Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Doha summit to discuss $ 46bn ICT projects

Doha summit to discuss $ 46bn ICT projects

Gulf Times - 06 March, 2012
@ictQATAR    #connect2012
Investment opportunities worth up to $ 46bn are on the table at the Connect Arab Summit 2012, which begins today in Doha, with a number of information and communication technology (ICT) project commitments from governments, industry and the academic community set to be finalised and announced over the next two days.

HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani will open the summit which will be attended by HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.

The summit brings together eight heads of state from the Arab world, 26 government ministers and more than 600 industry leaders from 20 national delegations across the region and beyond. It will see partners and donors seek to “participate in the implementation of new Arab-focused ICT projects that will help the deployment of high-speed resource applications and services”, according to Hamadoun Toure, secretary general, International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

At a press conference, Toure explained that this region was one of stark contrasts, with countries like Qatar having high digital connectivity, contrasting with countries that were well below the global average.

According to the ITU, for every 100 people in Saudi Arabia, there are 180 mobile subscriptions. In Djibouti, there are fewer than 20 subscriptions per 100 people. More than 80% of the Qatari population use the Internet, while the figure is less than 5% in Mauritania, Iraq and Somalia. Toure said that finding ways to connect those people was one of the main purposes of the summit.

He also said that in 10 years, many of the world’s new ICT ventures would be based in this region, and the sector would be a major player for young talent. However, according to Toure, the region’s next big challenge is broadband penetration, which is only at 2.2% in Arab states overall, compared to 6.2% in the Asia-Pacific region, 10.5% in the Americas and 25.8% in Europe. He hoped that Qatar’s ambitious broadband expansion plans would have a contagion effect in the region.

Region-wide, ITU estimates that 30% of people are connected to the Internet, an increase from 11% in 2006. Mobile broadband subscriptions have increased from 1-13% in the last five years, with mobile phone penetration reaching 100%, although with great disparities between some countries.

Mohamed al-Twijri, assistant secretary general for economic affairs, League of Arab States, said that the conference was an important step in pushing forward the development of a knowledge economy for the region. “Combating poverty is a critical objective of the summit, helping to contribute to economic development through improved ICT infrastructure as well as job creation.”

Al-Twijri pointed out that Arabic digital content made up only 1.5% of all online content. By 2015 this may reach 3% if the proposals that have been submitted go forward.

Hessa al-Jaber, secretary general of ictQatar, emphasised that Arabic content generation would also be an important driver in creating some of the 70mn jobs needed across the region, especially for the 60% of the population who are under 30 years .

Al-Twijri said that public-private partnerships would be the driving force in ICT development, and if available funding was allocated then projects could be beneficial for societies and economies as a whole, as well as profitable for investors.

Al-Jaber stressed that bridging the gap between countries in terms of Internet usage was achievable, although no single solution would benefit all countries as there were unique circumstances for each state. She said that there were two times as many people without Internet access as there were with Internet access in the Arab world.

Toure concluded by saying that the Arab Spring revolutions were not yet over, and that the digital revolution would have to play its part. “If those youngsters don’t find jobs in the next six months, there will be more revolutions…We need to think about what we are going to do in order to help them exercise their right to be good citizens and to work,” said Toure.

According to an ITU report released yesterday, the level of access to ICTs within the Arab world closely correlates to a country’s economic status. ITU’s ICT Development Index (IDI) combines 11 indicators covering 152 economies worldwide to monitor and compare ICT uptake.

The latest IDI findings contained in the new Arab region report showed that of the 16 Arab states included in the index, five lost ground between 2008 and 2010 and dropped in the global ranking. Four countries maintained their positions and seven (Algeria, Comoros, Egypt, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) improved their IDI rankings.

On top of the regional list was the UAE, which was in 32nd place out of 152 in the global IDI rankings. Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia filled places 44, 45 and 46, respectively.

No comments:

Post a Comment