Two years on from the first ArabNet Digital Summit in Beirut and the world has changed. I don't know that ArabNet can take the credit for that, but organiser Omar Christidis can certainly take credit for knowing when to start a serious regional digital conference with a focus on startups and 'the digital opportunity' in the Middle East.
As I posted at the time, the first ArabNet Digital Summit in March 2010 was something of an eye-opener. With low expectations confounded by a very high standard of event, ArabNet showed that there was undoubtedly a flowering of talent, innovation, interest and investment in the region's digital industries. The second ArabNet a year later cemented that, although a daringly expanded event did expose a couple of organisational weaknesses. That didn't really matter, the highly ambitious agenda was expanded to include a developer day event, the two day core conference and a community day. The ArabNet team went on a road trip around the region, literally taking a bus from country to country and arranging presentations, workshops and the like with the aim of uncovering, even fostering, the region's potential startups.
This year, the ArabNet Digital Summit is a five day event - the popular Developer Day has been expanded to the plural, the two day conference remains at the core of the event. There's a one day 'Industry Day' (taking place concurrent to the second Developer Day), which aims to examine how digital technologies are transforming a number of vertical industries in the region. It's a smart idea, because it means taking an approach to technology that is necessarily made relevant to each of the industries the day serves, which include healthcare, banking, travel, education, and government.
Then we have the two day ArabNet conference, the 'Forum Days' which include a number of keynotes, panels, workshops and the much-loved 'Ideathon' (pitch a startup idea from the stage) and 'Startup Demo' (Startup pitches its work and seeks funding) competitions. There's a third competition, as well, for agencies to case study their digital campaigns.
As usual, I'll be there causing trouble. I'm moderating a session on Industry Day, 'Social Media and Customer Relationship Management' and then during the main forum, I'll be presenting on how companies can, in fact need to, 'Take back your content' - how companies are going to need to plan and execute content strategies in this world of 'discoverability' we're carving for ourselves. Then I'll be moderating a panel on 'The Future of News' which will be, if I have anything to do with it, a real bunfight.
Apart from the stuff I'm doing from the stage, I'll be doing the usual at ArabNet - meeting smart and interesting people, learning about what's happening around the region and soaking up information and best practice from the speakers onstage.
See you there!
Here's the Spot On ArabNet page, BTW!