Summertime, and the living is busy

Organising anything in the summer can be a frustrating experience in the Middle East - but trying to get information for GITEX Technology Week as well as nominations for the ACN Arab Technology Awards has added a new level to the experience.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  July 30, 2007

Organising anything in the summer can be a frustrating experience in the Middle East - but trying to get information for GITEX Technology Week as well as nominations for the ACN Arab Technology Awards has added a new level to the experience.

Not that I'm complaining - in reality, it hasn't been as bad as I expected it to be. For one thing, the early timing for GITEX has forced a lot of IT organisations to keep things going over the summer - August is set to be the crunch month for pre-show preparations, so I suspect there will be a lot of slightly sweaty vendor staff around the region.

But more fundamentally, there seems to have been a shift in attitudes towards connectivity. Especially with the Awards, I've had a lot of people tell me that so-and-so is on vacation, "but he'll get back to us on e-mail" to write an entry.

Even in the short time I've been in the region, this is something that has changed. Whereas previously if someone was out of the country for the summer break, they seemed to be virtually incommunicado. Now, everyone seems to have their work laptops - or BlackBerrys or PDAs - with them wherever they go, even on annual leave.

I suspect there are several reasons behind this. First, connectivity is now ubiquitous for most common holiday destinations. Even small hotels across Europe and the US have in-room internet connections - and seemingly every coffee shop, as well as increasing numbers of bars and restaurants, now has Wi-Fi.

Personally, I'm not sure I'd relish the experience of dining alongside my laptop, catching up on work e-mails - but presumably there are sufficient numbers of workaholics, or connectivity-junkies, out there to make this a viable proposition.

But again, even the thought of being able to browse the web over dinner has only come with the last couple of generations of mobile devices. Ultra-portable laptops are now sufficiently powerful to offer a usable experience, and PDAs and mobile e-mail devices are also now user-friendly enough for day-to-day use.

More fundamentally, though, I think the reason Middle Eastern summers are now less painful for those of us forced to stay at our posts is that business culture has shifted. While senior executives across the region still flee the heat, heading to London, Paris and New York, they now accept that they need to stay in contact with their businesses.

Even though the Middle East may traditionally shut down for the summer months, the rest of the world keeps going - and regional enterprises can literally no longer afford to go off the radar for months at a time.

And with leaders such as Prince Alwaleed in Saudi Arabia and Sheikh Mohammed in Dubai preaching high-speed business practices - and even lack of sleep - the region's decision-makers have a new standard to aspire to.

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