Nation takes top spot in key info-tech index

ABU DHABI - The UAE has yet again topped the Arab world on the Information Communication Technology (ICT) Use Index for 2003, recording a score of 1.48, followed by Bahrain in second place with a score of 1.18 and Kuwait was placed third with a score of 1.09 points, according to new research findings.

By Anupama V. Chand

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Published: Wed 4 Feb 2004, 1:53 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:36 PM

A recent survey undertaken by the Madar Research e-Stat Watch team revealed that the ICT Use Index covers four parameters including the PC installed base and the number of Internet users, mobile phones and fixed lines. The report added that Dubai city outranked digitally advanced world capitals like Dublin, Paris, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam, in terms of city web site's privacy and security policy, as well as service delivery, and also indicated that Dubai still had much ground to cover in terms of usability and citizen participation.

Quoting a new global report from Reporters without Borders, the new study said that Arab advertisers still did not see the Internet as a viable advertising medium, which was evident by the trivial sum they spent on online advertising in 2003. It noted that this market for Internet advertising will pick up in the next five years, registering a strong two digit compound average growth rate (2003-2008) in AGCC and Levant countries. Reflecting on the standing of the Arab world in relation to the global information technology revolution, and what could be achieved in 2004, Abdul Kader Kamli, President and Research Director of Madar, said that there was no doubt that the Arabs had not much exploited their resources to develop a knowledge-based economy, nor were they optimising on the opportunities that could make them players - at least, among developing nations.

"The core for a knowledge society is being formed in the Arab world. Growth rates of over 40 per cent in Internet penetration projected for next two years will see a connected community of about 25 million Arabs by end 2005. Healthy growth rates will continue to boost PC penetration and mobile phone density in all Arab countries in coming few years," Mr Kamli predicted in the report.

Meanwhile, he added that tertiary and vocational training institutes were graduating thousands of students in IT and knowledge economy related specialisations.

He said that according to Madar research analysts, on an institutional level, governments and businesses - especially those in AGCC states - would, in 2004, raise their technology adoption level to advanced solutions, particularly in the areas of CRM, ERP, network security and storage.

Another sign of a maturing market, he said, was that in 2004, many Arab countries would see an escalating demand for IT services, especially in system integration and training. Services would witness the highest growth among all IT market segments.

"Elsewhere in the Arab market this year we will see a strong drive towards third generation (3G) telecommunications, following its introduction in the UAE in December 2003. Meanwhile, banks are expected to be more aggressive in terms of IT spending as a percentage of revenue, especially in AGCC countries, and pan-Arab online advertising will take off - with a 22 per cent growth forecast by Madar for 2004," he said.

Complementing the Arab economy in 2003, for displaying more positive than negative signs, he said though the global slump-down continued to slowdown the economy of many Arab countries, all AGCC states witnessed an estimated four to seven per cent economic growth - thanks to high oil prices. He further estimated that this fortune would spill over into 2004 and translate into healthy spending on technology adoption.

However, he cautioned that these positive indicators could only make a substantial contribution to the overall development of a knowledge-based economy if they were complemented by well-planned and concrete moves by governments to raise research and development (R&D) budgets, build and entrepreneurial culture, in addition to restructuring the education system and increase its funds. "Current pan-Arab spending on R&D does not exceed 0.2 per cent of GDP. Guidance could be drawn from the European Union's stand on R&D spending, which averaged 1.9 per cent of GDP in 2002. The European Commission has now made a strategic goal that EU members should achieve a minimum R&D average of three per cent of GDP by 2010," Mr Kamli said.

He added that while education was a key area for investment in a nation's future, spending on education - particularly on IT infrastructure - was still low in many Arab countries. He added that as Arab educators had pointed out - funding became a crucial issue when the need to overhaul the schooling system and modernise the curricula were considered.

He concluded critically, that a knowledge-based economy also required a strong entrepreneurial culture, which was lacking in Arab countries. This, in turn, required work on various fronts, not the least of which, was a commercial law that removed barriers and a banking system that offered incentives.

"All three areas require - above all - a strong political will, in addition to good management of resources," Mr Kamli said.

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