Published: 15 August 2014
Boosting Digital Arabic Content – new report examines challenges and opportunities
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA) launched on June 13th 2014 a joint assessment study entitled “Digital Arabic Content”. The launch was during the thematic workshop on “Digital Content for Inclusive Knowledge Society” that took place as part of the WSIS+10 High Level Event, held in Geneva. The report was launched amidst growing regional interest in digital content in general and digital Arabic content (DAC) in specific. It was developed as a joint effort between ESCWA and ITU as well as a number of regional experts on the subject combining different views, perspectives and experiences of DAC and its industry. The study essentially examines the share of DAC on the Internet and highlights the challenges and opportunities for its development and growth.
According to the study, DAC is estimated to be at 3 percent of online content even though the Arab region constitutes 5.1 percent of the world population and around 4 percent of the global GDP. However, the question remains as to the pace at which DAC will increase and whether it will be able to bridge the digital divide. The study highlights the digital divide that still persists between the Arab region and the rest of the world and among Arab countries themselves despite the fact that the Arab region has 96 million Internet users and 350 mission mobile subscribers.
Three axes were selected to constitute the core analytical target of the study: public/governmental, commercial, and social content. The study considers the government as the main provider of content in general and looks at public information as an economic asset. It highlights the opportunity that governments have as leaders in transforming the digitization and distribution of content thus serving as a role model in digitizing content and making it available online. E-government, for example, is the most notable national initiative that directly enriches DAC in the Arab region.
Online digital Arabic content offers tremendous opportunities for industry growth particularly in commercial content in the Arab region. The study showcases solid developments and success stories witnessed in niche markets, especially in entertainment-related and e-commerce portals. Today, more developments are taking place in e-business, e-health, e-learning, and e-culture. The study refers to one of ESCWA’s reports for estimating the DAC market at USD 18 billion in 2011 and its expected size of USD 28 billion in 2015.
Ms. Noha Adly, First Deputy to the Minister of Communication and Information Technology in Egypt, presented the objectives and main components of the new National Digital Arabic Content Strategy in Egypt for the period (2014-2020) and stressed the need to develop an appropriate eco-system for promoting the digital content industry. She also provided an overview of selected Egyptian cultural heritage digitization projects.
The study concludes with a rich set of recommendations categorized in line with the three axes identified. For facilitating the development of DAC, the study explains the needed role of governments in furthering education, building infrastructure, fostering innovation, and increasing public content. As for the private sector, the study recommends the following areas for development: education and learning, content aggregation and curation, public services, entertainment and gaming, and social media. Finally, the study recommends a number of areas for enriching social content whether cultural, heritage, media, and personal content.
The study is available for download at the following URL:
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