Middle East welcomes new era of digital media

  • Convergence of multimedia, telecommunication and digital technology, drives growth in creative media sector
  • World’s largest creative media school, SAE Institute, sees 116% rise in Dubai enrolments, with plans to expand in the region

As the Middle East moves more towards solidifying a knowledge based economy and continues to position itself as an entertainment and media hub, demand for quality higher education in creative media is on the rise.

As a reflection of the growing trend, SAE Institute, the world’s largest creative media educator, has recorded its highest summer intake figures this year since the campus officially opened in 2006, marking a 116% growth in enrolments for the first half of the year between 2006 to 2010.

Demand for the school’s specialist certificate, diploma and degree courses in audio engineering, 3D animation, digital film making, multimedia and digital journalism is higher than ever.

Predrag Toncev, SAE Institute Dubai Campus Manager explains how the school aims to educate a workforce capable of mastering these new platforms in order to position this region as a media leader in the future.

“The Middle East has experienced a multimedia revolution in recent years, with growing interest in online, mobile and digital platforms for news, entertainment and advertising. People now recognise that they need to up-skill to stay ahead in an increasingly digital world. We have focused on developing new courses in subjects such as Digital Journalism and mobile phone application programming, where we teach people how to harness the powers of these new media.”

“But this is just the beginning, with scope for enormous growth over the next few years due to the need for more Arabic digital content,” Toncev continued. He stated that even establishment broadcasters are beginning to cash in on this niche, with the likes of BBC’s Arabic service venturing into web content with an online Arabic-language serial called Shankaboot.

Toncev also points to mobile platforms as a reason for the sudden growth. According to a new study by Kuwaiti-based Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation (IAIGC), the UAE has the highest rate of mobile phone penetration in the Arab world, and it is only a matter of time before local mobile operators and content providers attempt the same mobile broadcast initiatives taking place elsewhere in the world. For instance, three of the UK’s biggest mobile phone operators have joined forces with Ericsson, the BBC, Sky TV and Turner to develop a viable model for mobile TV.

Add to that the relatively cheaper cost of producing online content as compared to traditional media, and the attraction of digital is obvious, given the current state of economic recovery. According to Toncev, this is why the rising number of students qualifying from SAE courses has been met with an equally high demand for graduates to fill creative media jobs across the UAE and wider Middle East.

“There is no doubt that the digital and creative media industry in the Gulf is booming, and more and more students are now pursuing jobs in the creative industries. We aim to educate the next generation of graphic designers, web developers, animators, digital journalists and directors to fill positions in the film, multimedia, animation and audio fields across the region,” comments Toncev.

According to industry insider, Mike Whittaker, Vice President, Broadcast Operations and Technology at Orbit Showtime Network: “The demand for premium industry-standard education in this ever-changing digital world is more vital than ever and it’s great to see the SAE Institute providing the skill-set needed to meet the demands of the industry. Without the sophisticated level of training from digital media experts the development of the industry is impossible.

“To continue to place ourselves at the cutting edge of technology we require a new generation, that like us, want to be at the forefront of the entertainment and communications revolution. It is only with our dedicated skilled team in place that Orbit Showtime Network has been able to offer our customers a new dimension in television by being the first network in the Middle East to launch the region’s first and only bouquet of high definition channels. 3D is the next revolution in television and OSN viewers can now enjoy 3D movies in the comfort of their homes, with ultra-real picture quality that rivals cinema.”

Within a year of opening its third yearly intake in June, SAE Dubai’s Knowledge Village campus has tripled its enrolments for this period, and is expecting a similar turn out for their October 31st intake, which is traditionally their largest. The recently launched SAE Digital Journalism Diploma has its first intake of students this October, and provides students with the skills to succeed in this new professional category on the international job market.

SAE also plans to continue to expand its already impressive network of international campuses, to meet the demand for quality digital media education – with new schools recently opened in Serbia and Turkey, and plans to extend their reach in the Middle East market with schools in Lebanon and Egypt.

“The Middle East is extremely important to us and we see a lot of opportunity here. This region boasts among the youngest populations in the world and the market demand for digital age content shows no signs of slowing down. Where better to plant the seeds and to educate, train and recruit a new generation of media-savvy and entrepreneurial digital natives that are ready to take on the world?“ adds Romy Hawatt, SAE Group Senior Executive.

“The world is hungry for 24/7 information and entertainment, be it news, special interest, lifestyle, government or corporate and the SAE Digital Journalism Diploma will equip this new breed of digital storytellers with the skills that will allow them to exploit the explosion of global demand for their stories,” continued Hawatt.

“We are on the cusp of the new era in global communication, industry and education delivery and content provision with the sky as the limit for this generation of new media professionals. The future is now and as we see it, it is beckoning to be embraced.”


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