By the end of 2011, online social network Facebook users reached 481 million, demanding an expansion in software industry, as mentioned in the Information Economy Report 2012 released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Entitled “The Software Industry and Developing Countries,” the Report was launched by ESCWA today 28 November 2012, at its Headquarters in Beirut.
ESCWA Director of Information and Communication Technology Division Haidar Fraihat gave an overview of UNCTAD’s 7th Report, which recommends that developing countries, with the burgeoning skills of their domestic software writers, should seek to expand the creation of software that meets local needs and capabilities as a means of increasing income and addressing broader economic and social development goals.
Highlighting the main findings of this year’s Report, First Information Technology Officer at ESCWA Rami Zaatari said that developing countries allocate a small percentage of their Information and Communications Technology (ICT) expenditures to software industry, whereby Egypt allocates 5.3 per cent, Jordan allocates 6.2 per cent, Kuwait allocates 12.3 per cent, Morocco allocates 3.4 per cent, Tunisia allocates 10.5 per cent, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) allocate 11.5 per cent. He also pointed out that India tops software exports in developing countries, followed by China, Philippines and Singapore; As for Arab countries, Morocco pays out the largest amount of USD 297 million as exporting costs of computers and information services per year, followed by Egypt that spends USD 171 million in this field.
Zaatari also added that the local demand for software industry is increasing through the worldwide expansion in three trends, including the use of smart mobile phones; broadband connectivity; and the free and open source software.
The Report states that global mobile application industry in 2011 accounts for USD 15 to 20 billion, set to rise to USD 38 billion by 2014; the mobile applications development is adapted to local needs, cultures and languages with a varied content including news, entertainment to patient care, and also government services applications. The use of smart phones in the Arab region is recording high percentages, with 57 per cent of the KSA population, 48 per cent of the Jordanian, and 37 per cent of the Lebanese population use these phones. The Report also emphasizes the roles of the international partners in this context, which are: capacity-building; training; application development; and strengthening legal and regulatory frameworks.
Zaatari also mentioned the main barriers facing the Software industry growth, which include: the limited access to venture capital; the lack of qualified human resources; the lack of government procurement; weak demand from private sector; high rates of software piracy; limited capabilities in software firms; inadequate protection of intellectual property rights; limited demand from export markets; and unfavorable general business climate. He added that the Report calls on governments to intervene through giving the private sector the incentives to invest in the software industry. Zaatari said that the governments are asked to secure an affordable information and communication technology infrastructure including a good broadband connectivity; to make use of the free open source software when available; to foster local software industry capabilities; and to strengthen the legal framework.
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