed from GameTako, the future of this sector is still unknown in the MENA region. He also called for designing games that meet the local aspirations instead of importing international games. Falafel Games founder Vince Ghossoub pointed out that competition games are the most successful in the region as Arab players enjoy competitive games more than anywhere else.
According to Brahme Chouity from At7addak.com the market is growing very slowly and lacks games.
Qualcomm’s Director of Product and Services Gilles Fayad and Blippar co-founder Omar Tayeb also discussed augmented reality technology in a separate panel.
Mobile Media Advertising
Mobile media is the fastest growing media. As such, a panel to discuss mobile advertising was organized with panelists Fayez Abu Awad from Boost Communications and Roy Barghouti from MindShare. According to Abu Awad, many companies and brands have not adopted the mobile culture. Barghouti, who expected the mobile ads sector to prosper in the near future, also said the companies that will not engage in mobile ads will soon go bankrupt. “Following the e-commerce revolution, we will move to mobile ads,” he added.
A competition to choose the best advertising campaign in the region was organized this year. Four creative advertising agencies from Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt presented their latest achievement through a case study to four judges: Sref Yehia, brand manager at Procter & Gamble, Arto Joensuu, head of marketing at Dubizzle, Daniel Jurow, Managing director at R/GA and Sherif Dahan, managing director at MSN Arabia (Pakistan and Middle East).
Jordanian agency Prodigy won the competition for its campaign for radio BeatFM. People were asked to send their share their pictures if they are a celebrity look alike as part of the campaign.
As part of the Ideathon, a competition that aims to showcase the best of regional entrepreneurs with great ideas to an enthusiastic crowd of investors and incubators and digital professional, 10 ideas were pitched during the Forum Day 1. Mahmoud Doueiry from Jordanr ranked first, Marc Malkoun (Lebanon) ranked second and Fadi Kayale(Lebanon) third. The people’s choice award went to Said Amr.
The StartUp Demo competition aims to showcase the best regional startups to investors, incubators and professionals attending Arabnet summit. Out of the 10 startups demonstrated, Cordoba, the online program that aims to create Arabic content online, won the first prize. Glambox.me, a space for female online shopping ranked second and Cinemoz.com, the VOD platform, ranked third.
During the last day of the summit, Community Day, discussions on social media, citizen journalism, corporate social responsibility and workshops continued.
As part of the debate “Is Twitter Journalism?” LBCI’s news correspondent Tania Mehanna said social media completes traditional journalism. “Bloggers and social networks on one hand, and traditional journalism on the other hand, complete each other,” she said, adding that social networks help journalists find news sources.
A separate panel on citizen journalism discussed the potential of people in becoming the sources of information.