[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]
The event covered the main topics of priority for Arab states in Technology for Development Horizon 2030 and explored the use of technology for government transformation. The participants identified the current state of affairs, discussed gaps, and the vision for 2030, acknowledging the necessity of benchmarks and necessary policy changes essential to reduce development gaps expected in 2030.
The moderator, Mr Ayman El-Sherbiny, chief of the ICT Policies Section at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introduced the concept and focus of the 2018 edition of ESCWA’s publication on Digital Technology for Development Horizon 2030. Mr. El-Sherbiny recalled the thematic areas of the study published in 2017 which explored the fields of digital strategies, ICT sector, ICT infrastructure, cybersecurity, digital divide, e-applications, and e-government.
He further presented the work done by ESCWA with regards to the development of a Vision 2030 Blueprint, which will be published between 2018 and should give a sharpened outlook on the observed trends and challenges in the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs)
Mr Haidar Fraihat, director of the Technology for Development Division, UN-ESCWA invited the delegate’s reactions to establish whether the actions undertaken by ESCWA aligned with the countries’ needs and whether they felt a need for regional reporting. The proposed reporting model was generally well welcomed and described as offering a more holistic approach then the eleven action lines agreed on during the WSIS process.
The second part of the discussion focussed on the collaboration between ESCWA and different parties in the next edition of the Arab High-Level Forum on WSIS and 2030 Agenda scheduled in 2019, as the first full-fledged Arab WSIS Forum.
The participants agreed that the holding an Arab WSIS Forum annually might strain the resources of both member states and the organisational bodies, and introduced the idea of potentially merging the Arab IGF and the Arab WSIS Forum into an Arab ICT week that could be held every two years and be organised with a different focus so as to attract non-ICT actors. As pointed out by Mr Hani Isknder of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), these regional events should not only be limited to the sharing of information among a certain region, but they must rather enhance collaboration with other fields, that might not primarily be concerned with ICT development.
On the recurrent remarks regarding the need for measurement tools, Ms Marie Sicat, United Nations Conference on Trade and development (UNCTAD), added that measurement processes are incorporated in WSIS the process. She also spoke about the possibility of using measurement statistics through other, already existing bodies that already collect information about ICT use and development.
Ms Sasha Rubel, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), joined her colleague from UNCTAD in offering UNESCO’s support by looking at their Internet universality indicators. She indicated that ArabsStates were among the most active in responding to the online consultation and therefore a lot of information was available to the organisation.
By Cedric Amon