Internet Doesn't Belong to United States.

Category: Life & Society Topics: Internet Views: 2396
2396

The recent discovery of the outrageous act of Bayan El-Ashi of InfoCom USA in registering 500 Saudi company names on the Internet without their permission is yet a further warning that we in Saudi Arabia are losing ground because of our inertia towards the greatest tool of communications the world has ever known.
It is also indicative of a persistent crime; we are not listening to each other.

In January this year Saudi companies were warned that this was happening and companies were encouraged to act to take a global registration on the Internet. Only a handful of companies responded; Abdulatif Jameel-(alj.com), the first Saudi Group on the Internet, Al Bank Al Saudi Al Fransi (saudifransi.com), the first Saudi bank on the Internet and the World Wide Web, the National Commercial Bank (ncb.net) preparing a strategy for their Internet presence, Zahid Tractor (zahid.com), El Khereiji group of companies (elkhereiji.com) and the companies within Saudi Research and Marketing Group.
The Saudi press took the story. We wrote. We telephoned. We sent letters. All of which were ignored. Even the Chambers of Commerce throughout the Kingdom totally ignored our correspondence.

In March, the registrations started. Company names familiar to us in Saudi Arabia, in fact many of them a source of national pride, became the property of someone else, trying to force these companies to place their information on servers owned by an American firm. This is tantamount to having Saudi corporate information in the hands of foreigners.
It is not such a big thing; alternative addresses can be found or in the case of some companies legal action can be taken. However, it is a warning of the hegemony of foreign "Internet experts." 

Let's be honest. Had it come from the British or American press, this warning would have been heeded. It came from the Saudi press. And as soon as many Saudi businessmen see the word "Saudi" they run a mile. 

The struggle to prove the worth of Saudi companies to other Saudi companies is an uphill battle. Just how far do our own companies in the region have to go before they are treated on an equal footing with foreign companies. It is no different with the Internet business.
We must stand together on the issue of the Internet. One Saudi sports team on the Internet decided to do it itself with the help of a friend of a friend in the US; the result is a major embarrassment. One large FMCG company buried itself in an obscure network in the United States.
The Internet is not a plaything. It is serious business and involves serious long-term commitment. There is also a regional image that is at stake. 
We are a quality country with quality companies. It is time to cut the US umbilical cord and to use our own human resources. We can and will do it ourselves and probably do a much better job!

At the moment you can buy a Web page for a few hundred dollars and put it in any old place. Chances are it will only be visited by your own company and your relatives. Because of this, the Middle East is starting to have that "third world" look again. Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan, for example, although they are regions where investment interest can be readily aroused, have some of the cheapest, worst-written, information on the entire Internet. They also have some very good ones done by local companies, which just shows that Internet competence is within the region.

The Internet is a cheap place if you want the world to hear about your pets or your garden. It is a cost-effective place if you want to supply quality information to its large audience. In a word, it is an investment if you want to do serious business.

A recent report from Forrester Research Inc.examined the Internet and concluded that the vast majority of information is rubbish in both style and content. The only decent sites, they said, cost between $300,000 and over $2 million for the first year. 

This is the sort of investment that will pay off in the end. 

We need to make this investment and we need to make it within our own countries where the services are growing daily. 

Another mistake that companies in Saudi Arabia are making is that they are entrusting their Internet presence to their computer operators. This is fine when it comes to the hardware. However, for marketing and corporate image, which is the overriding use of the Internet, it is team work; involving the Chairman, the marketing team and the computer divisions. It is an often repeated criticism that the world's worst Web sites have been done by IT people. You would not get your IT specialist to design your corporate identity for paper publishing, so why let him design it for electronic publishing?

We have so much to learn when it comes to the operation of the Internet. However, one thing we are all certain of, and that is, that we as Saudi companies have only one chance to get it right, and that we as part of the Saudi economy have a responsibility to promote the economic health of our own region.

If not, we should all move our headquarters to the United States, give in to the information blackmail of El-Ashy, take the money and run. Exploit our country and give nothing back.


  Category: Life & Society
  Topics: Internet
Views: 2396

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