Lebanon

“The Private Sector was the Only Driving Force Behind E-initiatives”

 

What e-content means in Lebanon:

A: E-content is ‘Information and Processes’ delivered through Electronic means to provide Service to End-Users (Citizens, Communities, Companies, etc). E-content is, by essence Interactive, but we should not underestimate the value of Linear e-content especially in those parts of the world where users lack practice and maturity.

What is the current status of e-content in your country, including national e-content development across all the sectors of the industry?

With the propagation of the Internet, the value and accessibility of e-content in Lebanon is starting to acquire interesting proportions. Traditionally, Lebanon is known to be the most prolific country in the Middle-East, in terms of printing and publishing. Numerous daily newspapers, magazines, books and other publications are printed in Beirut and distributed throughout the Middle-East and the rest of the world. Furthermore, the media has been showing unprecedented dynamism during the past decade: all major International Advertising Agencies have offices in Beirut and are providing services for the whole region. TV Production and Broadcast is also a dynamic sector with more than 10 satellite channels covering the Middle-East, with two of them being ranked in the overall top three in terms of viewership.

This vibrant leading position in the publishing and media arena is not coupled with a similar dynamism in the New Interactive Media and content arena, despite awareness and reach among the young generation.

Some major enablers for the proliferation of e-content producers were lacking during the Internet hype (1995-1999). These factors included:

» The high cost of telecommunications
» Intellectual Property Law
» The lack of financing and venture capital
» The size of the local market
» The absence of Arabic enablement of the Internet

This situation did not offer any incentives to local producers to invest heavily in any venture related to e-content creation. As a matter of fact, the size of the local market is always critical to the viability of a content provider. Although Lebanese consider the Middle-East and the Arab Space (300 million people) to be their local market, this did not provide the needed critical mass to ensure sustainability as this market i.e. the Internet has low penetration here compared to the West.

We have witnessed after 1999, serious developments and success stories in niche markets especially in entertainment related portals as well as in e-commerce geared toward serving the Lebanese Diaspora (of 12 million people).

Today, more serious developments are occurring in e-business (banking and financial services, business information data-banks, etc.), e-health (medical records, lab records, drug distribution, etc.), e-learning (course management and delivery, distance learning, etc.), e-culture (culturalheritage, music festivals, cinema, etc.)

It is worth mentioning that the private sector was the only driving force behind e-initiatives.

Nevertheless, the Government is now on the verge of launching a 1 billion Dollar project for e-government and the related infrastructure which will help position Lebanon on the road to Information Society.

Which e-content area is best developed in your country?

Entertainment and Telephony Portals

Which sectors in your country are the leaders in e-content development?

The Business and Private Sector

Please describe the progress of e-content development in your country.

» 1994-95: First ISP’s
» 1994-98: Static Web Sites
» 1998-00: Interactive sites, Portals, e-commerce
» 2000-03: e-Banking, B2B, ASP, e-government

What have been the major bottlenecks in the development of e-content in your country?

As stated earlier, the major bottlenecks came from:

» The high cost of Telecommunications
» Intellectual Property Law
» The lack of Financing and Venture Capital
» The size of the Local Market
» The absence of Arabic enablement of the Internet

In developed countries ICT has become part of daily life and e-content development is primarily left to the initiatives of individuals or organizations. On the other hand, in less developed countries, the development of e-content is largely dependent on ICT infrastructure. Please give a detailed analysis of the situation in your country.

As in all other countries, the situation in Lebanon is highly dependant on the Infrastructure. Nevertheless, the legal framework is also a major aspect of the development of e-content applications. Therefore, a comprehensive infrastructure and legislation ensuring secured online transactions will definitely boost all e-content development activities in Lebanon and attract regional applications and investments.

How would you describe the ICT scenario in your country? Please describe it in terms of infrastructure, penetration, acceptance and policies.

The ICT market in Lebanon is around US$ 300 million a year and has the potential to grow to over US$ 1 Billion. Internet penetration is 8% which is above the worldwide average (6%) but lower than penetration in the UAE (34%). ICT is a vibrant sector with highly skilled professionals graduating from Lebanese schools and universities.

Unfortunately, brain drain is occurring due to the small local market and the high demand for multi-disciplinary, multilingual professionals from surrounding markets in the Middle-East, Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia. The Lebanese Government is now tarting to implement policies for the adoption of ICT in various levels of society and business. The potential is very high.

How do you see the future of e-content development in your country?

Lebanon has a tradition of producing and publishing literature, music and the other forms of arts and knowledge using the traditional methods. New Media techniques are being used more and more especially for those applications which are addressed to the regional and international audience. E-content production will have an amazing future with the liberalization of telecommunications and the reduction of communication costs, thus facilitating accessibility and enhancing sustainability of any development. Some other Legal and Regulatory issues will also have to be addressed in order to facilitate financing and investment.

As an expert in your country, what would be the five most important pillars of e-content development?

BETZ: the Beirut Emerging Technology Zone is a technology park with state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities which will attract ICT companies as well as Local and International e-Content Producers.

The e-Government Project: A comprehensive project involving all aspects of Government is on the verge to be launched and will set the standardfor any governmental applications in the future.

SeBIL: The Secure Electronic Banking Information of Lebanon project will implement a secure infrastructure for all financial transactions between Banks, Government, Business and Citizens.

e-Culture: The Lebanese Cultural Heritage Project was launched by associations of Civil Society.

The Telco Regulatory Body: Multiple stake holders in Lebanon are Pushing for the creation of a regulatory body to manage the use and cost of telecommunications according to international standards and market demands. This body will help reducing the cost of access to the Internet which will reflect positively on e-content production.

Please explain which is the most preferred medium for e-content development: Print, TV, the Internet, Radio, Mobile/Wireless or a combination of some of these?

TV, Internet/Web and Mobile.

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