Saad Barrak

Media & Telecommunications Convergence Conference - Day 1

In the first day of the annual Media & Telecommunications Convergence Conference there were some interesting discussions by panels from a wide range of expertise. Arab Advisors hosted many of the key players in this industry in the Middle East.
I especially found interesting the speech by Dr. Saad Barrak, Director General of MTC Group about their work in underdeveloped nations. The interesting point he mentioned was an example of how valuable hi tech services were in these nations. He pointed out that since the infrastructure was very limited (no roads, no electricity, and many of the things we consider to be basic) there was a very high value given to mobile calls and services in general. The typical European, for example wouldn't give that much value to these things, because they are used to being connected with other in several ways.
Not only that, but there was a high economic value in these services, because the farmer no longer has to accept whatever price is given to him by current bidders, he can easily make a phone call and ask for bids for his crop. He can be very empowered negotiating with the merchants discussing the deal with him. It's strange that huge growth might come from underdeveloped markets precisely because they are underdeveloped!
Another interesting speaker was the marketing director of Ericsson, Jeremy Foster. He clearly had a holistic view of where the content industry is going. His presentation clearly showed the different options available to the user, the price and value comparisons, and the different revenue-generating strategies available to telecoms and content providers.
IP Multimedia Subsystem was a key topic in his discussion and one of the main strategic opportunities to provide content of all types to mobile users. He demonstrated the paradox of the "dumb mega byte" whereby you can download a video clip of a song of 20 MB for free, and that same song, if delivered only as voice would cost $1! Technologically this is irrational, but the market dynamics make it so. It's a clear sign that more services and value doesn't necessarily mean more capacity on gadgets. It should mean smarter positioning, and closer contact with the consumer. He also shared his vision of a centralized database for each user, that can be accessible through different devices, without loosing its formatting and richness. Your soul would be floating in no-place and it can manifest itself for you through whichever medium you choose. That should be cool to achieve. Nothing mentioned about user-generated content, which I think is a key factor in everything nowadays.
Alexander McNabb, group account director of Spot On PR made my day by talking about Web 2.0. It was very strange also that less than 10% of the audience knew the term, let alone being familiar with its different aspects and applications. He moderated a very lively panel where a heated discussion took place about pricing and some unfair practices related to internet service providers.
The general atmosphere was nice, execution of the conference was very good, and the food was delicious!