Dubai – mEducation in the Desert

GSMAThe GSMA Connected Living Middle East Summit in Dubai in November 2013 brought together mobile network operators, device manufacturers, and NGOs active in mEducation (Mobile Learning) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Slides we presented highlighted key findings from Ambient Insight’s Mobile Learning research and forecasts for 2012-2017 in a closed session for GSMA members. (We compiled data from two regional reports—Middle East and Africa—to deliver the MENA outlook.)

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The Wednesday session on mEducation for Skills Development and Employability focused on “equipping young people throughout the Middle East and North Africa with the skills to enter the workforce through the use of mobile technology.” Presenters included Joe Yousr Battikh, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Ericcson; Lauren Dawes, Head of Mobile for Employment and mEducation Regional Lead, GSMA, Africa; George Held, Vice President of Commerce, Etisalat Group; Yomna El Meshad, Head of Mobile Learning, British Council; Mr Chams Ouerdiane, Proinvest/Tunisiana partner; and Yazeed Sheqem, Director of Business Development, Souktel.

Tyson and Hannah Dubai 2013-cc

Ambient Insight’s Tyson Greer and GSMA’s Hannah Metcalfe

The topic was well chosen, given high rates of unemployment and mobile penetration in the MENA region. GSMA’s Lauren Dawes reported that the MENA region is plagued by 32% unemployment (73 million), which is nearly three times the 12% rate of worldwide unemployment.

Mobile penetration in the region is the highest on the planet. Kuwait and Oman are the only countries in the world with mobile subscription rates over 200%.  Lauren Dawes also noted that “71% would spend their last $10 to top up their mobiles, rather than on food.” 

Given the high mobile penetration rate, it’s not surprising that mEducation has outpaced eLearning. The compound annual growth rate (2012-2017) for Mobile Learning in 15 MENA countries is 18% and for six of those countries, it is over 50%. High growth rates typically mean market opportunity.

Telecoms in the MENA region have responded to opportunities to deliver mEducation value added services (VAS). At the end of 2011, there were three Mobile Learning VAS in three countries; by the end of September 2013, there were 14 in six countries.

In spite of the impressive growth of Mobile Learning VAS, there are challenges–for the sustainability of the product type and for mobile network operators.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects risk failure because, to take an example from the real world, if a company goes in and builds a well and it breaks a year or two later, there’s likely no one to go back in and fix it. Likewise, without a revenue model, a VAS project can be difficult to sustain.

Morning Dubai 2013-11-16 004The Connected Living Summit was held in the extraordinary city of Dubai, a stunning study in contrasts. In a very few decades the city catapulted itself from a fishing village into a dazzling example of technology with the waters of the Persian Gulf on one side and the Arabian desert on the other.

 

Tyson with Harris Hawk

Ambient Insight CEO Tyson Greer flying a Harris Hawk.

The city can boast the tallest (if you discount another’s claim as an antenna, rather than architectural feature) building on the planet, water systems, and the efficient user-friendly in-city trains.

The desert gave us an opportunity for a remarkable first-hand experience at flying raptors at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.

 

 

 

 

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