Saudi Arabia Lifts Texting Ban
Saudi Arabia officials announced they are lifting a ban on in-app messaging supported on such platforms as Skype and Snapchat. As The Verge pointed out in this article, the country’s telecommunications authority announced the change in direction on this via a statement on Twitter last week.
Officials in Saudi Arabia put the ban in place about a year ago, according to The Verge. The publication notes that oil prices are down, and that as a result Saudi Arabia is looking to other sectors for growth. One place the country is looking to, the piece indicates, is the internet, and The Verge says there’s lots of digital startup investment in the Middle East lately. And the media outlet notes that Sarahah, an offering launched in August by a Saudi company, is now among the most downloaded free apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
In March, CBInsights published a brief that said Saudi Arabia’s “massive Public Investment Fund has become active in tech startup investing.” That brief also talked about the country’s work to lessen its economic dependence on oil and to diversify. And it noted plans for the Public Investment Fund to partner with Japan’s SoftBank Group to create a $100 billion tech investment fund.
The Public Investment Fund’s website lists its investments in the agriculture and food; energy, manufacturing, and mining; technology and communications; and utilities, transportation, and infrastructure sectors. Among the PIF’s investments in tech are ELM, which develops secure e-Services and high-profile government support projects; noon, which has an ecommerce platform; STC, which provides internet, landline, mobile, TV, and wholesale communications services; and Uber, among others.
However, a story posted earlier this year on the World Economic Forum’s website says that while annual investment in startups in the Middle East and North Africa region (not including Israel) was nearing $1 billion as of mid May, most of that came from just two companies – Careem and Souq. Careem is Dubai’s answer to Uber. Souq is an online retailer, also out of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, that was recently purchased by Amazon. That deal “put the region’s startup scene on the global map this year,” according to the WEF.
Edited by Mandi Nowitz