Google to offer free websites to Saudi SMEs

US internet giant rolls out initiatives to bolster online presence of Gulf businesses
Google to offer free websites to Saudi SMEs
Google said in June it was “aggressively” hiring staff and boosting investment across the Middle East
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Sun 18 Sep 2011 11:38 AM

Google plans
to launch a series of events aimed at getting more Gulf firms online as it
looks to increase its business in the Middle East, its regional managing director
said.

The world’s
largest internet search engine estimates that just 15 percent of GCC businesses
are currently online. Google aims to bolster numbers by developing free websites
for small-to-medium-sized firms (SMEs) in Saudi Arabia and offering advice on
how to monetise their digital presence, said Ari Kesisoglu.

“The
idea is that we want to help businesses get online. [We want to] make it
extremely easy for businesses,” he said. “E-commerce is just in its infancy [in
the GCC]…. Businesses need to be online before they can do any online business.”

The
concept follows a pilot scheme launched in the UK that offered around 1,500
businesses in Liverpool one-to-one advice about building a website and
maximising their search potential.

Google, which
has rolled out a host of free initiatives in a bid to shake off allegations it
has grown too powerful, said it would host its G-UAE Day on October 19-20in
Dubai.

G-Days
are Google-hosted developer and tech business days that aim to introduce the
tech community to the latest technologies.

“One of
the key things [about G-Days] is us brining the latest technology in the world
to the region. We want to give people who are interested in doing things online
and we want to help them. If at the end, we have a couple of new implementations
of the latest technologies for the region that is a success,” said Kesisoglu.

The
Middle East is one of Google’s biggest growing markets, spurred by its
burgeoning youth population.  Two thirds of the Arab world is under the
age of 25 and among the fastest adopters of new online technology.

Google
told Arabian Business in June it was “aggressively” hiring staff and boosting
investment in both its English and Arabic-language products in the region.

Google
in February said internet usage in the Middle East grew 39 percent in 2010, to
86 million people, up from 64 million the previous year.

The
digital advertising business – led by search engines, banner ads, mobile texts
and social media, will swell to $170m this year (of a $3bn MENA advertising
pie), up from $120m.

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