Regional updates: Middle East and North Africa

What were the main digital policy regional updates in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region? This space brings you the main updates month by month, summarised by the observatory's curators.

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November 2019

Curated by Hanane Boujemi

Blockchain Policy launched by Dubai Future Council

21 Nov 2019 |  Blockchain, Intellectual Property Rights, Privacy and data protection, E-commerce and trade

The Dubai Future Council launched the Dubai Blockchain Policy at the 9th Smart City Expo World Congress which took place in Barcelona. The policy was drafted and launched following a process that included gathering and identifying challenges from multiple sources, including government entities, and private companies.

There are three core areas covered in this new policy, including foundational capabilities, namely – technology platforms and services, architecture and standards, shared network services, and legal support.

The focus of the policy with regards to network governance includes several elements: network ownership and membership; intellectual property; funding and monetisation; and network expansion; as well as a component on network operations which covers data formats and interoperability, data privacy and confidentiality, node and network security, audit and compliance, and communication and adoption.

Egypt to send its first communication satellite into orbit

21 Nov 2019 |  Emerging technologies, Telecommunications infrastructure

Egypt will launch its first communication satellite into orbit, a move it says will improve its communications infrastructure and Internet services, and attract investment.

The Tiba-1 satellite named after the ancient city of Thebes, or Tiba in Arabic, is due to launch at 2108 GMT on one of Europe's Arianespace rockets from a space centre in French Guiana, officials said.

‘The Satellite will provide Egypt with a parallel communications network alongside the current land network and a strong telecommunications infrastructure,’ Mohamed Elkoosy, executive director of the Egyptian Space Agency, told Reuters.

‘The growth of the economy depends on a strong communication network’, he added.

The Egyptian Space Agency will run the satellite from a control centre in Cairo.

Egyptian Communications Minister Amr Talaat said in a statement that the satellite ‘represents a significant qualitative leap in the field of communications and information technology (ICT)’.

Tiba-1's coverage area includes some neighbouring Arab and African countries, to which Egypt may sell satellite services in the future.

Internet shutdown in Iran

18 Nov 2019 |  Human rights principles

Iranian Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi confirmed that the government had suspended Internet services amid widespread protests in the country, triggered by the cutting of government subsidies on fuel prices.

Internet service providers were instructed to suspend the Internet by the National Security Council. Jahromi said that the ‘necessary follow-up has been underway since yesterday to normalize the situation and to allow companies to re-establish the internet’. He denied, however, accusations that a nationwide ‘internal Internet’ was being set-up to permanently replace global Internet access, and argued that the actions the government took were to preserve national security.

In a recent development, the USA imposed sanctions on Jahromi which block any Jahromi property under US jurisdiction. He is directly held responsible for the Internet blackout causing the Iranian economy to lose billions of dollars and has chilling effects on human rights.

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