Arab World: Current State Of The Internet & Future Growth

| Feb 17, 2010 | comment 5 Comments

Over the past few days, a number of articles sprung up about reports and predictions that have been announced by various parties, analyzing where the Internet stands today in the Arab world, and where they see it a few years from now.

Here is a quick straight-forward round-up of these opinions, reports and projections:

Present day:

  • At present there are roughly around 56 million Arab internet users in the Arab world, representing only 17% of the 337 million population. [Madar Research]
  • There is not enough Arabic content on the internet to take full advantage of newly built broadband networks in the region. [Ali al Ahmed, chief strategist, Etisalat]
  • More people are getting online in the Arab world, and are relying more and more on the Internet for their news, videos, social interactions and more, but only 1% of all content online is in Arabic, not offering them much choice. [Arab Media Outlook report]
  • Online news consumption is gaining ground with 22% to 34% of the people using internet at least as much as print media to read news. [Arab Media Outlook report]
  • On average, 70% of the people in the four main Arab markets researched use social networks in some capacity and about 15% use social networking sites at least once a day. [Arab Media Outlook report]
  • About 6 million internet users in the Middle East – or about 12% of the total online population in the region – have access to broadband networks. [Arab Media Outlook report]
  • People in the Arab world are spending about three hours per day on the internet on average, which is already on par with the amount of time spent on TV. [Arab Media Outlook report]
  • About $56 million or 1% of the total media advertising spend is online in the Middle East. [Arab Media Outlook report]
Looking forward:
  • The number of Arabic internet users in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to grow by nearly 50% over the next three years, rising to 82 million users by 2013. [Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist, Google]
  • Broadband usage in the region is expected to grow at an annual rate of 25% until 2013. [Arab Media Outlook report]
  • Broadband growth around the region over the next five years will stimulate the media industry, driven largely by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. [Arab Media Outlook report]
  • Internet advertising spend in the Middle East will rise to at least 4.5% by 2013, to around $266 million. [Arab Media Outlook report]

[Sources: The National, Zawya, BI-ME, Arabian Business, AMEInfo]

Wajhy, Create Your Own Arab Avatar

| Feb 16, 2010 | comment Leave a comment

WajhyOver the past years, every now and then a new avatar creation tool would pop up from somewhere, to let internet users create avatars of theirs in the form of South Park characters, Lego men and women, and the list continues; each time people would flock to the new service, create their avatars, and they’d spread them like fire across social networks and all sorts of other online services.

A new tool called Wajhy has been launched, in Arabic, for Arab users, that allows them to create avatars that actually look a bit more like them, and that they can dress in traditional dress too.

The user can choose whether they want to create a male or female avatar, then go in and start setting the options one by one, from shape of face, ears and nose, to what they’re wearing, what their head dress is, and the accessories they’re sporting.

The main differences between Wajhy,which means ‘My face’ in Arabic, and other such services are in the choices of clothing available for men and women, their head dress, the facial hair options for men, and such small details that give a small Arab touch to the avatar.

Wajhy

The service was launched by Remal IT (Saudi Arabia) and SOCOOOL Entertainment (United Arab Emirates), and is still in Beta, but is quite stable and smooth to use.

Saot Al Arab, What Would You Do If You Were The Leader?

| Feb 15, 2010 | comment Leave a comment

Saot Al ArabSaot Al Arab (The voice of Arabs) is an interesting and ambitious non-profit project that was recently launched for the Arab world, asking visitors what they would do if they were in the leader’s chair, what would be the first project they would launch.

The idea of course is to give Arabs a space to voice their opinions and thoughts in an open and simple way that will let them get their ideas about different subjects and areas across to everyone. In a way, the site attempts to offer a platform for freedom of expression without making it a ground where people can openly criticize their governments, by framing the responses in a certain fictional context.

So basically, users from across the Arab world can go to the site and submit ideas for projects that they would implement and put in place if they were the leaders and decision makers; while other users visiting the site get to vote on the ideas and leave their comments.

Project ideas are categorized by topic: Security, Media, Economics, Education, Culture, Politics, Society, and Technology; and also broken down by Country.

Saot Al Arab

A very interesting goal and milestone for the project lies ahead, as the plan is that after a certain time collecting all these ideas, they will be compiled into a book, a copy of which will be sent to each Arab ruler; the book will also be made available in the market for everyone.

Unfortunately, in order to make sure that nothing that will get the site banned is published, submitted ideas do currently have to go through a screening process before being published on the site.

The project was launched by Hijazi Natsheh, a Palestinian entrepreneur currently based out of the United Arab Emirates.

DemoCamp Dubai 5 – March 8th 2010 – DKV Auditorium

| Feb 14, 2010 | comment 1 Comment

After over a year since its last edition, DemoCamp Dubai is back for its fifth edition, and hoping to be even bigger than its previous editions.

The Dubai-based launch event for new products, technologies and companies will be taking place at the Dubai Knowledge Village Auditorium on March 8th 2010 at 6:30PM.

DemoCamp Dubai 5

As usual attendance is open for free for everyone, offering up an opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors, consultants, students, and professionals to get together, see what the latest projects that have been cooking in the region are, meet and network.
To confirm your attendance, just fill in this simple form: Attendance form.

Entrepreneurs and developers can join and demo a web application, a piece of software, a tool or anything that is innovative, new and can be demonstrated.
To submit your project to be demonstrated at the event, please fill in this simple form: Demo Submission.
The last date for submissions is February 24th, 2010.

This edition of DemoCamp Dubai was made possible through the cooperation and support of Dubai Internet City, Argaam and StartUpArabia.

And finally, as usual, startups and web applications presented at DemoCamp Dubai, will be covered here on StartUpArabia.

Shofha.com, Arabic Movies & Series Online On Demand

| Feb 13, 2010 | comment 89 Comments

ShofhaLINKonLINE, a subsidiary of LINKdotNET (an Orascom Telecom Holding company), has announced the launch of a new entertainment service called Shofha, in collaboration with regional movie and series producers and rights owners.

The new service, which is available in English and Arabic, allows anyone from anywhere in the world, to legally watch the latest Arabic movies and television series online on the same day of their international release. Movies and series are provided in high resolution, commercial free, through online streaming or download; with the video files being all DRM protected,  most probably using Microsoft Windows Media DRM.

Shofha.com comes with a good back catalogue of movies and series, either on rental or purchase basis, that can be downloaded or watched online. TV series will be available in both full series form as well as sing episode form; even 5 minute episode highlights are provided for those without much time on their hands.

The available options are to: Buy the video, where a user gets to download the video to their pc and play it anytime they wish indefinitely, with the ability to download the movie up to 3 times; Rent the video, where  a user can download the video to their pc and watch it as many times as they want within a 48 hour time-frame; and finally there’s the Internet Cinema option where the user gets to instantly start watching the video through online streaming as many times as they wish in a 24 hour time-frame, with the quality of the video depending on the connection speed the user has.

The prices for each option seem to vary depending on the country, for example international users paying in US dollars would have to pay something like: $US 6 to buy, $US 3 to rent, and $US 9 to stream online; on the other hand, someone in the UAE would pay 9 Dirhams to buy, 5 Dhs to rent, and 7 Dhs to stream online, which is much cheaper.

Continue reading »

Altibbi, An Online Arabic Medical & Health Resource

| Jan 20, 2010 | comment 1 Comment

AltibbiAltibbi is an online Arabic medical and health resource, that aims to be a one stop destination for Arab users who are interested in researching and finding more about certain medical and health terms and conditions.

The portal provides a medical dictionary, medical articles and news, as well as question and answer features. It currently includes over 60,000 concise definitions of medical and health terms, and provides detailed descriptions of medical conditions, medications, conventional medical and healing practices, anatomical and physiological terms, illnesses and disorders, drugs, tests and procedures, noted medical personalities, and more.

All the content on the site is Arabized and clearly explained in Arabic, also matching each word with its official synonym term in English.

Altibbi

The goal of Altibbi is to contribute to raising awareness around health related issues among the general population, and removing any mystery surrounding illnesses and diseases. It can also be a handy resource for Arab medical students.

Something the site makes sure to clear up though is that the information on it should not be used in place of visiting and getting the advice of a medical professional, just as a resource to find information and to help understand certain medical details better.

Fora9, A New Online Job Service For Women

| Jan 19, 2010 | comment 1 Comment

Fora9Fora9 (read ‘Foras’, which means ‘Opportunities’ in Arabic) is a new free online job service out of Kuwait, created for women in the Middle East and North Africa, to make it easier for them to find job opportunities.

The idea came to life when the developing company was looking to build a team and faced difficulties getting to qualified women for certain positions even though they know they were obviously out there.

The design is simplistic and presents job opportunities under four different types which are part time jobs, full time jobs, telework, and volunteer work; and under several categories from IT jobs, to sales and marketing, to teaching and accounting, and more. Featured open job positions are also highlighted on the front page of the site.

The service also attempts to make it as simple as possible for companies and organizations to post their job openings that are tailored for women on the site, and reach a more targeted and qualified audience.

fora9

Fora9 is a product of Wasm Media, a Kuwait based company founded by Abdulmohsen Alajmi. It currently is available in Arabic only.

This isn’t the first time an Arab startup tries to tackle the women employment and jobs area; we previously covered Sudanese startup Twffaha that focused on the same point, which seems to have abandoned the effort at some point along the way.

Kngine, A New Semantic Web Search Engine

| Jan 18, 2010 | comment 14 Comments

KngineKngine is a new semantic web search engine and question answering engine that was launched from Egypt, aiming to provide more meaningful search results to users.

Unlike other regular search engines that focus more on the ranking of pages to serve search results to users, Kngine attempts to understand what the user is searching for exactly or what question they are asking, and then tries to come up with the best information, answers and results it can find.

This is done by analyzing the entered keywords to discover the relationships between them, linking the different found data together and then displaying united sets of related information from around the web.

The kinds of information and details provided by the search engine, along with the search results listings, are: Semantic information about the keywords/concepts, direct answers to the entered questions, comparisons between entered keywords/concepts, and possible links between different types of data such as movies, subtitles, photos, store prices, user reviews and more.

Kngine

Kngine, which stands for Knowledge Engine, currently contains over 1 billion of pieces of data, and features about more than 7 million concepts; 70,000+ companies, 700,000+ movies, 1,100,000+ personalties, 450,000+ locations, 150,000+ books, and more. The interface is currently only available in English.

Even though the product is still in beta, it already shows promise in the way it searches, analyzes and returns relevant results; and we expect it to get even better with time as more work is put into its engine.

The search engine was launched from Cairo, Egypt, and founded by Haytham A. Abd ElFadeel, a Computer Science researcher, focused mainly on the semantic web and search, as well as parallel and distributed computing.

According to the founder, the long-term goal for Kngine is to make all human beings systematic knowledge and experience accessible to everyone; collecting and organizing all objective data, and making it easily accessible to everyone.

Global Technology Forum 2010 – March 18th 2010

| Jan 17, 2010 | comment 1 Comment

TechWadi, the leading networking association for Arab American professionals in the Technology industry, has announced a new conference under the title ‘Global Technology Forum 2010‘, which is a conference on entrepreneurship, venture capital, and a new initiative to accelerate the growth of both – in the Middle East as well as other emerging markets.

The event’s tagline is ‘Silicon Valley and the Middle East: Building a Successful Entrepreneurial Ecosystem,’ and will be held on Thursday March 18th 2010, at PlugandPlayTechCenter (440 N. Wolfe Rd. – Sunnyvale, CA 94085).

During his 2009 speech at Cairo University, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries. As the next step in bringing that vision to reality, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) announced the creation of the Global Technology and Innovation Fund (GTIF).
TechWadi’s Global Technology Forum will focus on when and how GTIF will benefit the MENA countries, as well as highlight the rich business prospects the region offers investors.

A series of prominent panelists will provide insight into the current VC and entrepreneurial landscape while leading Arab American executives will share success stories showcasing the region’s talent. Other speakers will include successful local entrepreneurs who will address the region’s dire need for venture capital as well as prominent local investors who will speak to current initiatives and opportunities for expansion.

The Forum will be followed by a networking reception where participants may develop their own contacts and find new opportunities for advancement both in the United States and in the Middle East.

If you’re interested in attending the event, you can register here. Registration is $100 for TechWadi members and $150 for non-members.

Arab World Is A Step Closer To .Arab Domain Names

| Jan 16, 2010 | comment 5 Comments

The recent Arab Top Level Domain Names Steering Committee Meetings held in Damascus, Syria, saw the appointment of Mr. Ahmed Al Doseri, the representative of Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) as president of the Committee that comprises representatives from the Kingdom of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

This Committee is tasked by the League of Arab States with the direct supervision and follow-up on the League’s application for the domains (.arab) and the equivalent in Arabic (.عرب).

TRA’s ICT Manager Mr. Ahmed Al Doseri, who chaired the steering committee meeting, commented, “The creation and use of a “.arab” or Arabic equivalent domain will ensure greater regional identity and over time will help to bridge the digital divide by encouraging Arabic content development and ease of navigation for those people who only read and write in Arabic.”

The international body that oversees internet names, Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN), announced in November 2009 that it will accept applications for non-Latin alphabet domains. This will bring the Internet much closer to the diversified locales of the world’s varied cultures.

Mr. Aldoseri also said “Bahrain will soon enjoy an Arabic domain (.البحرين), which will further contribute to overall Internet penetration in the Kingdom, and support the creation of local digital content.”

Egypt was the first Arab country to apply to get its own Arabic domain name (.مصر), followed by the UAE for (.امارات).

The steering committee is next scheduled to meet in Egypt during the period from the 24 to 28 January 2010 to follow-up on the agreed action points of its last meeting, and report on the progress of the League of Arab State’s application for Arabic domains.

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