An increase in Arabic online content, the proliferation of social media, and the convergence between satellite TV and the internet in the Middle East now affect almost every aspect of daily life of Arabs, according to Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan.
Inaugurating the 8th Annual Media and Telecommunications Convergence Conference in Amman on 6 June, Princess Sumaya said: “Media diffusion is building a broader choice of content that is oblivious to state borders and blind to cultural difference.
“Diverse worlds are colliding and an astounding array of connections are being made between Arabs and the wider world. The extraordinary immediacy of this new technology has built a framework for following and analysing developments as never before.”
Addressing 500 delegates, Princess Sumaya also said Arabic online content is expected to grow dramatically in the coming years as more than 320 million Arabic speakers demand far more than the 1% of global online content that is currently provided in Arabic.
“I am delighted to say that Jordan is the top contributor of Arabic online content today with over 75% of the region’s Arabic content originating in the Kingdom,” said the Princess, “but there is enormous potential for growth.”
In terms of broadcast growth, there were 538 free to air (FTA) satellite channels in the Arab world by April 2011, according to conference organiser Arab Advisors. Indeed, the current proliferation of regional FTA stations represents a 438% rise from January 2004 to April 2011.
Plus, by May 2011, 14 out of 19 Arab countries had fully competitive mobile markets, with the exception of Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Qatar and the UAE - which have mobile duopolies. Competitive Internet markets are now seen in 14 countries, with just four countries having duopoly Internet markets. Fixed services lag, however, with only four Arab countries having competitive fixed telephony markets.
There are, said the Princess, reasons to celebrate the blurring of boundaries between regional media and telecommunications operators, and that “under-represented sections of society” such as women and young people, “were gaining a new and durable prominence.”
“Our [Arab] world is dynamic; it is demanding; and it is ambitious. It is fuelled by passion and it is empowered by technology. It is creative, it is hopeful and it is not going back to the isolation of the past,” concluded Princess Sumaya.