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Lebanon is an outlandish place to start a digital business.That can only go so far: for the ecosystem to fulfill the hopes of its institutional and financial stakeholders, turning Lebanon into an innovation hub of which they dream, it will take more than fancy open spaces with plasma screens and bean bags underwritten by the Central Bank. This top-down approach risks replicating the patronage system of old, if traditional elites, part and parcel of the banking sector, remain core decision-makers; access to equipment requires political intervention; and personal connections influence funding. Examples range from a joint initiative bringing together civil society activists and private sector operators to collect recyclable waste in response to the trash crisis resulting from political corruption, to the independent Beirut Madinati list running in the 2016 municipal elections.In that sense, digital empowerment is but the economic versant of a transformation occurring within fringes of society at large. Thus the ecosystem is incubating more than startups.
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