Facebook: The next 1 billion users will be mobile

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More than 70% of active users access Facebook from a mobile device.

ArabNet Digital Summit 2013_Eric Edge
Eric Edge speaking at the ArabNet Digital Summit 2013 in Dubai

Anybody with a more than passing interest in digital has been engrossed for the past two days by the intense discussions taking place in Dubai at the Atlantis, The Palm. The ArabNet Digital Summit 2013 has been especially newsy this year, with a number of unexpected insights on the latest trends and best practices coming from the 120-strong panel of speakers at the event.

In a panel that explored travel commerce and the challenges of online payment, Diego Lofeudo, Senior Director of Market Management at Expedia said;

“It is not an issue that people in the Arab world refrain from paying online. Your job as an online travel commerce is to adapt your payment solutions to the 300 million consumers in the region.” — Diego Lofeudo, Senior Director of Market Management, Expedia

Stephan Ekbergh, Founder of TravelStart based in South Africa, concurred saying;

“We don’t care how people pay. Some customers come to us wanting to pay in ivory!” — Stephan Ekbergh, Founder of TravelStart

In a talk on how Facebook affects brand marketing, Eric Edge, Head of Marketing Communications for EMEA at Facebook, stated that more than 70% of active users access Facebook from a mobile device;

“Facebook’s newsfeed is the most engaging feature. It is interesting because it provides one strategy across various platforms and allows brands to connect with customers in a consistent way. To a marketer, this means that the focus is shifting from determining the mobile strategy to identifying ways to reach business goals.

Eric stressed that brands should first and foremost, be people oriented. “Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank is one of our success stories in the region. By placing people at the center of their focus, they were able to reach a 38% uplift in application downloads.” —  Eric Edge, Head of Marketing Communications for EMEA, Facebook

Jonathan Labin, Head of global Marketing Solutions MEA at Facebook, also discussed mobile social advertising saying;

“The next Facebook billion is going to be from mobile. A year ago, we had no mobile revenue. However, in the first 3 months of this year, 30% of our ad revenues were coming from mobile.” — Jonathan Labin, Head of global Marketing Solutions MEA at Facebook

This year, ArabNet Digital Summit also shed light on the status of the digital market in Iran and Pakistan.

Amir-Esmaeil Bozorgzadeh, Managing Partner at Conovi, stated that one of the most challenging issues in Iran is the blocked access to many websites. However, users are using VPN to get around this and access social media. Amir invited investors to invest in Iranian markets for two reasons;

“First, the most recent presidential elections’ results will appeal to foreign markets. In addition, sanctions can be lifted for certain startups and entrepreneurs in digital sector.” — Amir-Esmaeil Bozorgzadeh, Managing Partner at Conovi

Monis Rahman, Founder and CEO at Rozee.pk, also encouraged investments in Pakistan, saying Pakistan is a huge, online market that is “monetizable.”According to Monis, the market favors investments because of the low purchasing power, the low competition because of the nascent ecosystem, and the cheap online customer acquisition. He also thinks that he latest democratic elected government will give momentum to the economy.

The Industry Track of the Digital Summit also explored the effect of technology on education. According to research conducted by the Dubai School of Government, 82 percent of parents and educators think that digital learning solutions could increase the engagement of students with special needs, and 70 percent think it could have helped students who suffered from interrupted schooling.

Rick Van Sant, Vice President of E-Learning Interactive Blackboard Corporation, said;

“We should quit talking about e-learning. We should simply talk about excellence in education. It is impossible to think of education without integrated technology.” — Rick Van Sant, Vice President of E-Learning Interactive Blackboard Corporation

Herve Marchet, Group CTO at Gems Education, stated that despite all the tools and the diverse ways students engage with technology, the educational system has not significantly changed over the last 10 years.

Milad Sebaaly, Managing Director at Global Learning International, identified one of the greatest challenges facing online learning in the Arab world is accreditation.

In a panel discussing digital strategies for telecom operators, Ismaeel Makdissi, CEO at Intigral, said;

“Telecos should use digital media as a differentiating factor because they cannot afford not being in this business.”

The last day of the ArabNet Digital Summit featured four closed, highly-focused Roundtables bringing together industry stakeholders to discuss unlocking value for all the players in the digital domain. Furthermore, the Developer Tournament Championship will announce on June 26th, the winner of the Top Arab Coder award.

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