Dubai, February 2005 — Representatives from the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) governments and a group of international experts recently met in Dubai to outline a master plan for building a regional information society. With the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) fast approaching in December 2005, GCC nations are stepping up preparations to present their information society achievements at the global forum.
But how far has the region succeeded in creating a knowledge-based society? Have GCC nations been able to include all members of society in the information revolution? Where is the GCC region in comparison with the rest of the world in terms of info society development?
These are just some of the questions that were addressed at the 10th Dubtech Summit. The conference called for serious soul searching on why GCC information society projects fail and what can be done to ensure greater success. The focus was on the GCC information society and the adoption of a region-wide master plan for future development in that area. IT decision makers from the six GCC governments, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), presented the major initiatives and the current information society scenario in their countries.
Organized by Datamatix, the conference took place in Dubai, UAE, on the eighth and ninth of February and featured keynote presentations by international information society experts and representatives from GCC governments.
Among these was James Archibald, director of Translation Studies at McGill University, who presented a detailed analysis of the Canadian contribution to WSIS in which he highlighted the Canadian government's willingness and ability to work closely with industry, civil society and other governments with a view to ensuring that the IT resources of the developed world are marshaled to meet the needs of developing areas.
Other regional and international speakers who joined the event were Ahmed Mohammed Al Mohannadi, general manager, E-Government Project, Qatar; Adel Ghannam, president and principal consultant, Industrial Systems & Global Enterprise, Egypt; William Davies, senior research fellow, Institute for Public Policy Research, UK; Thomas Hart, project manager, Bertelsmann Foundation, Germany; Osama Manzar, founder director, Digital Empowerment Foundation, India; and Sofiane Sahraoui, associate professor of MIS, American University of Sharjah, Dubai.
The Summit showcased the GCC's achievements in digital inclusion, e-business, e-government and much more. It dealt with issues like: why regional IT efforts fail despite the enormous support from the government, human capacity building, infrastructure requirements for the regional information society, etc. Participants discussed required plans of action and the strategic approach needed to develop and realize the GCC information society.
"In general, Arab countries have lagged behind the Western world in adopting IT as a key component of social and economic development," said Ali Al Kamali, managing director, Datamatix, the conference organizer. "But that trend is gradually changing for the better. Regional governments are increasing efforts to create a knowledge-based society in the region.
"With the Dubtech Summit, we hope to bring about a common vision amongst GCC nations for building a regional information society and using information & communication technologies (ICTs) to drive development in the GCC. It aims to help prepare GCC nations to present their information society achievements at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunisia in 2005," he added.
The conference was attended by senior IT decision-makers from the government and private sector, business leaders and senior executives, and provided many benchmarking and networking opportunities for attendees and invited guests.