The need to encourage entrepreneurship and create millions of jobs for Qatar and the region were high on the agenda at the recent Connect Arab Summit 2012. The overall aim of the Summit, which was organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and hosted by ictQATAR, was to forge regional agreements to boost infrastructure deployment, extend access to marginalized populations, and stimulate innovation and employment across the Arab region.
However a key focus was on youth as the driving force of the future. One of the opening sessions held on March 5 actively engaged the youth of the region in a discussion about their hopes and challenges. This was moderated by Douglas Court, ITU’s Junior Policy Analyst and attended by high level industry leaders including ITU Secretary General, Dr. Hamadoun Touré and H.E. Ms. Sylvia Poll, Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations.
The focus of the discussion took in public policy, business environment and ICT’s as they relate to youth. Having garnered the youth perspectives, this information was taken to the Opening Debate on March 6, titled Deploying ICT’s to Accelerate Economic Growth. The session addressed three key questions which had been raised by the youth delegates. The young delegates asked that a way be found to ensure that their voices are reflected in policy making; secondly, that a national or regional umbrella organization be established that would be responsible for training and mentorship, and that could possibly provide seed funding to help get their ideas off the ground. Thirdly, that policy makers engage in more profound awareness raising for the prominent role that ICT can play in social and economic development. In particular, they asked that leaders draw attention to the growing opportunities in the sector, especially when it comes to developing local content to meet local needs.
Dr. Hessa Al-Jaber, Secretary General of ictQATAR, emphasized this point in her address by highlighting that Arabic content generation is of primary importance to the region, particularly when it comes to generating the 70 million jobs that need to be created in the next two decades. Generating Arabic content and drawing more young people into careers in ICT are of primary importance to ictQATAR. With that in mind, ictQATAR has developed an initiative called TumuhaTEC, aimed at encouraging young people to explore the potential of a career in the ICT industry. Find out more here.
It emerged during the Summit that industry and governments identified market opportunities worth over $46 billion for new, regionally focused projects designed to enhance ICT access, applications and services throughout the region. The investment opportunities identified by the Summit focus around key priorities for the region, including building a regional Arab ICT highway, developing e-services, empowering local people through training and human capacity building, leveraging ICTs for youth job creation, strengthening cyber-security, and protecting Arab heritage and culture. For more information visit the ictQATAR website.
In closing, the Summit had identified four key development goals: Access and Infrastructure; Digital Content; Cyber-security and Innovation. Dr Hamadoun Toure said, “The energy in this region testifies to the Arab world’s transformation into a major technology hub and a pre-eminent force in the global ICT industry. A growing number of the world’s most exciting new ICT companies are now based here and I confidently predict that within the next ten years the ICT sector could become the single biggest employer of young talent.”
Click on the link here to see the full range of projects that were committed to by industry executives and governments who attended the Summit. These include: An Arab Women s Literacy project involving ITU, ALESCO and UAE designed to empower women in the region with ICT skills in Arabic; a project between ITU and the Linux Professional Institute to promote open source software training and certification; a project to enhance access to Arab digital content through the Memory of the Arab World project. The Arab Information and Communication Technologies Organization (AICTO) proposed several projects, including a regional cyber-security initiative to promote safe and secure e-transactions; a digital broadcasting project; a new project to establish e-accessibility centers to provide education, training and retrofitting of Arab websites in partnership with W3C; and a common legal framework on e-accessibility in Arab region.
The Summit welcomed some 540 participants from 26 countries, including seven Heads of State or Government, 26 Ministers, and representatives from 18 international and regional organizations, 99 private sector companies and other stakeholders.
The video below is a discussion on youth innovation filmed at the Connect Arab Summit 2012 with Jeremy Foster, Head of Marketing and Government / Industry Relations, Ericsson, Middle East & Africa and two representatives of the Youth Innovation Forum: Roza Al-Moosafri, Al- Jazeera Network and Saleh Al Khulaifi, Bedaya Center, Doha, Qatar.