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Middle East to see ‘unprecedented digital disruption’


Huge appetite for connectivity and social interaction are forcing firms to radically rethink customer engagement and go-to market strategies.

October 14, 2013 1:51 by

Recent figures from Dubai School of Government reveal that the Arab region now boasts approximately 125 million internet users, of which 53 million actively use social media. Social media analysis firm State of Search records that 80 per cent of internet users in the Mena region spend more than one hour every day updating their social networking profiles.

The Arab Social Media Report, meanwhile, recently found that Arabic is the fastest-growing language in Twitter. According to social media experts The Social Clinic, Saudi Arabia alone has more than three million active Twitter users, leading to a record-breaking growth rate of 3,000 per cent between 2011 and 2012.

State of Search adds that there are 36,000 new Facebook users in the Mena region and figures from Google show that there are 100 million YouTube video playbacks every day and one hour’s worth of video uploaded every minute.

Dubai School of Government’s recent study, ‘Social Media, Employment and Entrepreneurship’, suggests that online engagement and interaction on this scale simply cannot be ignored. In what is the largest survey of its kind to date, 90 per cent said that social media could significantly boost branding and marketing, while 85 per cent hailed its ability to tap into wider markets. In addition, 85 per cent said that social media could engender customer satisfaction, 86 per cent believed that it could inspire intra-agency collaboration and 85 per cent claimed that it could prompt innovation.

According to, internet use in the Middle East region rose by 2,000 per cent between 2000 and 2012, with Ipsos reporting that the UAE ranks number one in terms of internet penetration with 71 per cent, followed by Kuwait (62 per cent), Qatar (61 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (60 per cent).

GITEX Technology Week is responding to such trends with its most powerful Digital Strategies Forum to date. The forum, which features Gemalto as a strategic sponsor, is widely considered as the most informative and influential event of its kind and will examine how mobile, social networks, big data and emerging customer touchpoints are changing the way enterprises and brands engage with customers and, will provide attendees with a roadmap on how best to exploit revenue opportunities opened up by the digital revolution. The event runs from October 20 to 24, 2013.

Highlights include spotlights on the digital megatrends redrawing the business landscape, methods of effectively mining data for strategic gain, how to integrate mobile and social, and how CMOs are striking up powerful unions with CIOs. Attendees will also learn about the makeup, motivation and skills of marketers, who are embracing digital media, as well as how to build effective digital advertising strategies, glean customer behaviour and devise multi-platform engagement programmes. The event will feature a presentation by Booz & Co and a series of panel sessions.

“Social media-driven digital engagement is a disrupting force that is among the most significant factors driving businesses today,” says Trixee Loh, senior vice-president at the Dubai World Trade Centre, which organises GITEX Technology Week.

“Users are more empowered and vocal than ever, which presents unique opportunities and completely redefines the concept of ‘business as usual’. The pressure to adapt is immense and this year’s Digital Strategies Forum will provide the most insightful look at how businesses can add new dimensions to their go-to market strategies, build brand integrity and ensure long-term sustainable profit.”

Hisham Surakhi, general manager at Gemalto Middle East, says: “We are living in an increasingly connected society and securing the digital world has become a top priority for most businesses in the region. At Gemalto, we support this growing demand for digital security solutions by providing Middle East banks, mobile operators, enterprises and government bodies with devices and solutions to secure and simplify people’s day-to-day personal digital interactions. More than one billion people worldwide are using Gemalto’s products and services on a daily basis, be it to communicate, transact, travel, shop online or securely access corporate networks.”

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