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ERSU ABLAK > Where does Turkey belong, digitally?

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It is very difficult to decide where Turkey belongs to in any given area. There are as many maps that put Turkey in the Asia section as maps that place Turkey in Europe. The visit of German President fuelled this discussion once more. Turkey is a more stable country than many in the Middle East.

Economically it is much better tied to Europe than the Middle East. Economic life is much more diversified than the Middle East. Women’s rights are arguably better in Turkey than the Middle Eastern countries, but we are not really on par with Europeans yet. So Turkey is somewhat in the middle. What about digitally? Where do we belong?

The digital realm has its own rules and it is hard to define by geographic location. Rather, we can say that some countries are more developed digitally than others. For me, the digital device penetration rate, basic Internet speed, economic situation of the country, freedom of speech and innovation capacity are the main indicators. Turkey is leading the regional countries in the first three, but lagging behind in the last two.

If you listen to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey is enjoying a better level of press freedom than any country in the world. The same goes for social media. We are even free to claim that he is a dictator from our social media accounts. He says if there was no freedom of speech and if he was a real dictator we wouldn’t be able to say that. However, at the same time, he wants Twitter and YouTube to be shut down.

There is talk about a new law that will provide better incentives to technology firms. I hope it will be finalized soon. So that’s a positive.

Turkey is a country where the incentives and economic maturity are higher than the Middle East. However, we are bringing ourselves down by becoming a more closed society.

Meanwhile, according to Webrazzi.com, digital ad spending has become the fastest growing segment in the marketing and ads sectors in the Middle East and North Africa, largely thanks to the increasingly adaptive young majority in the population. A study has revealed that the ad sector is transforming very quickly in the region and is estimated to grow by 37% each year to reach $1 billion as of 2017. It’s paralleled closely with the global growth in digital advertising, which is expected to increase by 5.5% this year to $537 billion.

Mobile ad spending, on the other hand, is growing slower in the MENA. Globally, it grew 105% in 2013 reaching $31.5 billion. Mobile ad spending in the MENA has increased by 58%, from $50 million in 2012 to $85 million this year. However, it is one segment that is predicted to be growing steadily for many years to come, as the markets are still far from the mobile saturation point and the young and free-minded users are already shifting to digital for a better connection to the world.

The increase in digital ad spending shows us the regional countries are closing the digital divide. It means that more people have smart phones and broadband Internet access.

The way I see it, Turkey is closer to developed markets digitally, but the MENA countries are closing the gap fast and because their societies are more open to new ideas than Turkey is currently, it will not take them long to get ahead of Turkey. And we should realize that the difference in between Turkey and the USA or Turkey and Korea or Japan or Germany is a far greater difference than Turkey’s lead on Middle Eastern counties. There is much to do for Turkey.

May/01/2014

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