The digital impact on Arab countries industries

Pubblicato il 29 Mar 2012

While the third day of ArabNet is about to start, Startupbusiness publish a report by Arabnet organization on how the digital tools are impacting the various industries in the Arab countries markets. 

The ArabNet Digital Summit kicked off on Tuesday March 27, 2012 at the Metropolitan Hotel in Beirut. The five day summit will tackle the latest in web and mobile with panels hosting top executives from the digital sector, numerous hands on workshops covering the hottest platforms in addition to highlighting the 20 most anticipated startups and ideas with the Ideathon and Startup Demo competitions.

Arabnet introduced a new day this year to its summit, the Industry Day. The day focuses on the way that web and mobile are transforming traditional industries, including healthcare, banking, travel, education, and government. Professionals from across the spectrum were able to gain a better understanding of the technological future of their industry and learn about ways to enhance their business and stay competitive.

The day started with a panel on Trends in Web and Mobile with Jawad Abbassi, Founder and General Manager at Arab Advisors Group, Ziad Matar, Head of the Middle East and Central Asia Global Business Operations at Qualcomm, Lisa Nyman, Strategy and Marketing Manager, Middle East at Ericsson and Sebastien Marteau, VP of Mobile at Integral.

According to Marteau, the MENA region lacks relevant Arabic apps, with almost 1000 Arabic apps developed. “The Saudi Arabia market, one of the largest markets in the region, prefers apps with Arabic interface”, Jawad Abassi said.

“The challenges we have ahead are that of creating local content, whilst ensuring telecoms make money to create sustainable industry,” Marteau said.

According to Ziad Matar, there are around 5 billion mobile subscribers worldwide, a number much larger than that of people who have access to water or the number of screens.

Nyman said that 75% of time spent on smartphones worldwide is not on voice or text, but on web and apps. She also estimated the average amount spent in mobile ads to USD 600 billion.

The panel highlighted the importance of mobile and web devices in connecting the world. In Tanzania, 190 babies were born last month using a special phone application, Matar said. “We can benefit from connecting devices such as a car or dishwashers in order to generate benefits,” Nyman added.

“We used to go to main sites to read content, today destination sites are losing importance, people are reading articles through their social feeds, or articles shared by friends,” Omar Christidis said. “Internet has democratized the concept of content and distribution.”

 “We used to have excessive campaigns. Today push advertising is replaced by forums that add value to the clients and involve them in decision making,” he said. “New media can be a tool to build a relation between governments and their citizens, by creating initiatives to enhance transparency and communication channels.”

Omar Christidis, who moderated the session, had started with a quick review of stats: 77 % of users have liked a brand on Facebook, 50 % have received customer service via twitter, 100 million Youtube video are played every day and 85% of mobile internet users have downloaded apps before.

The panel also discussed the issue of mobile security and protecting the user’s privacy, which “some people are willing to sacrifice, to stay connected,” Christidis said.

 “Smarter Planet: An industry view of turning Information into Insight” was the title of the second session, presented by Ali Munawar Zakaria, Director of Demand Programs, Middle East and Africa, at IBM.

According to Zakaria, we are all linked economically, socially and technically: economically via wars and oil prices, socially via uprisings, and technically via the web for example.

“We have become very empowered consumers and citizens and everything has some kind of technology build into it,” he said.

According to Zakaria, there are “1 billion mobile camera phones, 2 billion people on internet, 4 billion mobile phone subscribers and 15 petabytes of information generated every day.”

Zakaria highlighted the importance of introducing monitoring, analysis and action to smarter health, education and government sectors.

Zakaria’s “Smarter Planet” was followed by a short talk on Technology and Industry by Firas AlFanney, General Manager, Levant and North Africa, at Intel. AlFanney highlighted Intel’s programs in emerging markets. Intel is working with Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Morocco and Watar on programs that give people access to technology, with a focus on education.

“In the 21st century, we should have the student center model, and the teacher should play the role of a facilitator,” he said. “Student can manage their own time; access the internet, do critical thinking, etc…”

AlFanney suggested developing special curricula which target students, help train teachers to adapt technology in the classroom, implement information communications technology and tablets for higher grades.

The session was followedby a talk on social media and consumer relationship with Fawzi Rahal, Regional Digital Director at Grey MENA and Mustafa Bilge, Founder and Managing Partner at Semanticum.

During the summit, Egypt’s Ideavelopers announced investing USD 1.3 million dollars in Dr.Bridge health care company.

The Developer Days started off with the “Mobile Hour” which gave an inside look at the hottest upgrades & tools in the mobile industry. Ahmed Adel, Developer and Platform Evangelism Sales & Operations Director at Microsoft, said “the average number of text messages (sms) sent in 1998 per person was 4. Today, 6.1 trillion text messages are sent worldwide.”  William Kanaan, New Business Development at Google, said mobile devices will outnumber PCs next year. Gilles Fayad, Director Products & Services, MEA at Qualcomm said that new devices will learn from users and that in the future everything will be connected.


The “Mobile Hour” was follow by “Trends in Mobile Consumption in the Saudi Market” by Mr. Sebastien Marteau, VP of Mobile at Integral. Marteau highlighted the best practices of developing mobile digital products and insights into the global app industry. According to Marteau, Saudi Arabia is a very young market with very high penetration rates, with 2 SIM cards per person in the kingdom. Marteau also said that 47% of people in KSA use apps provided they are in Arabic.


In addition to technical sessions on Google Web Toolkit, Developing Windows Phone Apps, SEO for web developers and “Mobile Phones getting Smarter”, “Developing with Security and Privacy in mind” and “UXHour”,  Amina Belghiti and Stephane Crozatier from Facebook, gave a talk in which they highlighted some key stats and figures regarding social media.


“It took Facebook 8 years to get to 850 million users and almost 4 years to get to 425 million mobile users,” they said. “Major problem facing mobile is fragmentation. Facebook approach’s is to concentrate on relative platforms: iOS and Android,” they added.


The day was followed by a night competition, “Overnight”, that aims to test the skills of developers and identify the best engineering talent in the region. The competition started at 8PM on Tuesday, till 8AM on Wednesday. Competitors were challenged to build a simple web application or a mobile app in just 12-hours. The winners of the competition are Hasan Arous (Syria), Bilal Itani (Lebanon), Abdelmohimen Alagha (Syria) and Ata Alqadi (Jordan). They all received prizes from “Integral”.

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