There are few things more depressing than sitting in one of the Middle Eastern digital conferences listening to the Ministerial Keynote. The Internet, we are invariably told, is important. Now you count two seconds, one Mississippi two Mississippi as The Great Man scans the room, his arms held stiff and his hands grip the lectern. And young people are important. The future, he beams sagely at a thousand people tweeting Get this fool off the stage, is broadband.
Mired in an analogue mindset and born of vested interest and opacity, many of the key players in our region’s governments don’t seem to appreciate the vastness of the economic opportunity the Internet represents – or the dire threat it poses to the unwary.
The urgent need of the hour is for governments to drive to integrate their work with the needs of the digital age. From education through finance, labour law and customs practises, there are huge obstacles regional start-ups, particularly in e-commerce, face. That a number of pioneers are finding ways around these needless barriers is nothing short of amazing, but it mustn’t mask the central fact – most of the Middle East remains desperately behind the curve, despite the real and fast-growing repository of talent in the region. Startups are increasing despite governments and our financial sector, not because of them.
Middle East ecommerce, the greatest growth market opportunity this century, is on the cusp of explosive growth. Whether the region becomes a contributor to the wave of innovation and shapes its own destiny or becomes a marginalised minor consumer market for the global players could be in the hands of those very ministers.
Read more opinion from Alexander McNabb
We are all publishers (Mar 2012)
The Freedom Meme (Sep 2011)
Who’s Afraid Of A Regulated Web? (May 2011)
Should you outsource your conversation? (Jan 2010)
The Sustainable Corporation (Sep 2010)