Google says Middle East innovation is in bad shape

Google Day sees calls for more regional and Arabic content online and talks up need for innovation environment

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Google says Middle East innovation is in bad shape Google says the region needs to fuel more Arabic content online and help drive the future of the Internet through innovation. (Getty Images)
By  Vineetha Menon Published  February 10, 2010

Google claims the state of innovation in the Middle East as a whole is presently in bad shape compared to other countries in the world.

In his Google Day Arabia 2.0 keynote, Mohammad Gawdat, Google's managing director for Southern and Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East and Africa region, said that there was only a total of 3,224 patents filed from the MENA region in the last thirteen years, with Jordan leading the pack with more than 150, followed by Saudi Arabia and then Morocco.

"Japan in 2008 alone filed two hundred thirty three thousand patents - that's huge if you compare it to the Middle East. So in brief, the region is not in good shape," Gawdat explained while comparing the Middle East to countries like Germany, Russia, China and the United States.

According to 2009 Madar Research, only 56 million internet users in the MENA region search in Arabic  though it is home to a population of 337 million. It's also estimated that less than 1% of all content online is in Arabic.

Google claims the region only ‘graduated' in 2009, which is a term used internally to signify that it is now possible to start pursuing their mission there.

"The internet was not ready when we (Google) came to the Middle East," admitted Gawdat. "I got a very clear mandate from Eric Schmidt, our CEO, that before we even think of anything in the Middle East we need to achieve our mission; and our mission is to organise the world's information to make it universally accessible and useful, and the region was not in that stage. Even though at that time access was growing very fast, a lot of people were getting DSL connectivity and the same time, there was not enough relevant content in the Arabic language that was available online to make the internet experience useful in any way."

Gawdat said that people should contribute by bringing more Arabic and locally-relevant content online and stressed that, while the region may have a late start compared to other markets, it has the chance to ‘leapfrog' over them.

"We have to become a lot more innovative where the region starts not catch up with the rest of the world in terms of the internet, but honestly try to leapfrog the rest of the world by creating things that don't have to necessarily map to where the internet was in the US, for example, five years ago. Why do we have to be like five years ago in the US, maybe we should be like two years later?" he stated.

The Google Day Arabia 2.0 saw executives and government officials from across the Middle East come together to discuss the future of the Internet and prospects for innovation in the region. The event was headlined by Vinton Cerf, Google's VP and chief internet evangelist, who was instrumental in the development of the internet back in the 60s and played a hand in the architecture of what the World Wide Web is as we know it today.

Cerf predicts that currently dominant online populations such as those from the US and Europe will be overtaken by masses gaining connectivity from the Middle East, Africa and Asia in the future.

3180 days ago

As a non-Arabic speaker I've been looking at the Arabic web as a window into the culture and the people. My experience shows that the majority of the Arabic web content is forum driven. Native Arabic search is also a problem - the context of a word is critical for producing relevant results. A friend of mine works for a company that produces a specialized Arabic search engine, called Jidha. It's available here I don't really know how good it is, but I've had native Arabic speakers telling that it's much better than Google when it comes to Arabic search...

3182 days ago
Tarig al-Mohaysin

I will write my comment in Arabic ! للاسف كلام السيد جودت صحيح الى حد ما؟؟؟ اذا لم نعتبر الاهداف التسويقية والاستراتيجية لشركة غوغل في هذا المجال، ثم ان من اسباب تراجع المحتوى العربي في الانترنت ان مثل هذا النقاش حول المحتوى العربي يدور باللغة الانجليزية على سبيل المثال للحصر،،،، لقد حاولت الوصول الى نفس المقال باللغة العربية ولكني لم انجح مع العلم ان هذا المقال قد وصلني على البريد الالكتروني باللغة الانجليزية، ثم اود ان اعقب على قضية البحث والمحتوى الديني! لا اجد رابط في الموضوعين حيث ان ما تدخلة في مربع البحث سوف يعكس النتائج التي سوف تعرض عليك فلو كتبت باللغة الانجليزية كلمة الدين او العقائد سوف تعرض عليك محركات البحث نتائج تتعلق بذات الموضوع وبجميع اللغات؟؟؟ حلها مثل اللغة العربية.

3182 days ago

How do you get inovation if the cost of internet access here is 10 times that of the West? The ME ISP don't understand that they are killing the golden goose with there profit rates - In the UAE business internet is 5 time that of residential for the exact same service, i.e. same call center and no SLA. The only people who can afford unlimitted use internet are the MNC who will file their paitents elsewhere and not trust to the local courts. It's kind of funny, in Dubai we have an Internet City, but I see my customers actually restricting their operators internet usage to the point where they can't perform their duties because the cos of access is so high!

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