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|07 February, 2019

Digital transformation of Arab world uncovered in Digital Arabia Network [#DAN] MENA Roadshow

Lebanese startup scene attracted 10% of investment deals in MENA region in 2018

Digital transformation of Arab world uncovered in Digital Arabia Network [#DAN] MENA Roadshow
  • Lebanese e-commerce industry reaches USD 341 million in 2016, growth prospects evident
  • MENA region lagging in hardware development and production 

The Digital Arabia Network (DAN), in partnership with the Beirut Digital District (BDD), hosted a MENA Roadshow on February 6, 2019, in collaboration with the Lebanese League for Women in Business and the Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) Lebanon. The results of DAN’s first year project were unveiled, highlighting digital transformations across the Arab world, in innovation, education, business, media and research.

In a report released at the event, as part of the DAN-Mapping Project which includes Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Egypt, Lebanon appears to be growing in the digital sphere. Many private initiatives are being by the private sector, in a country with 91% internet penetration, being the highest in the region, with 5.54 million internet users. The main areas of focus are in gaming, e-health and adtech, with advents in the financial and e-payment solution sphere also taking shape.

Research also conducted by DAN, showed that digitization can help enhance education, and spread knowledge more efficiently. “There is an integral need to enhance the Lebanese school curriculums, to integrate computer and digital learning into them, as well as implement high speed internet to allow for easy access to the world of information,” said Asmahan Zein, President of the Lebanese League for Women in business (LLWB). “The youth also need to enhance their digital skills to compete in the global workforce, required in the 21st Century. To do so, strategies developed by the government are vital, to address this need,” she added.

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The event shed light on how MENA’s businesses will transform, with numerous opportunities that will impact various industries due to digitization. In addition, the experts stressed on the fact that the workforce will soon require a different set of skills, and educational institutions, backed by governments, must work to close the skill gap.

“The Arab World must make better use of its innovative talents and forge new national, regional and international projects in commerce, mobility, industry and urban design to reach a meaningful and sustainable position in the digital global economy,” said Dr. Ayad Al Ani, Co-Chair of DAN.  

Eva Aouad El Turk shared the challenges that are being faced in the MENA region. “The industry in Lebanon spans across an array of activities that rank among the most growing in the world, with a major focus on software, mobile and app development and major success stories; but we still lack behind when it gets to hardware development and production,” she shared.                                                                                                      

The DAN-Mapping Project showed that Lebanon has 143 digital actors, with the highest being in the business and innovation industries (67%), with education and research coming in second at 29%, followed by politics and society and science and technology, both at 13%.

Private companies are leading the shift into the digital era, with events and initiatives following closely, and startups playing a big role to shape the ecosystem.

National strategies are being implemented across the countries that took part in the DAN-Mapping Project, with Lebanon’s 2020 Digital Telecom Vision leading the way. However, advancements are hindered by national strategies for innovation.

In terms of e-government initiatives, the E-government Development Index for 2018, included in the report, showed that Lebanon ranks 99th out of 193 countries. On the other hand, a promising ranking showed that the startup scene in Lebanon is advancing, ranked 59th worldwide, with a growing ecosystem, capturing 10% of investment deals in the MENA region in 2018.

The DAN MENA Roadshow also included 17 ideas that were presented, as part of an open innovation contest, called the Crowdstorm Competition, supported by the German Federal Foreign Office. Digital actors in the MENA region were also covered, shedding light on the results of the DAN-Mapping Project which unfolded in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.

“The digital transformation will shape our future and therefore, we decided to encourage the young and the creative minds of this region to participate in an open innovation contest (Crowdstorm) to submit their ideas about the digital future of the Arab region. The ideas submitted were beyond our expectations,” said Bassant Helmi, Co-Chair of DAN, who led the Crowdstorm competition.

DAN's annual activities project was supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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© Press Release 2019

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