Hadi Khatib of IMFInfo.com asks what are some Favorite destinations in the Arab world for Digital Nomads and provides answers that would not be a surprise for anyone who knows the MENA region. But before we get into Hadi’s thoughts, here are some of Kamel Daoud‘s in his latest article in Liberte. It summarises well our situation at this conjecture, specifically that of the MENA region.
Strange paradox: the journey dies in the very century that has overcome gravity, distance, arduousness. As if after inventing so many Herculean engines, it is the vengeful immobility that becomes our lot.
Flying today? It is a long, expensive act, which requires availability, compelling reasons, health tests, a rare visa and other passage documents.
Go to sea? It goes through death, or shipwreck, or uprooting. It is no longer a journey, but a swim against the current.
Here is Hadi Khatib’s
What are some favorite destinations in the Arab world for digital nomads?
The evaporation of the traditional office workplace last year shifted the spotlight to the role digital nomads play choosing to work from anywhere thanks to special visas issued by a number of countries around the globe
Entrepreneurs and young CEOs may be categorized as digital nomads when constantly exploring opportunities
Working online and remotely depends on inflation’s stability and low costs of living
The Arab world has quite a few places where remote work is possible
The evaporation of the traditional office workplace last year shifted the spotlight to the role digital nomads play choosing to work from anywhere thanks to special visas issued by a number of countries around the globe.
The UAE recognized this role and issue a special visa to attract those workers. Dubai’s Remote Work Visa provides digital nomads with the chance of mixing business with pleasure. Valid for one year, requirements extend to providing proof of employment with a minimum income of $5,000 per month, or proof of ownership of a company. The fee is $611 and must be accompanied by valid health insurance with UAE coverage.
But, as COVID-19 winds down, is a return to the office imminent? Airbnb’s introduction of long-term rentals is one indication that this model for work-life balance may have some staying power. Just like desert nomads, digital nomads are not always on the move, and often settle for periods of time before moving on again.
Who are digital nomads?
Digital nomads are mostly freelancers – the likes of bloggers, writers, editors, content creators, web programmers, translators, consultants, and photographers. Additionally, entrepreneurs and young CEOs may also be categorized as digital nomads when constantly exploring opportunities.
Digital nomads are typically drawn to destinations that meet certain requirements and that are anchored by accessible visas that allow them to legally stay in a foreign destination for a good amount of time.
While remote and exotic locations certainly are attractive, these places could quickly lose their appeal if they lack strong and reliable internet connections.
Costs of living
Working online and remotely depends on inflation’s stability and low costs of living. When paying the bills, like rent, electricity, groceries, and internet becomes a concern, it’s time to return to nomad life again.
Crime rates and safety ratings
Nomads like the presence of other nomads to hang out and share war stories with. Without them, they could feel isolated and dependent on the friendliness of locals. One thing that must be taken into consideration when choosing a destination is whether locals like foreigners and whether or not crimes rates are high.
Morocco has multiple cities that are fun to explore, such as Rabat, Marrakech, Fes, and many more. If you’re more of a beach person, Morocco has that too. English, Arabic and French languages are spoken. It’s pretty safe as a country and visas are relatively easy if you have a passport from a Western country.
You can stay in Morocco for up to 90 days with a tourist visa, which is easily extendible. In the cities, Morocco has pretty good internet access whether it is through cafes and hotels. There are also options to buy data plans for relatively cheap. Outside the cities, though, it might be tougher to find places with strong internet, but they do exist.
Morocco has multiple residence options depending on your budget. There are hostels (the cheapest option) and Riads (hotels typically created from houses in the medinas, and are the most expensive option), and many choices in between. As for the cost of living, Morocco is cheaper than the US.
Tunis, the capital, is right on the coast and is a great place for remote work. There are many places to travel to within Tunisia to see beautiful landscapes and historic ruins. People do speak English, especially in cities, but not everyone. Tunisia is also pretty safe. The tourist visa for Tunisia allows for stays up to 90 days and is free for people with US passports. Longer than that, though, and you will need to fill out another application and pay for another type of visa. The visa application is now available online.
Internet speed in some places in Tunisia is slower than in other countries, which does make it harder for remote work, but there are places with faster internet.
With amazing places to visit like Petra or Aqab, Jordan makes an amazing country for digital nomads to work from. Jordan has a lot of places to visit, food to try, and sites to explore. Many Jordanians in Amman speak English and overall, Jordan is safe.
In Jordan, the visa process is simple. You can get a visa at the border for single entry, two entries, or multiple entries. The single-entry visa is $56.50 and is valid for 30 days.
The prices of the visas increase from there. If you want to stay longer than 60 days, you have to register at a police station.
For internet access, there are many cafes in Amman that have internet. In addition, data plans are available to buy and are somewhat cheap.
Airbnb, hostels, and renting from locals is available. To get around in Amman, taxis are probably the best option.
The cost of living in Jordan is more expensive than in Morocco or Tunisia, although the food is cheaper than in the US. On average, the cost of living is about $1330/month.
Egypt has many places to visit including Alexandria, Luxor, Dahab, and more. Not every place in Egypt has Ancient Egyptian sites, but there are places that have beaches and are fun to explore. Not everyone speaks English but you’ll find help with the language very quickly. Egypt is relatively safe.
The visa process for Egypt is different than the other countries. A tourist visa for someone from the US costs $25 and is good for 30 days only. Beyond that, you will probably have to get a visa before traveling, which is available either online or at an embassy.
Internet in Egypt is typically pretty slow. It would be hard for digital nomads to use the internet, but in some places, like in Dahab, Egypt, there are good spots for the internet. Beyond that, though, it might be better to get a modem or find a “coworking space” to work in.
Hostels are good options for long-term stays.
As for the cost of living, Egypt is much cheaper than the U.S. The average cost of living for a single person in Egypt is $750/month, with some variance in cities.
Makarochkina, Senior Vice President, Secure Power Division, International Operations at Schneider Electric, highlights how the data centre industry in MENA can benefit from the recovery in economies across the region
With an end in sight to the major public health measures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, recovery and renewed development is high on every business agenda.
The data centre sector in the Middle East and North Africa is poised to take advantage of the recovery in economies across the region, as businesses and consumers adapt to new realities, while also looking forward to new opportunities.
With forecasts of significant growth in spending, there is an unprecedented opportunity for the sector to achieve digital transformation goals, incorporate new technologies and build a base of sustainability that will see it thrive into the future.
According to a recent report from IDC, after a contraction of some 4.9% in 2020, IT spending across the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) will make a return to growth this year, increasing 2.8% to $77.5 billion. Furthermore, spending on digital transformation is set to accelerate in the post-pandemic period, increasing from 25% of total IT spending in 2020 to 37% by 2024.
Within that spending intent, the analyst reports that public cloud services spend will grow 26.7% to $3.7 billion, with SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS spend growing 24.5%, 30.6%, and 30.7%, respectively. Attendant with this is a professional cloud services spend growth to a total $1.6 billion.
The spend is reflective of the growth in demand for cloud services generally, combined with the pandemic effect that drove many consumers and business increasingly online for all manner of services.
From a data centre operator perspective, the pandemic has had many distinct effects. Not only is there a growth in demand, but it has been combined with limited access for hands-on operations, a general skills shortage and an increased requirement for resilience and availability.
To adapt to the increasing complexities of the industry, data centers and providers are shifting their priorities to meet the unique needs of these facilities who are facing numerous challenges from these growing, complex environments.
The general skills shortage in the technology sector across the region, combined with the desire for increased availability and resilience, is also driving renewed interest in preventative maintenance for the data centre. With the new levels of instrumentation available and greater capacity to monitor and manage infrastructure, preventative maintenance will be more effective than ever in reducing downtime, increasing availability and improving total cost of ownership, allowing operators to best leverage what specialist skills are available.
For the required growth in capacity to be met quickly, modular approaches to data centres are being widely adopted, further reducing the demand for skilled technicians on the ground. It is expected this approach will also deliver benefits for energy efficiency and operational costs while bringing capacity online quicker.
New approaches to enterprise architecture are being adopted too, in the form of cloud-based integrated digital platforms to span silos of data and services. IDC had highlighted siloed initiatives as a potential stumbling block for digital transformation efforts in the region. It had reported that 44% of organisations in the region said their digital transformation initiatives are not integrated, and more than half (51%) highlighted siloed data as a challenge, driven by limited understanding of existing data assets and a lack of enterprise-wide data management. Almost two thirds (62%) of organisations reported concern over siloed technology environments.
To continue to attract investment in the sector, data centre operators will need to have sustainability at the core of activities, with transparency and standardised reporting. A key factor in these sustainability efforts will be energy supply and consumption. Recent information from market data firm MEED Insight has found that so far in 2021, renewable energy project contract awards in the region have surpassed those for conventional power plant projects.
Building on this momentum, it will be possible for data centre operators to engage in power purchase agreements (PPA) for energy from renewable sources. PPAs will contribute significantly to reducing carbon footprints overall, while driving the development of RES generally in the region, with wider benefits for all from an increased supply of clean, renewable energy.
Challenge and opportunity
Despite challenges such as skills shortages, siloed initiatives, and changing patterns of usage and demand, the advent of new technologies, increasing supplies of renewable energy, and targeted investment, mean that the data centre sector in the MENA region will have the resources and the demand to grow significantly while building in the latest technologies to achieve new levels of service and sustainability.
As the market for data services becomes increasingly global, the unique characteristics of the region can build a vibrant industry, leading in digital transformation. The widespread availability of digital platforms and services can spur further economic development and drive innovation generally, ensuring a more prosperous future for all.
FIOR Reports post By Becca Roberts on Smart Cities as to How Technology Is Helping To Rebuild War-Torn Regions could be made good use of in several of the MENA region’s broken and/or stagnating countries.
Smart Cities: How Technology Is Helping To Rebuild War-Torn Regions
The above image is of Part of the new Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, which was built as part of extensive redevelopment efforts on the former Soviet territory. Image: Bojan Stojkovski / ZDNet
For more than three decades, the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region has been at the center of much disagreement between the neighboring Caucasian states of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The city of Agdam once had a population of 30,000 but was hit hard by the conflict. Now it’s a ghost town.
Since it began in 1988, the conflict over the region has also produced more than a million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Now as Azerbaijan seeks to gradually rebuild the country hit by the struggle, authorities hope technology can play a central role in encouraging citizens to return to the region by creating smart cities and villages that offer better ways of life encourage.
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According to Anar Valiyev, urban planning expert and associate professor at ADA University in Baku, building new communities supported by digital amenities will make the region more attractive not only to returnees but also to those who have stayed in the region Conflict.
The first planning phase is followed by a pilot project in which a number of “smart villages” – referred to as Aghaly-1, Aghaly-2 and Aghaly-3 – are being built in the Zangilan region of Nagorno-Karabakh. More than 200 houses are being built here from innovative building materials such as recycled steel and precast concrete and connected to intelligent electricity, gas and waste disposal companies.
“Alternative energy sources are used for all residential buildings, social facilities, office buildings, restaurants, processing and production of agricultural products.”
Bridging a digital divide
Building new, digitally supported communities will also serve to bridge the gap between the Azerbaijani capital Baku and other urban and rural areas.
Such projects could also entice young Azerbaijanis to move to the Nagorno-Karabakh region in search of new opportunities. Eldar Hamza, 26, is one of them.
During the first Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Hamza’s family was evicted from the town of Fizouli, which had a population of around 17,000 before the war but became a ghost town after they escaped.
“I also believe that most of them will return to live here if there are opportunities for large companies to lay off workers in the area.”
Eldar Hamza, 26, now works as a tour operator in Baku after his family was displaced by the first Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The nearby city of Agdam is also being rebuilt. Before the conflict, the city had almost 30,000 residents. Now, like Fizouli, it is practically deserted.
“We are in the planning phase and are now designing various locations,” said Emin Huseynov, Azerbaijani economist and special representative in the Agdam district, opposite ZDNet. “But the most important [part] is the basic infrastructure that is being made now. When it’s done, we’ll start building the city. “
The development of smart cities should be a boon to Azerbaijan’s ICT industry, which is still in its infancy, and its oil-oriented economy.
In 2016, ICT was one of eleven economic sectors identified by the Azerbaijani authorities as being of strategic importance to the country. The country has now adopted a strategic roadmap for its development; However, according to a report by IPHR and Azerbaijan Internet Watch, the ICT sector represented only 1.6% of Azerbaijan’s total GDP in 2020.
“I think that the ICT sector will develop faster because the development of smart cities also requires faster development of information technology,” Valiyev told ZDNet Informatik und Systemtechnik.
There is also great interest in IT and agriculture. Dmitry Andrianov, founder of Baku-based tech magazine InfoCity, says the development of smart cities and smart villages in the liberated areas of Karabakh should prove to be an incentive for the advancement of the Azerbaijani technology sector and points to the growth of the young IoT startup Sumaks and agritech startup Kibrit.
“All of this helps to create sustainable demand for young IT specialists,” says Andrianov.
Yahya Mohamed Mao, Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Scientya.com questions ‘can Sustainability be the Answer to a Growing Smart City Backlash?’ is answered in his write up below. The picture above is for illustration and is of FinExtra, publisher of this article.
Can Sustainability Be The Answer To A Growing Smart City Backlash?
2 August 2021
The constant and ubiquitous transfer of data from various sources to a single government entity has led to concerns that these sources could turn into electronic panoptics as governments use data-driven technologies to maximize effective surveillance of their citizens. Smart City technologies have been developed with practical applications to improve effective law enforcement, optimize transportation services, improve basic infrastructure, including the provision of local government services, and e-governance platforms. This will improve urban planning and allow governments to tailor their services to the local population.
In some cases technology companies are believed to enter into opaque partnerships with municipal authorities that have profited from the project at their expense by using public resources such as land and development rights. Such criticism is also drawn from data protection factors, since information flows function at the level of citizens and governments and undermine the concept of urban anonymity.
In several cases, lawmakers have passed or are considering legislation that would ban or restrict the construction of 5G cellular towers due to health concerns. While private and business industries consider 5G as a true milestone in today’s technology landscape, residents are largely suspicious of city governments and large technology companies in smart projects whose data track and collect over their everyday activities, not only compromising their privacy and security, but also selling the data without their consent. Fears of privacy intrusion in today’s digital age and rampant development that undermines public interest have exacerbated the erosion of trust between residents and municipalities, especially when private companies manage smart projects.
Moreover, people are afraid that the government will use the data it collects not only for the big government, but also for the companies that sell it. The lack of transparency about what happens to the data, in my opinion, is multiplying the increase in activity in smart cities.
It seems evident that smart cities cannot harness the potential of new data, emerging information technologies and many other components that are essential to fulfill the promise of better services and a better quality of life. One of the most important components of smart cities is sustainability, and sustainability as currently understood is poorly understood.
The exclusion of Smart City definitions from essays on technological solutions in computer science, engineering, and mathematics is one limitation of this study. Further research into the contribution of smart cities to sustainable development is essential. In fact, research suggests that one of the main objectives of Smart City initiatives is to improve quality of life, but there is no definition that explains what this means and what the cost to society and the environment will be. When defining smart cities, it is not clear whether economic growth and improved quality of life are closely linked or whether they are presented as competing agendas. Future efforts to define smart cities should take into account the cause-effect relationship between improving the quality of life and the use of modern technologies and reflect on the dimensions of sustainability.
Economic and financial resources influence the ability of governments to develop and maintain smart cities. Smart cities should focus on social sustainability not only on the provision of services, but also on sustainable mechanisms of civic engagement (Webster and Leleux, 2019) and knowledge sharing with employees (Radulescu et al, 2020) to achieve social sustainability. In terms of the attractiveness of urban life, the introduction of digital technologies and sensors to collect new data will help document weather conditions, noise, temporary projects, pop-up installations, festivals, festivals, holidays, day and night time and impact on usage. This will help landscape architects and urban planners to make informed decisions about the development of public places so that they are pleasant, inclusive and attractive places.
Payment structures in Smart Cities
According to The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) the following cities are the leading global smart cities:
Interestingly, several of these locations also ranking high on Findexable’s index of 2020’s leading fintech hubs. As a consequence, digital payment architecture is expected to be similarly advanced.
A growing backlash?
The growing backlash against large technology companies, combined with the pandemic, has led to a waning enthusiasm for the term that dominates the discussion about the future of cities. Dropping the term “smart city” does not mean ignoring the technology’s potential for better cities.
Conferences, marketplaces, and exhibitions have sprung up to showcase the latest gadgets that cities can buy to transform themselves. The challenges posed by smart cities have prompted metros of all sizes to embrace new technologies for the benefit of all, it seems clear, in order to join a growing global club of innovative communities.
The link between smart cities and the extensive development of technologies makes it unsurprising that today’s tech companies are heavily involved in the building and growth process. The likes of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Huawei have developed various ideas for smart cities. IoT devices are in need of the collection of information making the latter essential for running a smart city. In this manner, Amazon and Google’s venture in smart city activities should not come as a surprise. As we all know, they have been making our homes progressively filled with gadgets such as Alexa and Google Home for a long time. It was only a matter of time before the scale increased!
The concept of smart cities dates back to the 1970s, when Los Angeles created the first urban big data project. Amsterdam became the first smart city with the creation of a virtual digital city in 1994. When in 2011 the inaugural Smart City Expo World Congress was held in Barcelona, it has immediately become an annual event dedicated to smart cities’ development. By 2050, up to 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities and smart cities have been considered the ideal solution after decades of population growth and unplanned urban sprawl across the globe. Cities have a central role in strategic sustainable development. However, is smart also sustainable? Uncertainties and lack of trust resulting from the constant and ubiquitous transfer of data from various sources to a single government entity with tech giants believed to enter into opaque partnerships with municipal authorities have led to an increasing antipathy towards smart cities. People are afraid that the government will use the data it collects not only for the big government, but also for the companies that sell it. Could placing emphasis on sustainability be the answer to a growing smart city backlash? Lack of transparency is an important issue that must be actively discussed. We should stop presuming that “smart” is automatically “sustainable” and include sustainability as cornerstones of smart cities concept. Lack of transparency and people’s mistrust of how sensitive data is used accompanied by a poor understanding of sustainability and its relationship with increasing quality of life may contribute to the growing antipathy towards smart cities.
There is a need to take the climate crisis more effectively to build a sustainable future. For that, local governments need to provide for equipping cities with actionable insights to combat climate change.
Environment Journal elaborates on all inherent aspect of how to go about it. In the meantime, more extensive and more significant areas in the MENA region, of which only two cities are affiliated to the referred to C40, gradually impacted by the now apparent climate alteration, still lack some comprehensive and coordinated moves to restore degraded ecosystems.
Anyway, here is a view of how to integrate the notion of environmental protection through the extensive and practical usage of the available data management infrastructure.
Equipping cities with actionable insights to combat climate change
In order to tackle the climate crisis and build a sustainable future, cities need data, writes Julia Moreno Rosino, inclusive climate action senior manager policy, data & analysis at C40, a network of the worlds megacities that are committed to addressing climate change.
As overall temperatures rise, the world is facing an increase in the frequency and intensity of forest fires, droughts, severe storms, flooding and other extreme weather events.
World leaders are trying to address these problems with regulations and initiatives concerning greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, energy transition, and adaptation to climate hazards; and municipalities around the world are taking ever bolder action in these areas.
Cities, where 56% of the global population live, are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, and are working to build a healthier and more sustainable future.
In order to do this, cities need data.
As data collection systems mature and expand around the world, they are providing an invaluable way for city officials to track their progress on a number of indicators and inform new strategies to tackle the most significant climate challenges. Tracking data alone is not enough cities must be able to use that information to produce actionable insights to foster decision-making and introduce meaningful changes as part of their climate action plans.
Data-driven knowledge sharing: benchmark results and inspire success
Climate action planning needs to include monitoring and evaluation.
Policymakers can especially benefit from continuous, real-time data to develop action plans that are fine-tuned to local considerations. For this, cities are collecting data and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate city performance on emissions, air quality, energy, climate adaptation and other key elements.
At C40 Cities, a network of 97 cities taking ambitious climate action, we have built multiple dashboards, both internal and public-facing, using the data analytics software Qlik Sense to analyse these metrics and indicators.
This allows us, and cities, to analyse specific regions or sectors, in a faster and more intuitive way than having to assess multiple, complex datasets. It allows benchmarking city performance and rapid identification of which cities are on track to meet particular targets and which might need more support.
For example, our Greenhouse Gas Emissions Dashboard hosted on C40s Knowledge Hub presents complex emissions data in an easy-to-analyse format. This dashboard can be used by cities, research organisations, or members of the general public to uncover which sectors and sub-sectors are contributing to higher emissions, such as aviation or buildings. City officials can also compare current emissions to previous years to better understand their emissions trajectory.
The Clean Construction Policy Explorer is a more niche dashboard that examines the policies cities have implemented to tackle emissions from a segment of their built environment and highlights which cities have committed to achieving low carbon and clean construction. By aggregating and surfacing this information, we hope to inspire all cities to raise their ambitions on clean construction policies while learning from the policies and progress of those who have gone first.
Our Adaptation Data Explorer allows cities to find other peers around the world that are experiencing similar climate hazards or extreme weather events. Here, city officials can obtain insights on how others are addressing a particular issue and the actions they are taking, either globally or within the same region. For example, there are many cities experiencing heat waves. Leaders from Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Barcelona, and others can learn from one another and through C40 connect to discuss what they are doing to deal with these extreme heat events. Similar groupings are forming in response to rising sea levels, wildfires, and floods.
Given that transportation accounts for an important percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, it is also important to look at how mobility is evolving both in the face of infrastructure changes and the pandemic. We are using new forms of mobility data to see how public transportation dropped sharply during the first few months of the pandemic, and at the same time than cycling increased.
This has made an impact and changed the traditional mode share of transportation of many cities. What effect is this having on city emissions? Will this steep increase in cycling stay in most cities? These are all important questions that cities should be asking, and they need data to unearth the answers.
Advance to the next phase with automated insights
C40 not only aims to give our cities the data analysis and exploration options that I have explained above, but to also provide them with useful information on where to go next, so they can advance their respective climate goals in different sectors, often in highly local ways. To achieve this, we have dashboards that we share privately with our member cities, where we provide them tailored article recommendations depending on how they are performing against specific metrics.
For example, on their private page, a city can see its current rate of waste that is being diverted from landfill and incineration and compare this to peers and targets. The dashboard on the private Knowledge Hub page will also automatically recommend specific resources depending on the data for that city. If it is not on track on this indicator, it might be offered specific articles to support landfill reduction strategies. If a city is already progressing quickly, it will be recommended insights to further raise their ambition and work towards zero waste.
Every city has different needs and is in different phases of progression within multiple sectors; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, the goal is to provide cities with the information that is most relevant to them depending on their data and queries, and ambitions.
Draw upon the expertise of others to achieve climate change goals
Data analytics and dashboards can help with this effort, providing a way for city officials to quickly explore their progress in various sectors, share knowledge and peruse proven insights. Such offerings will strengthen the network in which city officials and policymakers can draw upon the expertise of each other to achieve climate change goals. Although cities are taking big steps, we still need faster action to reduce the impact of climate change, and we hope that by helping cities to track results and performance, they will be better positioned to make meaningful changes.
Originally posted on Politicsblog.net: The latest monitoring report on the economic situation in Algeria by the World Bank proved controversial. Government representatives and media outlets objected to the findings published on December 22, writes our correspondent. In the report, the World Bank depicts a gloomy situation of the economy in Algeria, which not only…
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