Industry and government leaders attending ITU’s Connect Arab Summit (5-7 March) have identified market opportunities worth over USD 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 cybersecurity, and protecting Arab heritage and culture.
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.
It was convened to forge regional consensus on new strategies to boost infrastructure deployment, extend access to marginalized populations, and stimulate innovation and employment across the Arab region.
The Summit closed with a communiqué endorsed by all participating governments from across the Arab region, which set out four key development goals around Access and Infrastructure; Digital Content; Cybersecurity; and Innovation. The full text of the communiqué can be found at: www.itu.int/ITU-D/connect/arabstates/communique.asp.
“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,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré.
Connectivity commitments and partnerships announced during the event included:
•A project between ITU and the League of Arab States to establish a ‘dot Arab’ domain name. UAE announced that it would host this important new domain.
•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 broadband toolkit to be developed by the World Bank, along with a regional broadband connectivity study to support additional infrastructure investment and an employment study focusing on the West Bank/Gaza.
At the national level, Egypt proposed a raft of projects for investment, and made three announcements with ITU:
•A project to enhance access to Arab digital content through the Memory of the Arab World project.
•A project to strengthen Arab statistical indicators to better inform policy-making in the region.
•A project to leverage the power of ICTs to help persons with disabilities.
The Arab Information and Communication Technologies Organization (AICTO) proposed several projects, including a regional cybersecurity initiative to promote safe and secure e-transactions; a digital broadcasting project; a new project to establish e-accessibility centres to provide education, training and retrofitting of Arab websites in partnership with W3C; and a common legal framework on e-accessibility in Arab region.
In addition, a number of counties, including Djibouti, Mauritania and Sudan, put forward exciting ICT investment opportunities for which they are seeking partners.
Djibouti’s projects focused on improving core infrastructure, building ICT links to hospitals and schools, and boosting technology training for girls. Mauritania is seeking investment partners to improve its backbone links and to help develop a Technopole smart city project and new e-government initiatives. For its part, Sudan is looking for additional partners for new telecentre projects being developed in collaboration with India, a video conferencing project to improve health services, and new initiatives to help persons with disabilities.
Details of all projects can be found at: http://bit.ly/Axt8sv.
Focus on youth and employment
The high-level part of the event kicked off on Tuesday March 6th with a lively Opening Debate on youth issues, moderated by ITU’s Dr Touré. The session addressed three key questions which had been earlier debated and submitted by youth delegates:
•Youth asked the Connect Arab Summit Leaders to look for a mechanism to ensure that their voices are reflected in policy making.
•Youth requested a national or regional umbrella organization that would be responsible for training and mentorship, and that could possibly provide seed funding to help get their ideas off the ground.
•Youth suggested 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.
The opening debate was followed by five Roundtable sessions on education; policy frameworks to attract investment; cybersecurity; local content generation; and innovation and job creation.
In his closing remarks to delegates, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, hailed the Summit as an outstanding success in bringing countries from right across the region and the world to share ideas and identify opportunities for business partnership. “This summit has brought together so many like-minded people, in a warm, positive spirit of friendship and commitment. We leave this event with a strong sense of purpose, and a clear vision of what needs to be done to connect the unconnected, here in the Arab region. This Summit has demonstrated the true power of partnership,” he said.
The full Connect Arab Summit programme can be found at: www.itu.int/ITU-D/connect/arabstates/programme.asp.
A full list of speakers for each session can be found at: http://bit.ly/wpPCpU. Archived webcasts of all sessions can be found at: http://bit.ly/AB6gTD .
An archived webcast of this event is available at: http://bit.ly/AB6gTD
High-resolution photos from the event can be downloaded at: www.flickr.com/photos/itupictures.
Video interviews and event overviews are available at: www.youtube.com/itutelecommunication.
An executive summary of ITU’s new Arab region statistics report, ICT adoption and prospects for the Arab region 2012, is available at: www.itu.int/net/newsroom/connect/arab/2012/index.aspx. The full report is available at: www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/index.html.
Speeches and policy statements are available on the event Newsroom at www.itu.int/net/newsroom/connect/arab/2012/index.aspx.