It is often said that armed conflict and technology growth often go hand in hand. The internet and those convenient microwave ovens we use to warm our meals on a daily basis were initially developed for military use before they became part of everyday civilian life, and these are only two of many examples in this regard.
Military spending and procurement can considerably speed up technological advancement even without war being actually waged; the mere existence of a threat to national defense can make government's rush to come up with technological solutions to contain, minimize or otherwise neutralize threats.
If we stand by the assumption that war boosts technology growth, should we infer that the Middle East has greatly advanced because of its constant and unfortunate state of armed conflict? The answer is not binary in this case; the nature of wars and the way battles are fought have a lot to do in terms of moving technology forward. We should not expect that the next Silicon Valley will be located in Syria only because of the protracted war that has affected that country over the last few years, and the same could be said about Yemen.
Why the Middle East Situation is Different
Despite decades of bellicosity dating back to the Iran-Iraq conflict, the Gulf War, the War on Terror, Syria, Yemen, and all the fights between Israel and the Occupied Territories, we have not seen massive technology growth coming from the Middle East for various reasons; however, we have seen significant technology adoption in the battlefields, and it has carried over to the civilian population, at least to a certain extent.
Let's look at the conflict in Ukraine, a country where government forces have been fighting separatists backed by the Kremlin over the last few years. The battlefront is near the Russian border, far away from the capital city. It so happens that the IT entrepreneurial scene in Kiev has grown exponentially since the conflict started; however, this is a metropolitan area far removed from the fighting.
In the case of Syria, war has engulfed more than half of the country, and it has been multifaceted. There are terrorist organizations such as ISIS taking over towns as they fight against rebels and security forces alike. When war affects large regions due to sectarian violence, the result is a terrible mess that creates chaos and impedes tech growth.
Technology Adoption Arising from Middle East Conflict
As seen during the Arab Spring, social media and encrypted messaging platforms on mobile devices proved crucial to the toppling of dictatorships that had turned nations Middle Eastern and North African nations into failed states.
Tech start-ups such as Silent Circle, a leader in the private and secure mobile communications field, were vital in terms of assisting protesters during the Arab Spring. This company has blossomed, and people in the Middle East learned about the advantage of using encrypted messaging to fight oppressive regimes.
Drones and Satellite Technology Adoption
In recent years, female Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq have used drones to gather intelligence and obtain imagery of ISIS units and their positions. These brave fighters also use drones to deliver medical supplies to villages cut off by ISIS.
Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) modules have also been adopted by Kurdish fighters for the purpose of keeping ISIS away. Being properly informed is just as important as being properly armed in the battlefield, which explains why Kurd military units often rely on satellite internet connections in the field. These antenna links allow units to communicate with each other; they also allow soldiers to stay in touch with their families.
In the end, the nature of many Middle East conflicts is so chaotic that it does not allow for full-scale technology development; however, it can be safely assumed that soldiers will take their tech knowledge back to their communities once the fighting subsides.