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Middle East businesses braced for unprecedented digital disruption

Huge appetites for connectivity and social media interaction are forcing businesses in the Middle East to radically rethink customer engagement and go-to-market strategies. According to, internet use in the Middle East rose 2,000% between 2000 and 2012, with Ipsos reporting that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) tops the regional penetration rate table with 71%, followed by Kuwait (62%), Qatar (61%) and Saudi Arabia (60%). Recent figures by Dubai School of Government reveal that the Arab region now boasts around 125 million Internet users, 53 million of which actively use social media, whereas social Media analysts State of Search state that 80% of Internet users in MENA spend more than one hour each day updating their social networking channels. The Arab Social Media Report, meanwhile, recently found that Arabic is the fastest growing language in Twitter history. According to the social media experts The Social Clinic, Saudi Arabia alone has more than three million active Twitter users, recording a world-leading growth rate of 3,000% between 2011 and 2012. State of Search adds that there are 36,000 new Facebook users in MENA, and Google figures show that there are 100 million YouTube video playbacks in the region every day, as well as an 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% of respondents said that social media could significantly boost branding and marketing, while 85% hailed its ability to tap into wider markets. In addition, 85% said social media could engender more customer satisfaction, 86% believed it could inspire intra-agency collaboration and 85% claimed it could prompt innovation. Running from October 20-24, GITEX Technology Week is responding to such trends with its most powerful Digital Strategies Forum yet. The event, which this year features Gemalto as a strategic sponsor, is already widely considered the most informative and influential of its kind, will examine how mobile, social networks, big data, and emerging customer touch points 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. 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, how Chief Marketing Officers and striking up powerful unions with Chief Information Officers. Attendees will also learn about the make-up, motivation and skills of the new breed marketers 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 business today," said Trixee Loh, Senior Vice President at 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 yet 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 of Gemalto Middle East, said: "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 Eastern 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 1 billion people worldwide are using Gemalto’s products and services on a daily basis, be it to communicate, transact, cross the border, shop online or securely access their corporate network." "At Gitex, Gemalto will be showcasing for the first time in Middle East its ’POPWings’ NFC powered digital business card solution, enabling people to enjoy even more the digital revolution in a secure and convenient way and increase their network on the spot, with a simple tap of their mobile phone," added Surakhi. ScribbleLive, a real-time engagement management solution provider, is one of the key exhibitors at GITEX Technology Week and a sponsor of the event’s Content Hub. The Content Hub provides cross-platform media newsfeeds on GITEX Technology Week and industry news and updates, live interviews with key industry players, and a space for country-specific bloggers. Michael De Monte, CEO, ScribbleLive, said: "Countries across the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia are posting some of the world’s highest growth rates for social media usage. As a result, brands are increasingly using social media to tell stories across a variety of media platforms, from blogs to videos, and broadcasting live from events. We’re deploying our game-changing real-time engagement management platform to keep attendees up-to-date on the latest technology news, and enabling them to share their feedback, whether online or on-site, all through a single site."

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