Information Governance and the Middle East – Taming the Risk!

By Sanooj Kutty posted 06-07-2010 13:21


We have Black Gold. We have Sovereign Wealth Funds. We are Rich. We also have regulations, some...

Bahrain and Qatar have good financial regulations. Abu Dhabi has better health regulations. Dubai has more focus on Trade. Above all this looms the Sheikhdom who may pardon, modify or even declare amnesty as necessary. The law here is more Civil than Common. It can’t get better, or can it?

We are a young market. The oil rich countries here are on average in their thirties. In comparison to the older markets of the US, UK, South-east Asia and Europe, who have learned through failures and success over centuries, the recent market recession was the Middle East’s first genuine failure. Genuine, not in the sense of market depression, but more in the sense of global perception and visibility. It had exposed the regulatory framework of the region. Not that it was any better elsewhere, but, here it was the lack of necessary regulations more than their weakness that was exposed.

Would Middle East see an improvement in regulations and a greater drive for corporate governance?

The answer is Yes.
Qatar has been inspired by Financial Services Authority of UK. UAE recently signed the MoU to adopt Federal Enterprise Architecture.

Would Middle East see an immediate change in management as the demand for governance increases?

The answer, sadly, is No.

The Inexperience

This is not because of the lack of will or effort, but, the lack of experience that will delay a maturity in governance. Most of the Middle East’s leadership are the entrepreneurs of the 70s and 80s. An era when the region was driven by the traditional merchant mentality boosted by the cash registers ringing from oil. This management continued to grow amidst the oil bounty that surrounded them. They were neither aware nor did they ever practice governance. As these markets learned that relying purely on oil is not the future, they opened their doors to the world.

As the world came in, it brought with it the frauds and fruits of foreign investment. The frauds mandated good governance to keep them in check. In the booming millennium, where everyone had not just a piece but almost the pie to themselves, these frauds were lost in the inexperience and the absence of governance. Until, the dark clouds of 2008 steadily enveloped the market. With darkness came recession, with recession came audit, with audit came transparency,  with transparency came the need for regulations, with regulations came the need for experience, and with need for experience came the challenges.

The Challenge

This need for regulations is only the beginning. In a regulatory environment where eCommerce laws masquerade themselves as eDiscovery, this market will continue to face challenges of conventional regulations and governance practices failing to deliver results. Middle East does not find itself with the luxury of time to travel through the transition of paper-based information governance to digital information governance as most matured markets have. It cannot afford small steps and must make giant leaps to today’s era of digital information. The ambition and the global pressure are overwhelming.

Hence, it is imperative for corporates to adopt a strong Information Governance Framework. In the absence of eDiscovery laws, the only way to secure one’s risk is to govern one’s information assets. In a regulated environment, your boundaries and practices are defined. This means you always have the advantage to compying to defined regulations and protecting yourself under its umbrella.

In a non-regulated or poorly regulated market, you do not have this cushion to secure yourself.  As such, the call for strong information governance is even more necessary. Be it arbitration, mediation or litigation, good information governance provides you with the security needed to protect your risks, be it market, credit, legal or operational. Challenging as it may be, if your governance and associated best practices allow you the transparency of when, who, what, where, why and how, you would have protected yourself even in the absence of regulations.

Some of the best practices to help govern your digital information would include Electronic Records Management, Business Process Management, Information Technology Infrastructure Library and Master Data Management. Above all, lies the big brother of a strong Corporate Governance ethic.

Why else would Wikipedia define Information Governance as “ the set of multidisciplinary structures, policies, procedures, processes and controls implemented to manage information on all media in such a way that it supports the organizations immediate and future regulatory, legal, risk, environmental and operational requirements.”

If you want to tame your risk out here, do not wait for the law of the land. In this case, you can surely take the law into your own hand. Middle East needs Information Governance and now!

The First Steps

Where do you start? I recommend reading “Information Nation“.

You may also visit for interesting Essays on Information Governance

As an AIIM Ambassador and an Information Management philanthropic, you may also email me on and I shall help you set your information governance in the right direction.

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