A study by Google and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has revealed the great potential behind an internet-driven economy.
The country at the heart of the study, surprisingly, is not Europe’s golden-boy Germany or South America’s fire-bearer Brazil, it is Egypt: a country that, not too long ago, looked in a dire state during the Arab Spring.
Two years on though, and Egypt’s economy is thriving, mostly due to hundreds of startups using the internet to grow their business, and the ripple effects this creates.
The numbers are impressive:
- 31-million internet users in Egypt (the largest in the Middle East)
- Mobile penetration exceeds 100% in many parts of the country
- Smartphones expected to reach 50% penetration in three-five years
The opportunity to invest has already been recognised by large international investors such as Vodafone, providing both infrastructure and funding to startups in the region.
The main problem at the moment is internet literacy. The majority of the workforce lacks the internet skills needed to have it facilitate all things business. There is also huge competition between larger enterprises, leaving small and medium-sized businesses in the dust as far as using the Internet as an economic platform goes.
How will it be regulated? Policies, copyright, personal information — these all need to be standardized (locally and internationally), and are constantly changing. It will take a huge effort to get up to date and then stay there.
With development and funding, new areas could open up to Egypt’s economy such as mobile banking. It could also improve their ecommerce as well as government and social services.
With one of the largest youth populations in the world, all that remains is a commitment from the government, one that would accept and encourage the internet as an economic platform.
Such a commitment would help streamline the initial stages for startups, from registration to launch, hopefully enticing investment.
Twitter and social media helped Egypt during a time of political change, can the internet now go on to help develop their economy?