ESCWA organized an expert group meeting on the Role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Socio-Economic Development on 9 and 10 April 2013 at the UN House, Beirut, to discuss the role of ICTs in sustainable development.
Themes of the meeting were specifically chosen for their high priority to the Arab region, such as the impact of ICT policies in development; empowering youth, women and marginalized groups through the use of ICTs; the impact of innovation and entrepreneurship on generating new employment opportunities; the role of ICT start-ups and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in generating employment and the impact of using social media in social change.
The meeting featured a presentation on an upcoming ESCWA study entitled "Impact of Selected e-Services on Socio-Economic Development", which provides a framework for measuring the impact of using selected e-services in the member countries. Discussions around the study resulted in a set of recommendations highlighting the need to develop a road map on improving data collection methodologies for indicators that are relevant to the information society and knowledge-based economy as well as supporting statistical data with analytical studies that aim to assist policy-making. Others presentations included two entitled "The role of innovation and entrepreneurship in socio-economic development" and "Social effects of ICTs and social networks on the Arab region", in addition to a range of expert presentations and local, national, and international experiences.
The meeting concluded with a number of recommendations, which stressed on the importance of measuring the impact of ICTs in development; raising awareness on the importance of e-government services and of developing a framework to support and stimulate the use of e-services in the region; the need to update current national ICT policies while emphasizing their role in the development process and focusing on digital Arabic content, investing in innovation and entrepreneurship, and including new technologies; the importance of launching national initiatives for DAC promotion in various fields using different mechanisms such as crowd sourcing, in addition to requesting ESCWA to develop a clear framework for the advancement of DAC and the DAC industry in the region; the importance of studying social changes and interaction with ICTs as well as opportunities for cooperation with universities to conduct research in this area despite the difficulty of measuring the social impact of ICTs; the need to encourage investment and stimulate the establishment of start-up companies and the private sector in generally in the ICT field in addition to pointing out the role of governments in supporting innovation and entrepreneurship by providing an appropriate enabling environment.
The meeting was attended by 38 participants representing ICT ministries and authorities in member countries as well as experts from the private sector in the region, the e-government program in Turkey and international organizations such as UNCTAD and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.