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It seems that the term “Free of Charge” will become important during the upcoming period in helping achieve economic success. There are an increasing number of services that are being provided free of charge in an impressive and successful manner, both in order to gain new customers as well as to retain existing ones. The best example of this can be seen with regards to the services provided online, from media services to information and entertainment services, all of which are free of charge.

Today you can surf the internet for any information that you need, you can read your favorite newspaper or magazine online, as well as watch film clips and news item. Today you can call anywhere in the world free of charge by way of the internet, not to mention download large quantities of films or songs, also free of charge. Even Google provides a free-to-use search engine and e-mail account from advertising revenue. At the same time Apple continues to reduce the price of its latest product, the iPhone, to the point that many people believe that this telephone model may be offered for free and revenue instead being acquired by way of fees for the applications that Apple offer. Companies will be forced to adopt “creative” ideas such as the ones mentioned above if they want to continue to survive.

The internet, and the interesting and complex world that it occupies, has begun to reintroduce the concept of “competitive pricing” as well as the principle of “offering extra services” in a revolutionary manner that has forced companies to change the price and quality of their service. However a number of companies have gone in the opposite direction and used the internet to generate more revenue. For example, both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal charge a fee for access to their online content in contrast to other newspapers that offer this free of charge. Apple also charges fees to download music and movies via their iTunes service.

Companies around the world are witnessing a price war, the cost of phone-calls continue to decline – and in fact many expect phone-calls to eventually be free of charge – and telephone companies are therefore forced to rely upon revenue from other services such as providing entertainment [i.e. TV and internet services] as well as providing information, tutoring and even marketing. The telephone has become a tool that can perform a variety of tasks, only one of which is to make and receive telephone calls.

In order for the Arab world to benefit from this opportunity, we must develop our consumer base and work towards improving “computer literacy” not to mention improve the legal environment for intellectual property rights, and develop methods of online payment. Providing things free of charge will be the default position in the forthcoming period, and this will be a genuine challenge that is worth following up on, for it will be interesting to see how profit can be made from services which are free of charge.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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