An Irish-based training provider is to offer internet-marketing courses in the Middle East to address a "skills gap" in the region.
The Digital Marketing Institute (DMI), which is launching courses in the UAE through a regional partner, says it will help businesses to better address consumers through digital media.
DMI's partner, the Digital Marketing Institute Middle East, which is based in Dubai, says it will start offering diploma courses in the UAE from next month, and plans to expand across the Arab world.
"Any of the digital marketing professionals we have spoken to here in the region - and we have spoken to a lot of them - will tell you that their biggest challenge is just finding those local skills," said David Carpenter, the chief executive of the newly formed DMI Middle East. "There is a major problem here, and it's only going to accelerate."
One local entrepreneur in the region's fledgling e-commerce industry confirmed that finding specialists in digital marketing was difficult.
"It's one of the challenges I faced," said Paul Kenny, the founder and chief executive of the daily deals site Cobone, at the launch of DMI Middle East. "There's actually not many people practising digital."
According to Forrester Research, advertisers in the US will spend US$77 billion (Dh282.8bn) on interactive marketing by 2016, including search and mobile marketing, display advertising and promotional emails.
Internet marketing is less mature in the Arab world and there are no definitive statistics on expenditure. According to Google, total spending on digital advertising in the Middle East and North Africa will total $175 million this year.
The DMI course being offered in the UAE is a professional diploma in digital marketing, and will be available in Arabic and English. It costs $2,000 to attend, as either a five-day intensive course or part-time evening course.
Mr Carpenter said the institute may also offer MA and post-graduate courses "further down the line".
"We're looking to start operating in Saudi Arabia in the new year," he said. "We're looking at other countries in the region - Kuwait, Qatar, and further afield in the likes of Egypt and the Levant countries."
DMI Middle East will initially have a panel of 10 to 12 "digital marketing professionals" to teach the courses, Mr Carpenter said.
Anthony Quigley, a co-founder of the global Digital Marketing Institute, said the DMI courses might have to be tailored to better suit the Arab world. "The skills gap that exists here may not be exactly the same as in other parts of the world."