Arab World’s Technology Revolution

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It's maybe unsurprising that Saudi Arabia has the highest number of Youtube users in the world. But, despite the fact that Youtube's global viewership is overwhelmingly male, the majority of Youtubers in Saudi Arabia are women. Even more surprising, education is the most popular genre of Youtube material in Saudi Arabia.

Youtube provides Saudi women with educational resources that they might not otherwise have access to. They have access to information and interconnection thanks to technology.

Across the Arab world, technology is assisting people in solving economic difficulties and launching businesses in ways they could never have imagined 20 years ago. It is "a silent revolution," according to Christopher Schroeder, a venture capitalist and author of "Start-Up Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East."

In recent talk, Schroeder said that what touched him the most during his time in the Middle East was seeing how individuals with even the most basic technology, such as "dumb" (non-smart) phones, used them to address immediate social and economic issues.
 
This includes everything from craftswomen in Cairo using very simple mobile phones to manage deliveries and treble their sales to souq.com, the Arab Amazon.com, which today has a market capitalization of over a billion dollars and employs thousands of people.

However, the larger, more subtle takeaway from this technology revolution is that we must stop viewing people as development problems to be solved and instead begin to view them as assets. The best solutions to development issues come from the people who are experiencing them firsthand. They simply require the means to deal with issues, not top-down solutions. Interconnectivity enabled by ubiquitous mobile technology helps to unleash the brightest minds and assets; it provides people with access to all information known to mankind via the internet, as well as the ability to cooperate beyond physical boundaries.
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Education is a great example of local solutions that are aided by technology. In the Arab world, public education receives more funding (19% of total government spending on average) than in Southeast Asia and other regions (the global average is 14 percent ). However, the outcomes of that schooling aren't really impressive, particularly when compared to those regions. Twenty-five percent of children are illiterate, and those who are educated attend schools where rote learning is the norm.Every year, 3.5 billion dollars are spent on extra education in Cairo alone! So, not only is public education subpar, but it's clear that wealthy people hire private tutors to receive a good education... So, what happens to those who can't afford to pay for supplemental education?

As a result, some young entrepreneurs saw the problem and created “Nafham” on the model of Khan Academy, a website where Egyptians can submit educational films for inclusion in Cairo's curriculum. Instead of tackling education reform on an institutional or political level, which these entrepreneurs understood wasn't their strong suit, they found a method to empower students using technology, such as videos and SMS updates, which allowed them to avoid the cost of hiring private tutors.

And, as Schroeder points out, broad technology and internet access in the Arab world has a huge multiplier effect. Over 25 thousand videos were published to Nafham in less than nine months, with over 2.5 million video views in Egypt.

Technology has become firmly ingrained in the daily lives of Arab youth, and it has been instrumental in numerous success stories such as Nafham's. Internet access is enabling young people to devise their own answers to difficulties they are confronted with.

Institutions of development can help with this empowerment, but it will take a shift in thinking. Shroeder told a storey of an Egyptian woman who changed his mind. “Top-down organisations, which include most development and humanitarian groups, understand the issue as follows: people are problems,” she explained. They must be resolved.”

People, on the other hand, are assets in “bottom-up” mindsets. Any solution to a development problem must include the people who are most affected by it. Instead of viewing development programmes through the lenses of "sponsors" and "beneficiaries," development organisations must acknowledge that people are the true solution.

Source: worldbank.org

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