Software piracy a ‘significant’ threat to Arab IT industry
United Arab Emirates has the lowest piracy rate among Gulf countries
The Middle East and Africa region is the fourth-largest market for pirated software in the world, according to report by research firm IDC that also revealed the key challenges the Arab IT industry faces.
The Business Software Alliance-sponsored whitepaper calls software piracy ‘among the most significant threats to the IT industry in the region', where 2008 research showed the MEA region had a 59% piracy rate that resulted in an overall economic loss of $3 billion.
The United Arab Emirates has the lowest software piracy rate in the Arab world at 36% and IDC believes that reducing that figure by just 10% before 2012 could create an additional 939 IT jobs and contribute $456 million to the country's GDP. Other Arab countries didn't fare as well with Yemen having a software piracy rate of 89% in 2008, followed by Oman at 62%, Kuwait at 61%, Bahrain at 55%, Saudi Arabia at 52% and Qatar 51%.
"Although software piracy in the UAE is far below the average international level, sustained efforts are vital to keep the piracy rate in check and to support the country's economic progress. The Ministry of Economy has been focusing on education and awareness as the best tools against piracy in coordination with all the concerned parties in the UAE the IDC data will provide valuable guidance for a re-evaluation and reinforcement of our anti-piracy strategies," said H.E. Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz Alshihhi, director general, UAE Ministry of Economy.
The whitepaper highlighted the main factors that are said to ‘hinder' IT markets in the MEA region from realising its full potential. This includes ‘brain drain' with skilled IT workers looking for opportunities in advanced markets like the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as an insufficient legislative framework and poor regulatory compliance in the market.
Interestingly, IDC says that IT vendors in the region are experiencing complicated sales cycles ‘because of a widespread lack of transparency in contract-awarding procedures and excessive delays in releasing payments for government-led IT projects', which could result in IT companies being hesitant to invest in the region.
Technical issues such as the lack of bandwidth, high costs and low levels of wireless connectivity have also been blamed.