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5G and edge: unlocking new possibilities

5G and edge: unlocking new possibilities

In Manama, 5G and edge: unlocking new possibilities could have been perceived by all elites of the Gulf media as a reassuring means to help reach landscapes of a better future.

With 5G we’ll see an entirely new range of applications enabled by low latency of 5G and the proliferation of edge computing – transforming the art of the possible, said professional services firm Accenture in a new report.

“5G standards have been finalized late last year. We’ll soon start to see a growing number of devices rolling out across the regions. By 2025, it’s estimated that there will be 1.2 billion 5G connections covering 34% of the global population,” said Tejas Rao, Managing Director – Technology Strategy & Advisory, Growth Markets at Accenture in the company’s Business Functions Blog.

From digital to augmented consumer

The evolution of the consumer is one major leap forward. 3G and 4G helped to create the digital consumer, always connected to the internet through their mobile devices. But with 5G we’ll see an entirely new range of applications enabled by the low latency of 5G and the proliferation of edge computing – transforming the art of the possible.
Rather than simply experiencing digital through their devices, consumers will have their experience of the world around them enhanced and augmented through real time data and the technologies such as augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) that it enables through edge computing.

The edge cloud forms

The evolution of the network in this context is synonymous with the evolution of the cloud.  So rather than what we typically see today in the public cloud, which is services residing in centralized data centers, those cloud services will move to the edge of a mobile network – the ’edge cloud’ – to drive real time cloud computing capabilities. And that development will support a wide range of new use cases across every industry, with network connectivity itself becoming the platform on which others can build new services and solutions.

From capacity and coverage to network as a platform

Accordingly, we are starting to see the strategic intent of maximizing capacity and coverage that informed network build in the 3G/4G world shift. Instead the focus is now on how to unlock 5G to deliver innovative solutions and services.

With networks no longer having to be the same everywhere, they can be built or sliced to support new use cases and opportunities for specific industries. Today’s web platform companies are already exploring this and making investments in order to capitalize on the transformational changes that 5G’s low latency can offer.

Low latency–currency for the 5G world

Ultra-reliable low latency is the new currency of the network world, underpinning new capabilities in many industries that were previously impossible. And these are not in the realm of science fiction. They are becoming possible today, ranging from real-time language translation to remote robotics and from autonomous logistics to AR-enabled industrial maintenance.

As they plan their future networks, operators need to understand how to intelligently direct 5G network investments from just pure coverage and capacity, and towards unlocking new revenue streams and business value. This is a significant departure from previous generations of network deployment. The network has moved from being a pipeline to instead becoming a platform and gateway for solution innovation and real-time connectivity services.

Partnering and collaboration will become more important than ever as operators sit at the center of new ecosystems developed around the ultra-reliable low latency, real time data at scale and responsiveness that the ‘edge cloud’ delivers.

New landscape of opportunity–and challenge

This emerging landscape of mobile edge networks can unlock many new opportunities to create value. These consist of new services to drive revenue and new possibilities for managing network costs. But the new networks also pose some novel challenges to preserving margins.

Today’s cloud world is characterized by the presence of a limited number of mega data centers in remote locations with data travelling from device to cloud and back again in order to execute a computational process or data analysis. Data typically makes the round trip travelling at 50 to 100 milliseconds over today’s 4G mobile networks.

Data travelling over 5G at less than five milliseconds facilitates the edge cloud and the ability to create new services that it empowers. But achieving that requires a proliferation of micro data centers numbering in the tens of thousands. To support edge capabilities, these will need to be deployed closer to the consumers and enterprises that use them and densely installed in urban settings.

They will need to handle the progression from millions to billions of connected devices. And move from remote connectivity to providing ultra-reliable, low-latency capabilities at the edge as data flows accelerate to real-time in order to execute time-sensitive services, from autonomous vehicles to real-time visual analytics.

Deciding where and how to play

As they create these capabilities, operators need to understand where they want to locate the edge and what the operational implications of their choice will be. That means understanding the likely demands of the territories they cover and the use cases for specific industries that are likely to be most relevant.

The one-size-fits-all approach of the 3G/4G world is no longer useful. Instead, operators need to take a more targeted view of where they want to play and the likely returns they can generate from placing much more specific bets than in the past.

United Arab Emirates to launch spacecraft to moon in 2024

United Arab Emirates to launch spacecraft to moon in 2024

AP — DUBAI reports that A top official in the United Arab Emirates said Tuesday his country plans to send an unmanned spacecraft to the moon in 2024. A successful mission to the moon would be a major step for the oil-dependent economy seeking a future in space. It sent its first astronaut to the International Space Station last year. The UAE also has set a goal to build a human colony on Mars by 2117. And there is a plan for The United Arab Emirates to launch spacecraft to moon in 2024.

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Stars in its eyes, UAE celebrates its first astronaut in space

by Shatha Yaish

The picture above is that of A boy waves the Emirati flag in front of a picture of an astronaut outside Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai ahead of the launch of a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft in Kazakhstan carrying the first Arab astronaut to the ISS.

A crowd in Dubai erupted in cheers and applause Wednesday as the first astronaut from the United Arab Emirates launched towards the International Space Station, dubbing him a national hero.

Emiratis and school children gathered at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre as Hazzaa al-Mansoori, 35, blasted into space accompanied by Russia’s Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir onboard a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

A former pilot in the UAE armed forces, he will be the first Emirati astronaut and the first Arab on the orbiting laboratory, but not the first Muslim.

Some people gathered at the Dubai centre carried UAE flags, while others were dressed in blue jumpsuits spelling out: “Future astronaut”.

Badriya al-Hamadi, 38, said she was so proud of the historical moment, adding: “I feel like I am the one going to space.”

According to Amer Al-Ghafri, of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, Mansoori’s launch is only just the beginning of the UAE’s dreams of space exploration.

“There are a lot of ambitions and a lot more work,” he said.

Mansoori received support from around the world before lifting off on what he described as his “dream” mission.

He will spend eight days on the ISS, where he plans to conduct experiments.

The United Arab Emirates to launch spacecraft to moon in 2024
And there is a plan for The United Arab Emirates to launch spacecraft to moon in 2024Cheers erupted as the crowd in Dubai watched the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft lift off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying 35-year-old Emirati astronaut Hazzaa al-Mansoori to spend eight days aboard the International Space Station
‘Next stop Mars’

Writing on Twitter before the launch, Mansoori said he was “filled with this indescribable feeling of glory and awe”.

“Today I carry the dreams and ambition of my country to a whole new dimension. May Allah grant me success in this mission,” he said.

A Koran, a UAE flag, pictures of his family, and a book by Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum were among the few things he was allowed to pack for his space adventure.

Dubai’s iconic Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, lit up the moment of blast-off at 5:57pm local time (1357 GMT).

Sheikh Mohammed, also the UAE’s vice president and prime minister, vowed in 2017 to send four Emirati astronauts to the space station within five years.

“The arrival of Hazzaa al-Mansoori to space is a message to the Arab youth… that we can progress and move forward,” Sheikh Mohammed said on Twitter on Wednesday.

“Our next stop is Mars.”

The United Arab Emirates to launch spacecraft to moon in 2024
The UAE aims to become the first Arab nation to send an unmanned probe to orbit Mars by 2021, naming it ‘Hope’
Talent in the UAE

The astronaut programme would make the UAE one of only a handful of states in the Middle East to have sent a person into space, as it looks to make good on a pledge to become a global leader in space exploration.

The first Arab in outer space was Saudi Arabia’s Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud, who flew on a US shuttle mission in 1985.

Two years later, Syrian air force pilot Muhammed Faris spent a week aboard the Soviet Union’s Mir space station.

As part of its space plans, the UAE has also announced its aim to become the first Arab country to send an unmanned probe to orbit Mars by 2021, naming it “Hope”.

In the long-term, it says it is planning to build a “Science City” to replicate life on Mars and aims to create the first human settlement on the red planet by 2117.

But already, Emiratis believe they have shown the world what they can do.

“We have talent here in the UAE, and now the world will see that,” said Fatima Al-Ghurair at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre.

A Global Revolution in the Information System

A Global Revolution in the Information System

Institutions and businesses face a global revolution in the information system that unlike in the past, results in too much information especially if left unused or mishandled. The consequences of such a situation are debated here by Professor A. Mebtoul of Algeria.

With the new information system, unlike in the past, there is too much information. The credibility of the statistical apparatus and the operative selection of this mass of information could induce problems of adapting to the new global digital revolution. That has an impact on the behaviour of citizens as well as on the management of institutions. It is because the further information and communication technologies (ICTs) have implications for political governance, business and administrative management, and also have an impact on our modern way of life, which refers to knowledge and continuous innovation.

Politicians, entrepreneurs, citizens, we all live today in a society of electronic communication, plural and immediate that forces us to make decisions in real-time. The mastery of time being the main challenge of the century, in this 21st century, committing national security any inadequacy to these changes would further isolate the country. This analysis of these global information and technological changes and the impact on the Algerian economy, I developed at length in the American Herald Tribune of August 11, 2018[1].

The new information system, a global revolution

ICT is a set of technologies used to process, modify, and exchange information specifically digitised data. The birth of ICT is due to the convergence of IT, telecommunications and audiovisual. The development of high-speed Internet, the democratisation of computers and new technologies are the result of lower rates offered by ISPs and growing demand from customers.

The boom in blogs and e-mail is giving ICT an increasingly important place in our society. This interaction between electronics and computing explains why ICT applications can meet the needs of businesses and the state as well as households and individuals. Now subject to the same market laws as any other market production activity, ICT is also a sector where competition is directly played out on a global scale.

The globalisation of companies, markets and financial circuits has not only involved a reshaping of economic structures and exchange flows, but it has also led to the professionalisation of communication and information, as well as an increasingly advanced integration of the phases of product design, creation and consumption. , in parallel with the merger of spheres of activity that were once separated or even opposed. More than opening up to the general public, ICT is revolutionising the internal organisation of the business world. Management software called ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) manages different tasks such as inventory or treasury, collaborative work.

Through the use of intranet and messaging, the “wireless” or “online” system maintains a permanent link with employees on the go as well as video conferencing, all of this generates better sharing and internal information flow. Thus, the world became a large glasshouse.  The Internet’s infrastructure is now spreading across the globe to create a massive global network thanks to the computing that today allows information to be digitised and new systems managed. The integration of telecommunications, it and audiovisual technology has given rise to the Information Society, which is the subject of specific attention from states and international organisations.

This interest has been increased for more than a decade because of the socio-economic and cultural benefits of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT): the “digital divide” transcends geographical divides and crosses all human societies. This is because the new means of telecommunications facilitate the exchange and dissemination of knowledge. These new ICTs are therefore profoundly changing the daily lives of citizens, the functioning of businesses and the state. All of this leads to new mental and social representations. This is more obvious at the multimedia level (TV, video on demand, GPS, music) on mobile phones.

On the macroeconomic front, new ICT processes have implications for the value of products and services, which will be more life-cycled, which tends to be shortened and influences productivity gains and ICT-related growth. ICTs also influence scientific and technical research and indirectly enable discoveries that have a new macroeconomic effect. Finally, ICTs have an impact in many other areas such as leisure, culture, health, time management and social behaviour. The advent of the Internet and the tremendous development it has undergone through in recent years have practically put the company, of any importance, at a critical notice to adapt and make the most appropriate and productive use of it. Competitiveness requires it to obtain or give information in real-time; the company will indeed invest the Web and use electronics to face competition and develop its activities. In recent years, ICTs have been able to set up models of work organisation, the main characteristics of which are decentralisation and flexibility. The phenomenon of offshoring of employment is mainly due to the search for productivity gains and opportunities offered by ICT to companies, especially those that are large: online remote work is an everyday reality.

Mastering Economic Intelligence, the Foundation of National Security

Economic Intelligence and its strategic management have become for a nation and enterprise in a particular way, one of the essential drivers of its overall performance and safety. In practice, economic intelligence is a process arising from the intelligence cycle. The information collected helps build a conviction throughout processing and not confirms the erroneous opinion that an actor might initially have.

A formalised need-expression step allows research to be “targeted” by defining a limited perimeter, an essential step to avoid the accumulation of unnecessary data and thus to be equipped with counterproductive information overload. All the fields that complement Economic Intelligence, such as knowledge management, information protection, lobbying, can be grouped into the global concept of Strategic Intelligence. Economic intelligence incorporates two additional dimensions compared to the previous day: decision-making and knowledge of information.

The Economic Intelligence model covers three concepts. We first have data that are numbers, words, current events outside a conceptual frame of reference. Then we have the information, which is the accumulation of data, processed and transformed that become information, validated, and confronted, that begins to make sense. Finally, we have the knowledge that is the set of interpreted information that makes it possible to make decisions. The passages through these three concepts are done in the following way. I want the right information at the right time. For this, it is necessary to define objectives; search and collect data sort and store the data and finally have relevant information. How can I make the information useful? Once the overall information objectives have been set, and research, collection, sorting. Storage missions have been validated, and information must be analysed, results used to highlight aspects that help in decision-making. From then on, the transition from knowledge to intelligence arises. The culture of managers, both political, military and economic, must be changed.

The decision-making system is not a fixed system. It must adapt and evolve; for this, it is necessary to share information, assess the quality and relevance of decisions and the question itself. It is essential to integrate it into the functions of administration and business to make economic intelligence a real competitive advantage. The process approach allows for better coordination of steps to make the most of the information repository for effective action on the administration or the company or its environment through complex interactions. A nation or a company will be better than its competitors if it has, before the others, the right information at the right time, whether it is market knowledge, legal, technological, normative or other information.

A nation or an enterprise must be able to create an information asymmetry to its advantage to build its competitive advantage concerning security, political, economic and technological issues. It is also for this reason that governments are assisting in the education and education of business leaders so that they can use economic intelligence to strengthen their management skills. Hence the support to companies for access to the large volumes of information on international trade held by departmental departments and agencies, the Intelligence and Counterintelligence Services, setting up an economic information service for the benefit of companies engaged in foreign trade. Industrial property in various aspects (patents, trademarks, models, know-how, copyrights, technology monitoring, secrecy, software protection, technology transfer, licensing agreements, competition law, etc.) is becoming a major issue. Many companies try to extract from their competitors’ technologies, customer files, trade secrets, product cost structures, product manufacturing specifications and procedures, and development plans. Since the advent of intranets and extranets, information has spread more quickly and widely across borders, acquiring such strategic value that the challenge now is to appropriate it. This is why currently, the majority of developed states contribute to ensuring the security control of internal databases within companies to deal with data hacks. The motivations of hackers have evolved: from software piracy by amateurs whose main motivation was to steal for their personal use, we have moved to “professional” hacking of an economic nature (misappropriation of money) and industrial hacking, close to espionage. Beyond the technical risks imposed by the Tic, the security of computer data begins with securing and raising awareness of human resources. Communications interceptions have also evolved. From wiretapping, we’ve gone to intercepting e-mail. When an e-mail is sent in the usual way, it is not encrypted and can pass through a dozen proxies that mark the route to its destination. However, for technical but also legal reasons, they keep a copy of the messages received. The information contained in the message and the attached files can, therefore, be read by as many proxies managers. Document thefts occur not only remotely or not accessing a computer or server but also in the most unexpected way by photocopiers. Each time a document is copied on a modern copier, the machine’s hard drive stores a copy. As a result, they have become real computerised storage centres, often without the knowledge of company managers and employees. The most modern copiers and multifunction machines store information before printing it. Computer experts can, therefore, retrieve this information, especially since most of them are usually connected to a network, either via a PC (shared printer) or through a clean IP address.

Algeria faces the challenges of the globalisation of the information society

Every day, new technological advances make previous advances more obsolete.  The challenges – in terms of opportunities and risks of marginalisation – the ICT’s influence on growth and social development. This delay is also due in part to the problem of negative attitudes and attitudes that hinder the implementation of innovative and exciting projects, proposed by specialists. An Algerian study shows that only 15% of Algerian SMEs out of the 321,000 surveyed use information and communication technologies (ICT) in their activities according to the National Agency for the Development of SMEs. In the 2019 ranking of the Bloomberg Innovation Index, which measures the impact of innovation in the economy, it is also based on seven criteria: research and development, manufacturing value-added, productivity, high-tech density, tertiary sector efficiency, the concentration of researchers, number of patents.  Algeria is absent from the top 50.  This absence is due to the lack of use and development of ICT in daily life, notably the absence of E-payment and E-Education.   Another ranking is that Algeria has one of the slowest Internet connections in the world. In the latest “Worldwide broadband speed league 2018”,  which annually reports on the speeds of no less than 200 countries (the ranking having been established based on 163 million tests concerning 200 countries),

Algeria, with a download speed of 1.25 Mbps (Megabits), found itself in 175th place. According to this report, it would take 9 hours and 7 minutes for an Algerian Internet user to download a 5GB film (gigabit). In contrast, this time is only 11 minutes and 18 seconds in Singapore, first in the ranking, with a speed of 60.39 Mbps. Furthermore, according to the 2018 edition released on December 5, 2018, of the Global Knowledge Index, developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), that measures the multidimensional concept of knowledge based on seven sector indices, Algeria is ranked 104th out of the 134 studied countries. As for the Global Innovation Index, a global ranking of countries based on their capacity and results of economic innovation published annually by Cornell University, the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2018, out of a total of 126 countries, Algeria achieved a score of 23.87 points out of 100, down two places from 2017.   According to the latest edition of the biennial United Nations survey on India’s 2018 E-Government Development in the world, published on July 19 2018 “as a general rule, there is a positive correlation between the country’s income level and its ranking in electronic administration. High-income countries have very high or high EGDI scores. It is not universal, however. Twenty-two upper-middle-income countries and 39 lower-middle-income countries have EGDI scores below the global average of EGDI, and ten countries in the lower-middle-income group have scores above the global average. On the other hand, low-income countries remain lagging due to the relatively low level of development of all components of the index.”

For national security reasons, Algeria’s information system needs to be redesigned 

Statistics are now abundant at all national, regional and global levels, and playing an increasingly important role in our societies and public administrations. They inform public debates, policy formulation and business decision-making, thus raising the issue of the intrinsic quality, compilation and selection of information. In Algeria, however, this information-gathering system needs to be redesigned.  Ideally, it would be a Ministry of the Economy with a strategic planning directorate and a National Statistics (ONS) that like the INSEE in France, Great Britain, Germany or the United States of America, is an independent body with an analysis department. It must be part of another institutional organisation that is moving towards the consolidation of ministries for greater efficiency and budgetary rigour, economic regionalisation.

Subject to specific objectives, with several local authorities and institutions not telescoping each other nor making information opaque for reasons of individualised strategies.  What are short-term parameters can become variable in the medium term, and what is the strategic sector today may not become so tomorrow. Of course, the ONS not meant to assess current public policies delivers what others interpret its figures by recognising that better inter-institutional coordination between the various and abundant administrative sources and the board would be desirable, calling for more “coherence and integration”. It is because the ONS starts from the micro-economic data of administrations and companies by consolidating them at the macro-economic level. This inconsistency, fostered by an inconsistent pricing system in which administered prices and market prices compiled together, does not allow us to identify the sincerity of the accounts and can lead to mismanagement and even corruption. If the essential information is biased, it gives results at the global level that does not reflect reality. And this is what we see with the crumbling of the information system, where the polling bases are different from one organisation to another resulting in data that contradicts the reality. Therefore, survey methods need to be standardised, whether comprehensive or surveyed. Above all, information must be democratised by opening up the massive media to a broad and contradictory economic debate, as no one has a monopoly on nationalism. However, monetary policy errors can amount to losses of tens of billions of dollars to the country. The crumbling of the information system explains the contradictory discourses of several senior officials; entropy has reached an unacceptable level in recent years.

For transparency, the foundation of good governance, accelerate the digitisation of institutions and companies

The 21st-century world is on the cusp of a fourth economic and technological revolution, based on two fundamentals of good governance and knowledge economy.  This revolution, with the trajectory of the digital transition and the energy transition, means that any nation that does not advance is going backwards, that there is no static situation. The majority of paper newspapers are likely to disappear by 2020/2025, if they do not adapt to the new revolution, replaced by online sites that give real-time information. I recall that, as Director-General of Economic Studies and first advisor to the Court of Auditors, I was appointed by the then Presidency in 1983 to deal with the issue of demurrage. This issue is still relevant and made urgent, given budgetary constraints. These numerous raft boats cause large foreign exchange outflows. I had suggested, about the services of the Ministry of Commerce, of the finances and various ministerial departments concerned, the urgency to combat both demurrage and overcharging the establishment of a value table by setting up a networked and real-time information system between ports, customs, banks, tax services and connected to international networks to know the real-time prices of imported goods. 

“The statistics available are not accurate; those who oppose digitisation do not want transparency”:  Abdelmadjid TEBBOUNE, President of the Republic.

As the President of the Republic has pointed out, those who oppose the digitisation of institutions and businesses do not want either to move forward nor plan for a future in full knowledge of all potential possibilities in as clear an atmosphere as can be had.  An example would be the management of ministries, governorates (wilayas) and the majority of services that still follow the methods of the 1960s/1970s with techniques. The urgency of transparency in the management of SONATRACH which provides 98% of the country’s foreign exchange revenues, the financial system as a whole, which must make its transformation, being currently, mere administrative counters, place of interest struggles and distribution of the oil rente. A rentier oligarchy has used, the customs system for overcharges for lack of a table of value linked to the international network, (price, weight costs/quality).  The present state system that promotes land squandering; the undigitised tax system that leads to tax evasion, the public banking system that allows enormous loans without real guarantees and interest rate bonuses, with collaboration, without correlation of business would require a radical change.  In this context, bureaucracy, the legacy of an administered economy, is one of the heaviest constraints and whose eradication is necessary.  The new system should instil the dynamics of development in the context of a controlled liberalisation reconciling economic efficiency and social justice.  The latter not being antinomic with efficiency, on the contrary, would prompt the mobilisation of citizens for a new Algeria. The less different the reforms, the more we will deplete the foreign exchange reserves, and this crisis of governance risks turning into a financial, economic and political turmoil with the risk of regional destabilisation.  ademmebtoul@gmail.com


[1] “Dr. Abderrahmane Mebtoul: “Algeria Still Faces Significant Challenges” and three parts in the international site AfricaPresse Paris on the challenges of Algeria 2018/2020/2030 as follows:

  1. “Algeria’s development involves the reform of the political system”
  2. “There is an urgent need to adapt Algerian political parties, for the majority related to rentier interests” and
  3. “No development for Algeria without strategic vision of the transition to a non-hydrocarbon economy”
The audiobook opportunity in education

The audiobook opportunity in education

WAMDA‘s Thought Leadership on 30 July, 2020 produced an essay on The audiobook opportunity in education as could be generalised in the MENA region as off its east end of the Gulf.


The audiobook opportunity in education
Image courtesy of Kitab Sawti

UAE-based audiobook platform Kitab Sawti was recently acquired by Storytel. In this exclusive piece for Wamda, Kitab Sawti’s founder Sebastian Bond outlines the opportunity for audiobooks in the Middle East

Literacy has and will always be a key indicator of progress for nations around the world. It impacts the quality of labour, and therefore the quality of the economy and its resilience as well improving gender equality and industry, innovation, and infrastructure, all of which are Sustainable Development Goals agreed upon by global nations in the UN.

Quality education is not just about schools and formal education, nations strive to make education more accessible, entertaining, and sought after by youth and adults alike. We now live in a world where education is a constant requirement for professionals to stay competitive and keep their skills sharp for a fast-evolving job market too.   

Efforts to increase the adoption of long-life learning as a lifestyle has been ongoing across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, with efforts such as the Knowledge 4 All by United Nations Development Programme &  Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation, focused on publishing reports on the status of the knowledge and readiness for the future by nations, as well as encouraging reading through competitions like the Arab Reading Challenge.

A key challenge we hear in our community is reading and learning can be hard to fit into a busy day with responsibilities, it can also feel like a chore. It is no secret that education and publishing still lag behind in technology adoption and maximisation in the region, however, this is exactly where the opportunity lies.

AUDIOBOOK GROWTH

Physical books still represent 60 per cent of all publications sold globally, and while e-books have gained significant market share, it is the audiobook category that witnessed consistent growing quarter-on-quarter since 2012. 

Today, there are more than 500 million audiobook consumers around the world according to Deloitte, which predicts that the global audiobooks market will be valued at $3.3 billion by the end of 2020 at its current annual growth rate of 25 per cent.

It, therefore, is no surprise that major publishers are investing heavily in increasing production. More than 60,300 new titles were produced in 2019, an 18 per cent increase from the previous year according to the Good e-Reader Global Audiobook Report 2019. This has already translated into an increase in ad-spend for mobile audio-platforms of 25.3 per cent last year according to iAB’s Annual Internet Advertising Revenue Report.

Dominating the space is Amazon and its subsidiary Audible, the latter captures 27.8 per cent of the global audiobook market, while the former has 16.73 per cent of the market. That’s almost 45 per cent of the global audiobook market controlled by one company.

The global audiobook platforms are still busy capturing and nurturing the market in their key territories, Arabic is not considered a key language, nor are many Asian and African languages, and there lies the opportunity.

EMERGING MARKETS OPPORTUNITY

While the market numbers are all focused and available for developed markets, the opportunity in emerging markets is massive. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Audiobooks are much lighter on internet bandwidth and usually do not require continuous streaming, therefore they are very compatible for low bandwidth communities.
  • Audiobooks provide a friendly reading experience for individuals with learning disabilities or deficiencies, allowing them to access knowledge without the limitations of literacy.
  • Audiobooks are digital products and can reach the most rural areas without being stifled by last-mile delivery limitations or by being exposed to vulnerable supply chains.
  • Audio content statistics show that consumption is higher in countries with longer commute hours like Egypt and the UAE; a blessing in disguise.

This verifies our mission and excites our team at Kitab Sawti. Archaic copyright & publishing laws are in favour of localisation and segmentation, which is an advantage to emerging markets. We have over the past few years developed, and now host the biggest library of Arabic audiobooks globally.

DOES MENA READ?

According to the Arab Reading Index in 2016, adults in Mena read 17 books a year, lower than their counterparts in emerging markets, but a significant number nonetheless.

While we do not have a recent index to compare, we may consider book fair footfall as an indicator: Riyadh’s International book fair attracted over 1 million visitors in December 2019, while Jeddah’s attracted over 400,000 visitors. Muscat hosted its last book fair just before the global lockdowns in March 2020 and attracted over 770,000 visitors.

Given the impact of the pandemic, it is unlikely that fairs of such a scale will be held in the near future, and so digital and audiobooks are ideally fitted for the “new normal”. The Mena region stands in good stead to take advantage of this with a 64 per cent mobile penetration rate and 57 per cent smartphone penetration rate.

If podcasts can be a precedent or parallel for audiobook consumption in Mena, the future is very bright. According to markettiers Mena 2019 survey, there are approximately 1.3 million regular podcast listeners in the UAE alone.

Online (and mobile) payment is now the last piece of the puzzle to be solved for frictionless conversion. That is a challenge the region has long struggled with but is today the key focus of the public and private sectors in light of recent events.

PANDEMIC, DISRUPTION, ADOPTION

As the world started shutting down due to Covid-19 it became evident that access to the internet is crucial for our survival both in connecting us while physically separated, helping us access information and keeping businesses running.

Online media consumption is up, and so is consumer confidence in digital products and payments. At Kitab Sawti, we have seen the impact of these changes in consumer behaviour first-hand. Our paid subscribers increased by 204 per cent between February and May 2020.

With the efforts of the governments to empower youth, reskill and upskill talent, and improve financial technology adoption, the question is not “will audiobooks grow in Mena”, but “when consumers come asking for it, will you be ready?”. 

How Space Exploration can Benefit Small Nations

How Space Exploration can Benefit Small Nations

UAE Mars mission: extraordinary feat shows how space exploration can benefit small nations by Ine Steenmans, UCL and Neil Morisetti, UCL

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) successfully launched its Mars mission dubbed “Al Amal”, or “Hope”, from the Tanegashima Space Centre in southern Japan on July 20. This is the first space mission by the UAE, and the first Arab mission to Mars – making the world’s first launch countdown in Arabic a moment for the history books.

The mission’s journey to its launch date has arguably been at least as remarkable as the launch itself. With no previous domestic space exploration experience, planetary science capacity or suitable infrastructure, the nation managed to put together a delivery team of 100% local, Emirati staff with an average age of under 35. And setting a deadline of six years rather than ten, as most comparable missions do, it pulled the launch off on time and within budget – now proudly joining the small cadre of nations who have launched a mission to reach Mars.

But given these odds and the fact that Mars missions are notorious for their high failure rates (about 30% since the early 2000s), why did the UAE aim for the red planet in the first place? Space programmes have historically been used as catalysts for geopolitical influence. What’s more, we often think of them as costly endeavours of scientific curiosity, with few immediate and tangible benefits here on planet Earth. Does this reflect the UAE journey?

Space missions typically depart trying to answer scientific questions, before they ask how their value can extend to the society behind it. The Hope mission, however, has inverted this traditional logic. Instead, its conception arose from a quest to fundamentally redirect a nation’s trajectory.

The UAE’s mission has been timed to coincide Hope’s arrival into Martian orbit with the nation’s 50th anniversary as an independent country. Through its design and execution, the mission aims to diversify UAE’s economy from traditional activity, including oil and finance. Instead, it wants to inspire a young Arab generation towards scientific and entrepreneurial careers – and away from other, less societally beneficial pathways.

How Space Exploration can Benefit Small Nations
The Hope probe will learn about climate change on Mars. NASA/JPL/USGS

Hope will also study the Martian atmosphere and gather data to generate the first truly holistic model of the planet’s weather system. The analysis and insights generated will help us better understand the atmospheric composition and ongoing climate change of our neighbour planet.

Lessons for aspiring nations

What could other nations learn from this distinctive approach to space exploration? Can a space mission really transform a national economy? These are the questions at the heart of an external review of the Emirates Mars mission undertaken by a group of researchers at the Department for Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy at University College London.

Over the course of five months, we undertook a comprehensive evaluation of the impact and value generated by the mission less than five years after its inception. What we found was that there’s already evidence that the mission is having the intended impact. The country has massively boosted its science capacity with over 50 peer-reviewed contributions to international space science research. The forthcoming open sharing of Hope’s atmospheric data measurements is likely to amplify this contribution.

The nation has also generated significant additional value in logistics by creating new manufacturing capacities and know-how. There are already multiple businesses outside the realm of the space industry that have benefited from knowledge transfer. These are all typical impacts of a space mission.

But while that is where most studies of the value of space missions stop looking for impact, for the UAE this would miss a huge part of the picture. Ultimately, its Mars mission has generated transformative value in building capacity for a fundamentally different future national economy – one with a much stronger role for science and innovation.

Through a broad portfolio of programmes and initiatives, in just a few years the Hope mission has boosted the number of students enrolling in science degrees and helped create new graduate science degree pathways. It has also opened up new sources of funding for research and made science an attractive career.

One of the lessons is therefore that when embedded within a long-term, national strategic vision, space exploration can in the short term generate major benefits close to home. While space may appear to primarily be about missions for science, when designed in this way, they can be missions for national development.

Hope will reach Martian orbit in February 2021. Only then will its scientific mission truly take off. But its message of Hope has already been broadcast.

Ine Steenmans, Lecturer in Futures, Analysis and Policy, UCL and Neil Morisetti, Vice Dean (Public Policy) Faculty of Engineering Sciences, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

United Arab Emirates plans a space mission to Mars

United Arab Emirates plans a space mission to Mars

Diwan, Middle East from Carnegie informs that The United Arab Emirates plans a space mission to Mars this week, bolstering the country’s regional power status as follows.

The UAE is not only the first Arab country to deliver safe, clean and peaceful nuclear energy from its newly launched Barakah energy plant but definitely the one to go into space before many as narrated by Bader Al-Saif, July 13, 2020.

Hope in Space

Space is rapidly becoming a new domain for Middle Eastern states to project their power and vie for leadership in the region. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a case in point, with a mission to Mars to be launched this week. A national countdown to July 15 is meant to excite Emiratis and Arabs in general, for it marks the first time an Arab state launches a mission into outer space.

The Emirati government has named its Mars Mission Hope Probe, coloring it with a pan-Arab sentiment. The mission invokes past Arab Islamic achievements in the sciences and incites Arabs to maintain that spirit. There is no shortage of nationalist fervor, either. The UAE has timed the completion of its mission before the 50th anniversary of the federation’s founding in December 2021. It has also tied it to its 100-year goal of establishing a human colony on Mars by 2117.

The UAE has been marketing this science-driven apolitical Arab narrative of hope, but its space policy is more than that. It aims to reinforce its newfound regional power status and align the Middle East’s geopolitical order to its advantage. It has also, by default, ushered in a regional space race, something relatively novel in the Middle East. The UAE’s ability to complete its Mars Mission, and how this factors into its activist foreign policy, will determine the degree to which the UAE transforms itself and the region in the process.

The UAE prides itself on being the “first, biggest, and best.” But it cannot claim that in relation to space. Israel was the first state in the region to begin a space program in 1983. Israel benefited from U.S. expertise and was able to launch a reconnaissance satellite in 1988. The Israelis also tried, but failed, to land on the moon in 2019.

Though the Israeli space program is the oldest in the region, it has not been a priority for Israel. That is not the case with Dubai, which founded the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in 2006. The center was expanded by the federal government in 2014 with the creation of the UAE Space Agency. Knowing that it does not have the expertise, the UAE partnered with three U.S. academic institutions to jointly design and build its mission to Mars. The Emiratis assembled a team to support their effort, with an average age of below 35, a third of whom are women, headed by a young female minister tasked with advancing science. These steps reflected the UAE’s branding of itself as a champion of youth and women, while marketing this enterprise as an international collaboration that included manufacturing in the United States and a launch from Japan.

Other than Israel, Iran has also been active regionally in space. Its international collaboration has not been as intense as the UAE’s. Yet Iran has been producing satellites since establishing the Iran Space Agency in 2004, making it the second space state in the region. It has also sent animals into space, and launched a military satellite last April. Tehran’s early collaboration with Russia and China paid off with its first locally built satellite in 2009, which it named Omid, or Hope, the same name the Emiratis chose for their Mars mission.

The UAE is not the first Arab state to show an interest in space. Saudi Arabia led a pan-Arab effort in 1976 to establish the satellite operator Arabsat. The Saudis also produced the first Arab astronaut, Prince Sultan bin Salman. His participation in a mission of the space shuttle Discovery in 1985 was to be followed by a Saudi space policy, but this was put on hold after the crash of the Challenger.

By venturing into this domain, the UAE wants to position itself in a field long occupied by regional adversaries such as Israel and Iran. Emirati thinking is focused on differentiating the UAE from others and advancing its own agenda despite challenges. The UAE has much to gain if its mission to Mars succeeds—a feat only accomplished by the United States, the former Soviet Union, India, and the European Space Agency. Space is the Emiratis’ next convenient card to raise their country’s standing. Doing this would allow the UAE to bolster its post-2011 rise as a middle power in a region whose traditional centers—Egypt, Iraq, and Syria—have waned. This would grant the UAE an increasing say on thorny regional issues, such as peace with Israel, a nuclear deal with Iran, the Yemen conflict, and the dispute within the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The UAE’s actions in space have not gone unnoticed in the region. Saudi Arabia and Turkey created space agencies days apart in December 2018. Egypt joined the club soon thereafter in August 2019. Not wanting to allow this moment of regional attention to space to go to waste, the UAE established the first pan-Arab Space Coordination Group in 2019. It brought together eleven Arab states whose first goal is to develop “813,” a satellite to monitor earth named after the year in which the famed Arab House of Knowledge reached its peak upon Al-Ma’mun’s ascension to the caliphate. However, paying homage to Arab history did not mean the UAE would avoid standing out. It left for itself the more high-profile feat of a Mars exploration mission, while leaving the less ambitious goal of building a satellite to the Arab conglomerate.

Arabs and their neighbors have historically set their sights on the sea and land for sustenance. Now, space offers a new arena for potential development, competition, and conflict. For the UAE, its ability to shape regional geopolitics to its advantage is filled with hazards, especially with its risky foreign interventions. If successful, its space program can offset some of these risks and provide a chance for a UAE-centric worldview to prevail in an ever-changing Middle East.More on: 

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