Digital Cooperation and Development Forum - ESCWA
13-23 December 2021
Forum

Digital Cooperation and Development Forum

ARAB Internet Governance Forum 2015 plenary session

 

ESCWA is organizing the first session of the Digital Cooperation and Development Forum (DCDF) 2021 in partnership with the League of Arab States and key actors in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and Internet Governance Forum (IGF) programmes, including the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The event occurs under the One United Nations initiative and within the framework of the Arab States Action Programme on “Advancing Digital Cooperation and Development”, launched by ESCWA in 2020.

The DCDF enables engagement, dialogue and partnership among various stakeholders and experts from the Arab region on crucial issues pertaining to digital development and digital cooperation. It will provide opportunities to review and discuss interlinkages between the information society, digital economy and Internet governance under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The event will involve policy dialogues and policy advocacy platforms, including the third Arab High-Level Forum on WSIS and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the sixth Arab IGF conference. To ensure community engagement, two open calls for session and workshop proposals were opened to Arab WSIS stakeholders and the IGF community. Submissions relating to digital development and/or digital cooperation towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals were particularly encouraged. The IGF community, with a focus on young people, was invited to propose workshops on: global and regional Internet governance ecosystems; access and inclusiveness; legal, policy and regulatory framework; digital economy and digital transformation; and human, cultural and behavioural issues related to digital platforms.

Key objectives include an outcome document on advancing digital cooperation and development in the Arab region, serving as a unique and streamlined multipartite regional collaboration platform.

Outcome document

  • Arab youth should focus on upskilling and reskilling to stay competitive in the job market.
  • Telework can be an engine for female employment
  • Inviting students, young entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses to explore exhibitions, opportunities, sectors and open programs for cooperation from some countries in a number of fields, some of which are related to the protection of water resources, the renewable energy sector, agricultural technology, the food industry, the recycling sector, and the information and communication technology sector, 3D printing, visuals, and identification of the most important sectors for cooperation between these other countries and the Arab countries (Czech and France).
  • The opportunities are unlimited. What is required is to develop and present new ideas that contribute to finding solutions to problems that may arise at the global level, and to start implementation at the local level, to build on them.
  • Inviting young entrepreneurs to fulfill all the elements required by these ideas to develop a good business model and to apply for financing to secure it, as there are organizations ready to capture and develop these ideas.
  •  IGF process presents numerous opportunities for stakeholders to engage in Internet governance. Particularly, it allows for broad networking with stakeholders coming from different disciplines and regions; as well as learning opportunities.
  • New processes from the Secretary-General’s office, such as the Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and Our Common Agenda, call for strengthening of the IGF and underline the importance of youth engagement.
  • More cooperation is needed across national and regional IGFs.
  • There’s a broad consensus that Digital inequalities have become more obvious due to Covid which call for action towards digital cooperation
  •  The Arab region is underrepresented at the Global IGF, 1 member from Arab region is on the MAG for 2022 which  risks to exclude the Arab voices 
  • As the Internet is global in nature, many of the regulations that emerge in one country or region will probably have effects that go beyond the boundaries of that country or region.
  • There is worry that the good intentions to protect internet users’ rights could lead to unintended consequences that might threaten the single, open and interoperable Internet that users enjoy and value.
  • A balancing act between policies / regulations and the evolution of technology is key for maintaining “permissionless innovation”, which is one of the main characteristics of the Internet.
  • Some of the new proposed technologies do not seem to scale well, nor are they fully compatible with the current suite of Internet protocols (TCP/IP). It’s noteworthy that TCP/IP has proven to be able to keep pace with the evolution in technologies and applications; a recent example is COVID-19.
  • Supporters of multistakeholder Internet governance need to work harder to include the Global South in the conversation about the future of the internet, to think about what the deal is for developing countries.

The main key messages focused on the importance of :

  1. The  major  role accessible information and communication technology can play in ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
  2. The international conventions  as main framework and mandate that emphasize e-accessibility, which Arab countries have committed to, including Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  3. The interlinkages between research, universities, and industry in driving innovation for social and digital inclusion.
  4. The adoption of “Inclusive Design” as an important approach to building our physical and digital environments to ensure social inclusion.
  5. The regional initiatives in e-Accessibility, including ESCWA’s “Arab Digital Inclusion Platform” which supports policy makers and stakeholders to ensure digital inclusion.
  • We need to use innovative solutions - regulations, technology, and business models to fill the gap in broadband coverage
  • There is a gender gap in adoption of Internet, and more research is needed to create awareness about the causes and solutions
  • Community networks are developed by and for the communities and can help fill the gap
  • Yemen has significant challenges but through hard work the Internet community has designed its first community network in one community in the country
  • Policy makers must not look at the telecom sector which is the main means of access as a cash cow or to over tax it.
  • Competitiveness on connectivity is an effective mean of maintaining quality of access (meaningful access)
  • Digital financial inclusion is a must and need to adher more to privacy requirements and protecting citizens
  • The pandemic has contributed positively to accelerating access
  • Regional and national internet exchange outlets  (IXP) are effective means of creating effectiveness and efficiency of internet exchange.

Houssine SAF (Kingdom of Morocco):

  • Access to the Internet should not remain as a main source of profit, but rather it should become a public service and a right available at the lowest cost or in a comprehensive way for all citizens because the Internet infrastructure has become a tool for national development.
  • The return on investment related to ensuring access to the Internet must be achieving national growth and achieving digital sovereignty, and not just making profits for companies. With a participatory approach prevailing among all stakeholders
  • The main and future bet for feasible access is the development of local digital content and the ability to produce, select, collect information and data and analyze it with smart mechanisms while reaching the stage of value-added manufacturing... considering that data has become more wealth than oil and gas wealth.
  • Demanding the localization of digital technology in Arab countries through the formation of a new generation of specialized youth and avoiding their emigration. democratizing training and vocational training, strengthening skills through training components, expanding the use of distance learning management systems (LMS) platforms, and investing in the engineering of pedagogical contents to suit distance learning.
  • Implementation of the WSIS process at the regional level is strengthened over the years through active contributions from stakeholders, ITU Regional Offices, UN Regional Commissions, and other regional organizations. WSIS Secretariat is working closely with stakeholders at the regional level, inviting all to leverage their participation in the WSIS process, including the WSIS Forum, WSIS Stocktaking and WSIS Prizes, and various WSIS special initiatives.
  • With the objective to enhance the WSIS Forum and its special tracks, the WSIS Special Initiatives were proposed with the objective to contribute towards the achievement of the WSIS Action Lines and the advancement of the SDGs. Stakeholders are invited to contribute to a new set of ongoing activities: WSIS Multistakeholder Alliance on ICTs and Older Persons, WSIS Youth Campaigns, ICTs Against Hunger, and a new repository called WSIS Stocktaking Repository of Women in Technology (http://www.itu.int/go/WSISGender) and WSIS Gender Trendsetters.
  • Now more than ever, the world needs to be able to rely on ICTs and ITU's leadership in promoting universal, secure, reliable and affordable connectivity. ITU is helping countries to fully utilize digital technologies to respond to and recover from COVID-19, and to build preparedness for similar future global emergencies.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for the WSIS Forum to transform and respond, with digitalisation as a key enabler. As part of the effort, WSIS has been actively engaged in promoting the use of ICTs to support achieving the SDGs as well as to respond to such global crises as the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The importance of the Multistakeholder WSIS Process, including its components like the WSIS Forum, WSIS STOCKTAKING process, WSIS Prizes, Partnership on measuring ICT for Development and UNGIS was highlighted including the crucial role of WSIS Action Lines in advancing the Achievement of SDGs.
  • As the host of the WSIS FORUM, ITU invited all participants to the WSIS FORUM 2022, coorganized by ITU  UNESCO, UNCTAD and UNDP and with the engagement of more than 30 UN agencies including UN Regional Commissions and UNESCWA. The outcomes of this event will feed into the  OCP of the WSIS FORUM 2033.
  • Community networks solution is an effective and applicable way to bridge the gaps and increase the access of internet in the region that still lack such access.
  • Governments and ISP companies can collaborate and incorporate Community Network as a complementary solution in their regulations and application to ensure and improve the connectivity in any place.
  1. Importance of  e-Government meetings, organized by ESCWA,  to share successful initiatives and exchange lessons learned to gain time and avoid wasting efforts.
  2. Encourage Arab e-Government directors to use GEMS maturity index nationally as a tool to measure progress in digital government  transformation.
  3. Digital cooperation and development cover all sectors, engage all government entities and stakeholders, and be inclusive to address local needs of communities.
  4. Arab countries need to enhance the access to information laws and their implementation, develop the institutional infrastructure, adopt open government policies, ensure implementation at the local level, and enhance public participation and engagement.
  5. With more than 80 percent of the population in the Arab region living in cities, it is essential to develop smart cities that integrate public services within its urban governance operations.
  • The key intervention for Pakistan is the reduction of custom duties and taxes on the imports of mobile phones and electronic goods in order to facilitate the development of the IT sector. Further, it is recommended for the  government to consider accession to the Information Technology Agreement on an urgent basis
  • We need to build a culture of trust, cooperation and understanding rather than look for somebody to blame! 
  • Regulators bring value to the Internet community by helping us investigate and understand why their markets are not behaving as expected or as desired (Chafic)
  •  Regulations to support technology advancements and ensure data protection 
  • It is essential for governments to collaborate with the private sector on the development of smart and adaptable legislation that encourages more investment in the digital fields, especially regulatory frameworks that drive innovative business models. 
  • Compatibility with international standards and best practices must be guaranteed in order to attain and improve transparency and equal and fair opportunities. (Hegazy)
  • We have to collaborate to guarantee an equitable and safe Internet Access in order to reach the UN-SGDs
  • We need to maintain the acceleration effect of the Covid-19 to the digital transformation
  • The need for cybersecurity in the Arab region is magnified by the level of digitization and technical penetration that the region is experiencing. Need to ensure that the use of ICTs is safe and secure.
  • Cybercrime could cost the global economy more trillions of dollars per year.
  • Strengthen cybersecurity to protect vital interests, contribute to national security, secure critical infrastructure, and ensure protection of economic sectors.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic increased the urgency for reliable and comparable official ICT statistics, including to help countries monitor the use of ICT for post-pandemic recovery and resilience.
  • The pandemic also highlighted the need to explore innovative sources of data for ICT statistics, such as administrative data, big data and data sharing schemes with the private sector to complement survey-based data.
  • The Partnership encourages the Arab region to make use of the latest methodological material and related capacity building resources produced by Partners.\
  • While the Partnership’s Core ICT Indicators should remain at the core of future measurement models, such models should be carefully crafted not to instigate a global/regional ranking race, and to cater for some specificities of LDC such as ICT capturing progress over time. Barriers to access and use of ICT should be equally regarded as is the case with the Enablers
  • The participants emphasized the importance of digital technology and innovation for the development of road transport in the Arab region. They pointed out that technology has become an essential and an important element for improving the efficiency of road transport, traffic safety and transporting goods, as well as for rationalizing energy use.
  • It is necessary to continue work in the field of using technology to develop the land transport sector, and to analyze the situation at least in some Arab countries in order to derive practical recommendations that contribute to the development of the sector in these countries.
  • The need to prioritize digital technology investment and innovation in the land transport sector in the Arab countries according to the development of the two sectors: the technology sector and the transport sector, including the transport of goods, according to the development priorities of each country.
  • Communication infrastructure and the Internet are the mainstay of digital technology investment in various sectors, including the transportation sector. Therefore, it is necessary to work on expanding the spread of broadband services, reducing Internet connection costs, relying on optical cables, and publishing the sixth version of the Internet Protocol IPV6.

While Latin is the dominant linguistic script online, most Internet users are non-Latin script speakers. Removing linguistic barriers is key to bringing more internet users online.

All applications, devices, and systems should be able to accept, validate, store, process, and display all domain names and email address in an appropriate way.

The UASG is the Universal Acceptance Steering Group. It was founded in February 2015 and tasked with undertaking activities that will effectively promote the Universal Acceptance of all valid domain names and email addresses. The group is made up of representatives from more than 120 companies, in addition to other stakeholder groups such as governments, academia, civil society, and technical experts.

Active UA Local Initiatives are doing a commendable job in promoting UA, and we encourage countries and communities that do not have a UA Local Initiative to start one right away. If interested, please write to info@uasg.tech.

  • The New Norm accelerated Digital Transformation
  • Traditional Supply Chain policies dramatically affected and revised, opening the door to new incentives for local industrialization and diversified supply chain
  • Financial inclusion initiatives are progressing rapidly for ease of business and to bridge the social gap
  • More innovations in business models and the use of new technologies (AI, IoT, Blockchain, …) to exploit digital economy
  • Contribution of Mr LASFAR/ Morocco

    In order to accelerate the information and communication technology sector in the Arab countries, it is recommended to prepare and adopt national strategies, within the framework of a participatory approach, and crystallize them in a clear, integrated road map that includes all axes (smart government, digital system and innovation, digital inclusion and human development) in addition to the necessary accompanying measures (digital infrastructure, human capital, legal framework and digital trust)
  • Contribution Rudy Shoushany DxTalks
    Formulate a long-term vision to Devise digital agendas at national and regional levels to promote the smart digital transformation, Cybersecurity and data privacy while supporting and improving access to finance with the help of the community, and enabling proper capacity-building & Culture enablement, which is as an important factor for adopting technology and more inclusion.

     
  • The Arab region is lagging behind on implementing the SDGs, SDGS cannot be implementing without harnessing technologies and it reached a point where digital transformation is becoming a necessity.  Particularly in light of the opportunities it provides in all sectors of societies.  The session highlighted the opportunities in the agriculture and health sectors emphasizing the role of technologies to create more efficient, reslient, data driven, agile and sustainable value chains and systems.
  • Inspite of the many opportunities, there remains many challenges as well for digital transformation in the Arab region.  These challenges include: Sustainable financing models, ICT accessibility, lack of whole of government approaches,  affordability, digital skills, policies and regulations, e-participation in digital transformation, political instability, and open government.
  • In order to promote digital transformation in the Arab region to make use of the many opportunities and address the many challenges, governments are advised to adopt whole of government approaches for digital transformation.  These approaches should be based on a comprehensive review and a national strategy for digital transformation that are developed through an inclusive whole of society effort.  Moreover, partnerships need to be formed with all stakeholders including private sector companies, academia, international organizations, etc.  The UN system should also provide support and guidance to countries in the region through one UN approaches.  The Arab Regional Digital Agenda provides a good opportunity for all stakeholders to align their efforts regionally in addition to other possible regional coordination mechanisms.
  • Focus on building communities in order foster collaboration, which in turn encourages innovation.
  • By focusing on the above principle, we were able to build TechCARE, the Lebanese NREN, and get all major universities to join, despite political, legal, funding, and infrastructure challenges.

 

  • Aspiring policy-makers need to understand how the Internet works on a technical level.
  • Most people’s experience with the Internet is limited to what they do online (the applications layer). There is however a whole system underneath, the design of which has made the Internet as successful as it is today. Understanding the principles of how it works is crucial to ensure the system continues to develop as one global and open network.
  • Youth should take advantage of the numerous opportunities that exist to be more vocal in Internet governance discussions and to share their ideas with the national and global Internet communities.
  • Simplify the concept of digital safety and bring information closer and simplify to all societal groups, including women, girls, male and female lawyers, male and female media professionals, to combat misinformation.
  • This should be indeed a focus of attention for the United Nations and for all those interested, given its effects on the human and cultural dimensions
  • Coordinated efforts are needed to close the digital and data divides!
  • The existing divides in terms of digital readiness underline the need to accelerate policy reforms and mobilize support to build the capacity of developing countries to leverage e-commerce in their COVID-19 recovery plans.
  •   Technology needs to be on maximum speed in terms of approvals and new releases for digitization
  • Support of the authorities need to be based on the needs and requirements of the industry
  • SME need special attention, they represent a major force in the economic development, supporting versus competing is a critical matter for the success and growth in the industry
  • Digitalisation presents opportunities to preserve sustainability, such as through utilisation of environmental data, deployment of digital technologies to set up effective systems of food and water supplies.
  • However, increased digitalisation brings additional burden to environmental sustainability, for example through increasing e-waste. Therefore, digital transformation strategies needs to include carefully tailored policies for increasing number of digital devices in a way that would be ecologically accepted. The good example is the initiative of the Government of Egypt whose digital transformation strategy includes management of e-waste as one of its key pillars.
  • Preservation of environment in connection to digitalisation comes with individual and collective-institutional responsibility of all stakeholders including governments, international and intergovernmental organizations, private sector, civil society and technical communities. Both of these need to be subject of continuous increase of awareness and clear communication on agreed policies.
  • Not to restrict the  E-commerce sector by more or new taxes in the  early stage mainly in countries where this sector is still very small and not well flourished.
  • It is important to regulate this sector mainly after its flourishing during and post covid-19. This includes businesses, consumer protection, fintech, etc.
  • E-commerce sector  in Palestine is highly restricted by occupation and instability.

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