Last year, we asked Nasser Ali Khasawneh, a founding partner of KSLG and managing partner of Eversheds KSLG Dubai office, to give us his thoughts on what are the “hot topics” for the TMT sector following Eversheds’ merger with them. In this month’s issue, we have returned to the Middle East to reflect on their progress over the past year, and find out what Nasser thinks the next 12 months will hold for TMT in the Middle East.

Nasser comments: “The Middle East TMT team continues to go from strength to strength which reflects the success of TMT companies in the Middle East. We have been carrying out a great deal of “TMT” work across the region, particularly in the thriving technology hubs of Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (“KSA”) and United Arab Emirates (“UAE”), which are at the heart of the flourishing technology industry in the Middle East.

Over the last year, we’ve acted on the largest media deal in the region along with private equity deals in the information technology sector, seeing a growth in both these areas. In terms of trends we are seeing, we have spent a lot of time helping companies with joint ventures, research and development collaborations. We’ve advised on contentious and non-contentious regulatory issues concerning licences, data privacy and surveillance systems. We’ve also presented internet-related advice on e-commerce, cyber privacy, cloud computing, content licensing and website development.

Key matters in which we’ve been involved include advising a Gulf Cooperation Council (“GCC”) Government on updating the legislation regarding electronic commerce, communication, electronic signature and data protection.

The TMT landscape in the Middle East is currently dominated by a number of exciting developments. The Dubai International Financial Centre (“DIFC”) Authority has recently ended a consultation period in relation to proposed amendments to the UAE Data Protection Law, and the Data Protection Regulations, so we are watching carefully how this progresses.

The media free zone in Abu Dhabi called “twofour54” continues to pose an attractive option for foreign investors looking to tap into the huge potential and excellent business environment offered by the Emirate. This free zone together with the Media City free zone in Dubai is part of the Emirate’s ambitious economic diversification pursuit, and intended to spur further foreign investment in the local economy. Needless to say there is untold potential for us to tap into the opportunities there.

Jordan continues to cultivate an inviting ICT atmosphere with innovative technology coming from various start-ups. Qatar has established a Digital Content Incubation Centre to promote entrepreneurship in the production of Arabic content. In the KSA, The King Abdullah Initiative for Arabic Content (“KAIC”) has been launched and is focused on digital content creation, infrastructure development, Arabisation of content available in other languages, creation of a marketing environment, and development of appropriate regulatory bodies.

The outlook for the TMT sector in the Middle East remains bullish. Mobility, cloud computing, business intelligence and social media are all slowly transforming the region into a knowledge-based economy. Digital technologies drive consumer income and demand, education and training, and efficient use of capital and resources. More and more of our clients are introducing innovative technologies to increase their competitive advantages and the adoption of stronger end security practices are increasingly critical to customer data protection.

The Middle Eastern start-up world is in a constant state of growth, and this increased competitiveness and development demonstrates that the region is a major emerging market for IT and telecoms.