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ictQATAR - AICTO Development of the Arabic Content - Howaida Nadim

ictQATAR - AICTO Development of the Arabic Content - Howaida Nadim

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ictQATAR's Communications Director, Howaida Nadim's presentation at the Arabic Digital Content Open Forum, IGF2010, Vilnius - Lithuania. (IGF 2010)
ictQATAR's Communications Director, Howaida Nadim's presentation at the Arabic Digital Content Open Forum, IGF2010, Vilnius - Lithuania. (IGF 2010)

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Published by: ictQATAR on Sep 19, 2010
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09/19/2010

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Arab Information and Communication Technology Organization Open Forum: Development of the Arabic Content Facing the Future

Internet Vilnius Lithuania, 15 September 2010 Overview The communication and information sector in the MENA region have experienced significant growth over the past few years; mobile population penetration is exceeding 100% in many countries (e.g. QATAR, UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman) and internet household penetration is exceeding 30% in some countries (e.g. Qatar, Bahrain, UAE). Despite the fact that more end-users are now connected and levels of e-inclusion have been enhanced, the digital content industry is still in its infancy. Currently, only 1% of all online content is in Arabic and apart from a few cases, most MENA region countries score quite low in NRI (Network Readiness Index) index of accessibility of digital content. The MENA region has all the characteristics needed to enable a burgeoning digital content market; macroeconomic, demographic and ICT policy enablers are all there. Fast growing economies, young and vibrant population, mature mobile markets and exponentially rising broadband markets are key strategic attributes that regional markets should capitalize on. Regional ICT industry stakeholders should coordinate efforts to unlock digital market potential and serve latent demand. However, a set of key challenges hinder timely and effective development of the digital content market. Factors such as shortage of skills and talent, inadequate financing, outdated regulatory frameworks and lack of innovative business models/revenue streams, restrict opportunities for start-ups/ entrepreneurs, while impeding development of comprehensive digital media service offerings. In this regard, several imperatives need to be implemented to foster the development of digital media in the region. These imperatives include enhancing access and use, introducing and supporting required incentives models, developing human capital, modernizing policies and regulations and ensuring development of adequate infrastructure. ictQATAR, similarly to every national policy maker, is expected to play an instrumental role in driving change and be the catalyst for enabling effective development of the regional digital content industry. As part of its ICT2015 strategy, ictQATAR has set out clear priorities and initiatives to drive the development of a sustainable and self-reinforcing ecosystem; the objective is to promote the development of rich and open Arabic digital content that will be disseminated regionally and globally.

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A. Regional Context 1. The MENA region has all fundamental macroeconomic, demographic and ICT policy enablers that could drive growth in the digital content market: – Arab nations population count around 358 million; extremely young and vibrant population as over 50% of population is under the age of 24 – Total nominal GDP reached around US 1.6 trillion, representing 2.8% of global GDP – MENA region mobile and broadband penetration expected to reach 112% and 41% respectively by 2014 2. Consumers behavior patterns are shifting, as users prefer digital over traditional media: – Regional digital media sector net advertisement spend is expected to grow at 33% CAGR over the coming 5 years, as compared to 5-10% CAGR in traditional media – In a survey conducted in the region, it is found that in the GCC, percentage of traditional media users significantly decreased between 2007 and 2008, while mobile and smartphone users considerably increased over the same period 3. Emerging new digital media segments demonstrate differentiated ICT needs and preferences – Four digital media users segments have been identified: youth (34%), professionals (4%), female socialites (32%) and leisure males (30%) – Segments ICT needs and preferences span across digital media ecosystem categories: infotainment, social media, commerce, communication, search and applications – In summary, digital segments’ underlying preferences are: o Youth is more interested in recreation and entertainment (games), blogging and education/ knowledge o Professionals show preferences in information / work, communication and knowledge o Female socialites are more interested in amusement, lifestyle / fashion and communication content o Leisure males preferences are focused around amusement, news and sports and personalization 4. Regional digital content market potential has attracted international players (supply dynamics): – International internet players, such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook already dominate the traffic within every country in the region – Yahoo recently clinched deal with Maktoob to enhance its online portal offering (e.g. business news and finance headlines, games, sports, online community)

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– Google and the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology signed an agreement focusing on growing digital media startups, incubation venture capital, angel funding of the ICT sector and training students in online advertising 5. There is currently limited availability of Arabic content, despite the reported relative high demand for online Arabic content : – Currently, only 1% of all content online is in Arabic – In a recent regional study, 62% respondents quoted Arabic as the preferred language for browsing the Internet – Given reported shifts in consumers’ behavior patterns, there is a risk that end-users will not become aware of national properties currently offline (e.g. university and museum archives) B. Key Challenges A set of challenges hinder the effective and timely development of the digital media market in the region: 1. Shortage of skills and talent in digital media negatively impacts pace of development: – Media companies operating in the region need a consistent supply of local talent – There is a shortage of creative and innovative talent in the region – Most regional media companies lack good quality local Arabic content 2. Inadequate financing limits opportunities for start-ups and entrepreneurs to innovate in digital media: – Lack of financial support to incubate and grow new “innovative” concepts and ideas – Lack of growth capital for small and medium enterprises for diversifying or consolidating their position in new media market – When examining the top investment funds in the region, it becomes clear that focus is mainly on real estate, as total funds reached USD 2.3 billion, compared to USD 1.6 billion for technology, communications, and media 3. Existing regulatory frameworks are considered outdated, as they do not effectively address intellectual property rights and data protection issues, while in most cases e-commerce laws are still to be implemented: – Most countries in the region still do not provide an adequate regulatory environment to attract international and regional players (e.g. lack of transparency, censorship, intellectual property rights, SPAM laws, ecommerce regulations etc.) – Current regulatory environment does not specifically promote digital media production nor influences the quality of content being developed

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4. Underdeveloped and inefficient advertising market directly impacts potential revenue streams for digital media market: – Undisciplined and asymmetrical advertising market as well as predatory and non-transparent commercial practices – Absence of common and reliable media consumption rating methodology, leaving advertisers without proper tools to make efficient media buying decisions – Outsourcing of media representation – Online net advertisement spend per capita is USD 2 in the MENA region, compared to USD 96 in UK, USD 44 in US and USD 22 in France C. Required Imperatives A variety of different imperatives are necessary to foster the development of a digital media ecosystem in the region. Imperatives could be focused on: – Enhancing digital access and use, as well as raising awareness among endusers – Providing required incentives model, in terms of funding mechanisms, rewards and recognitions – Developing human capital and bridging skills and capabilities shortage gap – Modernizing policies and regulations, protecting end-users digital interests and attracting investment – Ensuring development of adequate infrastructure (e.g. high-capacity broadband access), as well as digital content standards interoperability 1. Access and Use: – Define rules and guidelines for granting permission for accessing online content – Develop innovative tools that would support Arabic and local digital content proliferation (e.g., Arabic character recognition, web search engine, automatic translation engine, etc.) – Run campaigns to educate people on the value of using digital online content 2. Incentives Models: – Subsidize digitization process by funding specialized companies/experts to deliver high-quality digitization in a timely manner – Establish venture capital funds to ensure that the right ideas and talent have access to funding and can be translated to viable commercial opportunities – Attract international venture capital investments – Encourage exploration of new business models in the digital content industry and drive implementation of sustainable models through engaging industry stakeholders – Establish prestigious award institution(s) to develop regular well-publicized competitions related to digital content

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3. Human Capital: – Organize and promote digital media trainings targeting both students and professionals in ICT or media industry – A training institute could be set up to deliver dedicated training courses across several topics such as digital preservation, digital content development and marketing, etc. – Cooperate with educational stakeholders to integrate digital media courses in university curricula; courses should cover accessing, using and creating content – Cooperate with educational stakeholders to instill a digital participation and blogging culture among all students – Promote international exchange programs with innovative regional and international digital media educational institutions and centers, mainly targeted for ICT professionals and creative youth – Encourage and facilitate internship opportunities for students with leading digital media companies 4. Policies and Regulations: – Protect intellectual property rights through piracy regulation – Win users trust in digital content and provide them with more control over the way their personal data is handled through data protection and privacy regulation – Harmonize rules of online business and boost user confidence by finalizing ecommerce regulation in line with international trends 5. Infrastructure and Standards: – Support national broadband network initiative to promote high speed, ubiquitous, affordable broadband, addressing gaps in fixed or wireless coverage – Provide free wireless Internet access in convenient locations (e.g. libraries, schools, community centers) – Improve web hosting through subsidies and collaboration with telecom operators – Encourage adoption of open standards for digital content production and the development of standard-based tool

D. Role of ictQATAR Qatar is well positioned to lead development of localized digital content, given its common and unique strategic attributes: – Freedom of content: no content filtering, empowering citizens and businesses to self-regulate access to information and satisfy curiosity for knowledge – Strong media track record: Al-Jazeera success story

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– Understanding of local, Arabic and Islamic requirements: focus on maintaining cultural roots supported by strong understanding of Arabic and Islamic requirements (e.g. Museum of Islamic Arts) – Availability of financial resources: strong funding potential to support the development of a knowledge-based economy – World-class ICT infrastructure national broadband network and international connectivity enabling creation and dissemination of digital content in the region and globally ictQATAR, as every national policy maker, is expected to play an instrumental role in driving change and be the catalyst for enabling effective development of regional digital content industry. ictQATAR, as part of its ICT2015 strategy, has clearly set out priorities and initiatives in developing a sustainable and self-reinforcing ecosystem that promotes development of rich, open Arabic digital content, disseminated regionally and globally. Key initiatives include: 1. Digital Content Incubation and Digitization: – Develop digital content incubator, aiming to unlock digital content potential in Qatar and the region, focusing on innovative new media services and applications for the Arab world – Encourage conversion of content (textual, image, audio format) that is in print or analogue format to digital format, publish it online and preserve (focus on university research, national heritage, laws/ decrees) – Support enactment of digitization plan across government entities and private sector 2. Access and Use: – Market and promote content available online, through targeted awareness campaigns and trainings 3. Incentives Models: – Support establishment of content digitization funding mechanism (government subsidies, grants, VC funds) – Facilitate development of new business models for digital content industry (e.g. ad-funded, “digitize-on-demand”) and establish reward and recognition mechanisms 4. Human Capital: – Support incorporating digital media courses in university curricula and encourage internships and international exchange opportunities

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5. Policies and Regulations: – Establish digital content regulatory framework enabling open content access (intellectual property rights, SPAM regulation, data protection and privacy, e-commerce regulation) 6. Infrastructure and Standards: – Ensure an open, affordable and ubiquitous infrastructure access to digital content – Support development of conducive standards for content digitization E. Conclusion
6.54 6.41 6.33 6.32 6.32

The underdevelopment of digital content in the region calls for immediate action by 6.28 6.21 all relevant stakeholders. Coordinated efforts are required to ensure that key 6.16 enablers are in place to foster the creation of a sustainable digital media ecosystem. 6.11 ictQATAR is committed to play an active role in nurturing this ecosystem, as clearly 6.06 6.01 articulated in its ICT2015 strategy that emphasized the need for Arabic digital 5.85 content incubation and national content digitization. 5.63
5.57 5.20 5.15 4.79 4.76 4.41

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