Abu Dhabi: New business models are needed to make ICT (Information and communications technology) sector vibrant and sustainable, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) director general, Mohammad Naser Al Ganem, said at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit on Thursday.

He said the media is transforming. “It is impossible to assume that media industry is melting into thin air and losing its charm and significance. On the contrary it has become one of the most demanding commodities of our time.”

He added that new business models are needed considering the new wave of advancement in broadband networks and the power of internet, which has fuelled the media sector. “Let us not forget to modernise the regulatory framework that will support the new business model and let us think regional and global in these new models and unlock the potential for our local markets,” Al Ghanim said. “The challenges ahead not just to encourage investment but we must contribute towards innovative initiatives.”

A large number of media professionals and investors participated in the three-day media summit that ended on Thursday. Queen Rania of Jordan gave a keynote address on Tuesday and launched a powerful attack against extremists for misusing social media to propagate their agenda.

On the final day, there was a panel discussion on the future of tech investment, digital feeding frenzy, Walid Hanna, managing partner of Dubai-based Middle East Venture Partners, said, Arabic content has become important with many global companies looking at it with interest.

He said Shahiya.com, an online food recipe company, was sold to Japanese listed company for more than $13 million. “We had a great return on it. It shows how global companies are looking at Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region as an acquisition target.”

The company is investing heavily in the UAE including start-ups in Abu Dhabi like Lamsaworld.com, an online platform where kids can learn while having fun.

Khaldoon Tabaza, founder and director of IMENA holdings, said online revenue is increasing in the region. “Classified companies are either transforming into online companies or dying. In the last three years, print classified revenue has declined by 30 per cent and online revenue has increased. In the Mena region we should be careful to see what business models work,” Tabaza said.

He added that there is tremendous opportunity in the region. “The consumer demand is way ahead of investors, entrepreneurs and corporates. We have to capture this opportunity to enhance our business.”

In another panel discussion on a race for the exits, the rebound in IPOs (initial public offerings) and deal-making, speakers said the Middle East has been among the slowest regions to rebound after the global meltdown of 2008 but things are looking up with investors and banks regaining their appetite for risk.

Imad Ghandour, co-founder and chief executive officer of Cedar Bridge, an investment company, said that UAE should open up the IPO market for global investors. “You have bigger audience to talk to and you do better. Restrictions on foreign ownership should be removed,” he said.