Arab world needs to create technology to reap more benefits, expert says

Internet penetration in the Middle East was 64.5 per cent at the end of March


 Richard Kerby, President, Richard Kerby LLC, the moderator of the "A Common Vision for the Region" panel at the Digital Economy Conference 2018.

(Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

Reporter: Alkesh Sharma
Section:    BZ
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The Arab region, where more than 30 per cent population is below the age of 30, needs to start creating technology and invest in youth in order to harness best results out of the region's unified digital strategy, experts said.

The Arab Digital Economy Strategy, which was launched in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, is an initiative to establish digital inclusion and alignment on legislative and technological infrastructure across the 22-member Arab League.

"Initially there were some benchmarks to catch up but now Arab countries are aiming to surpass them. But in order to do that, we need a strong push in terms of research and development," Richard Kerby, head of the review committee of the Arab Digital Economy Strategy, told The National.

“It is very important to start creating our own technology and applications from being just users. There are young men and women, who are IT savvy…. more investment should be made in honing their skills."

The region enjoys comparatively higher internet penetration and that is one of the main drivers of digital inclusion.

Internet penetration in the Middle East reached 64.5 per cent at the end of March while it was close to 55 per cent in the rest of the world, according to Statista. UAE and Bahrain boast of nearly 100 per cent smartphone penetration versus 80 per cent in the US.

“There is a huge young population, presenting immense potential for digital adoption,” said Atef Helmy, former communications and IT minister of Egypt.


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Arab League makes progress on unified digital economy strategy


Information technology spending in Middle East and North Africa is projected to reach $155 billion by the end of 2018, a 3.4 per cent increase from 2017, according to researcher Gartner.

Hesham Dinana, head of research team for the Arab Digital Economy Strategy, said that they have kept human element first while drafting the policy.

“The digital economy is not about technology, but it is about creating value. Therefore, we are emphasising on finding innovative ways to create value that puts humans first,” said Mr Dinana.

“Having a more human-centric strategy is more relevant in the Arab world where one of the main wealth is (young) people. They are imaginative, creative and will be the drivers of digital economy.”