Google is targeting growth in Saudi Arabia through a dedicated team of staff – including some Saudi nationals, Lino Cattaruzzi, the Dubai-based managing director for Google Mena, told The National.
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The team, which is to be based in the company’s regional headquarters in Dubai, will assess business opportunities in the kingdom over the coming months and devise a package of initiatives to be implemented over the next three years and beyond.
“We are going deep into enabling the digital transformation of Saudi Arabia with a multi-year, multi-project initiative,” Mr Cattaruzzi said.
The new programme is in line with the kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic diversification efforts. Saudi Arabia 2020 National Transformation Plan revealed in 2016 aims to increase the number of internet users in the kingdom to 85 per cent from 63.7 per cent.
There are an estimated 400 million Arabic speakers across the world and the proportion of global users that access the internet in Arabic has risen from around 58 per cent in 2013 to 78 per cent in 2017, according to the Internetworldstats.com research portal.
To address this demand, Google will this year ramp up efforts to improve Arabic responses to Google Search queries, increase and disseminate Arabic language digital content on YouTube and other platforms, and forge better links between Arabic news publishers and advertisers.
“The majority of Arabs in Mena do not speak English and do not query [on Google Search] in English,” said Mr Cattaruzzi.
“One of the things we are doing as a top priority is to get Arabic presence and content at the core of our engagement in the region.”
The majority of Arabic speakers reside in Mena, which accounts for the lion’s share of the increase because of the region’s high mobile penetration and internet connectivity rates.
With the exception of the UAE – where English is widely spoken – the majority of search queries received on a daily basis by Google in Mena are in Arabic, although the company does not provide a detailed breakdown.
“We are trying to make sure that the quality of our query replies in Arabic is on a par with the replies we get in other languages,” Mr Cattaruzzi said.
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