The Daily News Egypt - - Front Page - By Mo­hamed Alaa El-din

The web pro­vides a big op­por­tu­nity for small and medium en­ter­prises (SMEs) in Egypt to ex­port their ser­vices and prod­ucts, ac­cord­ing to Google’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor for the Mid­dle East and North Africa (MENA) re­gion,Lino Cat­taruzzi,in an in­ter­view with the Daily News Egypt.

Can you tell us about your part­ner­ship with the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions?

We’re in con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy to dis­cuss fu­ture plans and pro­grammes. We re­cently cel­e­brated the last grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony of the twoyear Mobile Ap­pli­ca­tion Launch­pad (MAL) pro­gramme, which was set up by Google in part­ner­ship with Udac­ity and the Egyp­tian Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy to groom suc­cess­ful mobile app de­vel­op­ers in Egypt through train­ing, cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, and ca­reer guid­ance/job place­ments in the ICT field.

We are very proud of the suc­cess of this pro­gramme, and the num­bers speak for them­selves—more than 1,600 en­rolled stu­dents and more than 1,200 suc­cess­ful grad­u­ates.

What led to the high suc­cess and grad­u­a­tion rate of the Mobile App Launch­pad Pro­gram in Egypt?

Firstly, I think that the pro­gramme was very well de­signed.We looked at the lo­cal needs in Egypt and part­nered with Udac­ity to of­fer one-onone coach­ing and made sure that it is very in­clu­sive and al­lowed for ev­ery­one to join. More than 65% of the stu­dents were from out­side of Cairo. Se­condly, the stu­dents have a high start­ing base with strong back­ground. For in­stance, one of the stu­dents ma­jored in Physics. Egypt has what it takes in terms of hu­man cap­i­tal for peo­ple to suc­ceed in STEM sciences.

But this not par­tic­u­lar to Egypt, this ea­ger­ness ex­ists ev­ery­where. The per­cent­age was a lit­tle higher in Egypt, but what is strik­ing is that the stu­dents are very am­bi­tious and for­ward look­ing. For ex­am­ple, the stu­dents did not just stop at cer­ti­fi­ca­tion but they were plan­ning what they can do with that cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

What are your fu­ture plans to sup­port en­trepreneurs in Egypt?

At Google, we al­ways look to nur­ture the en­tre­pre­neur­ial tal­ent in Egypt and the MENA re­gion. MAL was tai­lored specif­i­cally for Egyp­tian de­vel­op­ers, and we worked with our part­ners to de­ter­mine the best for­mat that would deliver the strong­est im­pact.That be­ing said, we are al­ways look­ing for new plans and pro­grammes that sup­port de­vel­op­ers in Egypt, be­cause in­evitably this would lead to a stronger ecosys­tem. We are cur­rently ex­plor­ing what the next best steps are, but first we need to make sure we re­flect and an­a­lyse what we did right and what could be done better.

We have clear ar­eas of ex­plo­ration; in par­tic­u­lar we are fo­cused on dig­i­tal skills, but the key ques­tion here is not just about what we are go­ing to do to­mor­row, but more about how we can sup­port this new dig­i­tal econ­omy to work well for all the SMEs in Egypt and how we can make sure that we max­imise the im­pact of new tech­nol­ogy on the life of the av­er­age Egyp­tian cit­i­zen.

What are the op­por­tu­ni­ties that you see in Egypt?

We see a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties, con­sid­er­ing the size, tal­ent, and po­ten­tial for de­vel­op­ment in Egypt. One is in tal­ent specif­i­cally; we see an op­por­tu­nity in build­ing on the tal­ent of the al­ready well-trained pop­u­la­tion to have a higher im­pact us­ing tech­nol­ogy.The sec­ond, is how Egypt can have a higher foot­print in the re­gion, the Arab world,Africa, and even glob­ally.

The last one is how you can start your own busi­ness or en­able SMEs to ex­port and small com­pa­nies to grow faster.

Egypt and the web are better to­gether. For us, the in­ter­net is ex­tremely im­por­tant; there is a global change in the busi­ness, and Egyp­tians are well equipped to cap­ture this evo­lu­tion.This is what we are do­ing by en­gag­ing with dif­fer­ent play­ers here in Egypt, like the govern­ment and as­so­ci­a­tions, to cap­ture this op­por­tu­nity in or­der to help busi­nesses grow faster.

For in­stance,Egypt is filled with in­cred­i­ble ar­ti­sans pro­duc­ing amaz­ing things, and they should be able to sell them out­side of Egypt, and for other peo­ple to be aware and for them to cap­ture the value.This is not to sell them to a large com­pany that will take most of the eco­nomic wealth, but to en­able them to di­rectly com­mu­ni­cate with the out­side world, to have an eas­ier way of ship­ping goods and col­lect­ing the money di­rectly from the ser­vice, and to make them grow their busi­ness.

They need to be known and they need to have easy ways to sell what they pro­duce.

What does it take to be­come the next Google?

I think the first thing to take into con­sid­er­a­tion is in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity—cre­at­ing some­thing new and unique that adds value. It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily need to be a com­pany; it could be a net­work of com­pa­nies or even just an idea that cre­ates value. You need to think big, not small: at Google we call it “10x think­ing”. Sec­ond,one needs to have the skills to be in the dig­i­tal world; and third, there needs to be the right en­vi­ron­ment that can al­low in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies to be suc­cess­ful.

There are a num­ber of as­pects that will make a sim­ple idea the next big thing and yet it is not just the idea; the key is turn­ing the idea into re­al­ity.

Do you think start-ups in Egypt are get­ting the right fund­ing and sup­port?

There is an abun­dance of fi­nanc­ing for start-ups on a global level; how you ar­tic­u­late them and make them avail­able in Egypt is sec­ondary. If you have the right plat­form, the chal­lenge is not in the fund­ing but how you scale suc­cess and grow it to be re­gional or global. One of the chal­lenges we have is a lot of tal­ent think that it is eas­ier and sim­pler to do things in their own coun­try and that reach­ing other mar­kets means they need to re­lo­cate. There are some coun­tries that look to at­tract these tal­ents and scal­ing them in or­der to turn them into big play­ers. Al­most ev­ery sin­gle coun­try is fac­ing that chal­lenge. My rec­om­men­da­tion here is make sure that you look at peo­ple as part of an ecosys­tem, and not just as in­di­vid­u­als. It’s more about think­ing of them as an ecosys­tem—a num­ber of peo­ple that are cre­at­ing value spills over to cre­ate more value for more peo­ple. Even if some of them de­cide to re­lo­cate and go to other coun­tries, you still have the ecosys­tem work­ing smoothly and gen­er­at­ing more.

When you think about Google,you need to think about Sil­i­con Val­ley— there are a num­ber of com­pa­nies that make it what it is.Think of the ecosys­tem that pro­vides fund­ing, ac­cess to good con­nec­tiv­ity and train­ing, ex­po­sure in­ter­na­tion­ally, and ac­cess to in­ter­na­tional com­merce—all these things that help one grow.

Do you have any plans to in­vest in lo­cal start-ups?

We mainly do this in the US, where we try to ac­quire some tech­nolo­gies re­lated to what we need as a com­pany, but in the re­gion we be­lieve that it is much more im­pact­ful and pow­er­ful to in­vest in de­vel­op­ing the ecosys­tem, be­cause this is where we can pos­i­tively im­pact hun­dreds of thou­sands of com­pa­nies.

Google part­nered with the Min­istry of Tourism back in 2014. Do you have other plans to sup­port tourism in Egypt?

We gen­er­ally work with dif­fer­ent boards of tourism around the world that ask for our sup­port, be­cause we be­lieve that giv­ing users the ac­cess and chance to dis­cover dif­fer­ent places around the world has amaz­ing value.

Egypt is an icon—a place that I have long dreamt of as a child—so I am happy that our Street View feature has of­fered peo­ple from around the world the chance to get a glimpse of its top landmarks and her­itage.

That be­ing said,we re­cently haven’t been in talks with the govern­ment for any­thing in par­tic­u­lar, but we are al­ways very ea­ger to con­tinue this kind of work to make cul­ture and her­itage even more ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­body.

Where does Egypt rank in terms of growth for Google in the re­gion?

We gen­er­ally look at the up­com­ing growth in terms of peo­ple go­ing online, so Egypt ranks very high in that re­gard.We also fo­cus a lot on KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Ara­bia] and the UAE [United Arab Emi­rates].

Do you have any plans for sup­port­ing Ed­u­ca­tion?

I think the big ques­tion is what is the fu­ture of ed­u­ca­tion and how can you match what the labour mar­ket needs with what stu­dents are trained in. Even if we make a very good def­i­ni­tion of how that looks to­day, I can guar­an­tee that in 10 years it will be com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

It is not about tak­ing a snap­shot and mak­ing the de­ci­sion; it is about how much you can cope with this de­gree of change.To­day ed­u­ca­tion is al­most ev­ery­where, you go to YouTube and see all those videos that users cre­ate on their own about how to do some­thing—whether that was fix­ing a faucet or learn­ing math­e­mat­ics. Ed­u­ca­tion is be­ing democra­tised with peo­ple us­ing plat­forms to cre­ate con­tent and ed­u­cate oth­ers, as well as mak­ing this uni­ver­sally ac­ces­si­ble to con­sumers.Then there are all these in­sti­tu­tions that we part­ner with, such as Udac­ity, who we have part­nered with here.

What does suc­cess look like for Google in Egypt?

We look at suc­cess in Egypt in three ways: one is en­hanc­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of in­ter­net users on the web and help­ing them find what they are look­ing for in what­ever form they want, whether on Search or onYouTube.

The sec­ond thing is we want to help and equip all these peo­ple to ex­port their busi­nesses around the world.The qual­ity of some things that are pro­duced here in Egypt should be ex­ported al­most ev­ery­where in the world.

The third is about in­di­vid­u­als; we want to make sure that we are ahead of the curve, be­cause things are chang­ing rapidly and we want to help sim­plify the adop­tion of new tech­nolo­gies and the trans­for­ma­tion of com­pa­nies.

What is Google do­ing to sup­port Ara­bic con­tent on the web?

Ara­bic con­tent is for a re­gion, not just for a coun­try.There are a num­ber of ini­tia­tives that we are lead­ing.

TheYouTube space that we set up in Dubai will cater to the re­gion as a whole and will fo­cus on the cre­ation of Ara­bic con­tent through online videos.

I am learn­ing Ara­bic and I can tell you it is a com­plex lan­guage. But it is a rich lan­guage, es­pe­cially with all its di­alects.With ad­vanc­ing tech­nol­ogy and ma­chine learn­ing, the web will better un­der­stand what users around the world are search­ing for, in­clud­ing Ara­bic.

An­other way we sup­port Ara­bic con­tent is by help­ing the net­work of pub­lish­ers get funded through ads so they can keep cre­at­ing more con­tent.Around the world, we have dis­trib­uted tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to pub­lish­ers.

How do you see the growth of dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing in Egypt?

I think it is a re­flec­tion of how peo­ple spend their time. We see more peo­ple mov­ing and spend­ing more time on their de­vices, par­tic­u­larly mobile phones.So when you see the con­se­quence of that, just look at your­self and look at how much time you are spend­ing on your phone, com­puter, or tablet; so this brings about two things.

One is that the way that con­tent is con­sumed is dif­fer­ent as op­posed to the past. Peo­ple are se­lect­ing where to go and what to see, and this cre­ates a move­ment of rev­enues to the online world for pub­lish­ers, plat­forms, cre­ators, etc... and the Arab world is em­brac­ing this big time and it is grow­ing very rapidly.




Google’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor for the Mid­dle East and North Africa (MENA) re­gion, Lino Cat­taruzzi

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