Data is the new oil: Shaping the digital economy of MENA

18 December 2017 - A Workshop on Other in Geneva, Switzerland

Agenda

Proposer's Name: Mr. Ali AlMeshal
Proposer's Organization: Bahrain ISOC 
Co-Proposer's Name: Mr. Satish Babu 
Co-Proposer's Organization: ISOC-TRV
Co-Organizers:
Ms.,Lianna,Galstyan,Technical Community, .AM Registry, Armenia

Ms.,Sarah, Kiden,Academia, Uganda University

Ms.,Maritza,Minan, Civil society, AUI PERU


Session Format: Round Table - 90 Min

Proposer:
Country: Bahrain
Stakeholder Group: Civil Society

Co-Proposer:
Country: India
Stakeholder Group: Private Sector

Speaker: Walid Al-Saqaf
Speaker: Elias El Boustani
Speaker: Ali AlMeshal
Speaker: Satish Babu

Content of the Session:
One of the most impressive achievements of the Internet has been its impact on the global economy, particularly on the domains of finance, commerce, trade and innovation. The transformative nature of the Internet has resulted today in not just a connected world, but also in a world that transacts together.

The ‘New Economy’, as the Digital Economy is also known, is the result of the transition from the brick-and-mortar businesses of the Twentieth Century to the ‘Brick-and-Click’ and the ‘Click-only’ economies of today, which are built around the Internet. As we look to the future, the Internet is the enabler, the marketplace and the market, and has room for not just giant trans-national enterprises but also for the tiny startups. The space for ‘permissionless innovation’ that the Internet provides, overcomes all barriers such as geography and location.

Despite this sweeping potential, there are substantial variations in the way the Digital Economy has been leveraged by different regions and countries of the world. The Digital Divide that still exists—albeit different from the original digital divide that focused on access—is still a reality. While most people do have access today, the New Digital Divide is between people who have reliable, affordable, fast broadband, and the people who have intermittent, expensive Internet that are difficult to be used for transactional services. Given this gap, there are perhaps few countries amongst Emerging Economies which have fully leveraged the potential of the Internet as much as Developed Economies.

There are, however, a few examples from the Global South that illustrate how the Internet Economy could be leveraged provided there is coherent policy intent coupled with pragmatic and innovative approaches. Prominent amongst these is the Middle East.

As late as five years back, the Middle East was seemingly afflicted by a number of economic issues arising from the global recession, crashing oil prices, the social aftermath of the Arab Spring, subdued local demand, and social inhibitors, which together predicted a deep and protracted economic slowdown for the region.

Despite these dire predictions, the Middle East has shown remarkable resilience in not only maintaining the size of its economy, but even growing in the face of these challenges. The current GDP of the region is USD 1.7 trillion, far surpassing the pessimistic estimates of 2012-13. One of the most important technological enabler of this rebound appears to be the Internet.

This Round-table focuses on sharing the experience of the Middle East in using the Internet in building and stabilizing its Digital Economy, and the lessons for the rest of the world. The experiences of speakers and audience members from other regions of the world as well as their responses to the applicability of the Middle East model in their own context would add richness to the discussions.

The outcome from the session would be to evolve a consensus on the Best Practices in the use of the Internet in realizing the potential of a Digital Economy, and also regional and local Best Practices in any aspect of this transition, including Internet Governance aspects. The speakers at the Round-table represent the different stakeholders of the transition to digital economy, including Business, Government and Civil Society.


Relevance of the Session:
Economic factors lie at the heart of numerous problems that the world faces today. Measures that strengthen the economy will enhance the quality of life of millions of people around the world, permit poverty reduction, improve education & health, promote innovation, attract investment and stimulate wealth creation.

The Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, were expected to show little growth after the turbulence of the Arab Spring, coupled with the crippling impact of oil price crash. However, a few years later, contrary to expectations, the region has boucned back to a state of growth. To quote McKinsey (2015),

"The Middle East is on the verge of a massive digital disruption. In the past decade, the cross-border data flow connecting the Middle East to the world has increased by more than 150-fold. Several countries--including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar--are leading the digital consumer charge, with high smartphone adoption rates and social media use. "

For workplaces and economies of the future, it is clear that the Internet will play a central role, manifest through such components as e-business, e-commerce, and e-governance. The example of the Middle East, data has become the great lubricant for economic growth.

It is important to discuss and highlight the factors behind this remarkable turn of events, and how governments, Business and Civil Society from around the globe can learn from this Internet-driven transformation.

The Round-table will examine social, economic, technology, policy and Internet Governance drivers that have been at play in the Middle East, that have collectively contributed to this success. It will further examine, through interventions from speakers from different regions, if the same Best Practices would work effectively in other global contexts. Finally, speakers from the Middle East will also touch upon what else needs to be done to take this process to the logical conclusion and complete the transition to a fully-empowered Digital Economy.


Tag 1: Internet Economy
Tag 2: Internet & ICTs for the Sustainable Development Goals
Tag 3: Digital Economy

Interventions:
The Round-Table will have a mix of Subject Matter Experts (Economists, Internet Governance Resource Persons) as well as representatives of Business, Government, and Civil Society from different regions, who will be present in person as well by remote participation and social media (largely Twitter, but questions would be taken on email as well).

The Session would start with the domain experts (Economists and IG specialists) who would start off with a 10 minute introduction to the topic, followed by brief interventions (5 minutes or less) by speakers and walk-in participants (local and remote) from different stakeholder groups. 20 min will be set apart for open questions which will be answered by speakers that the moderator may identify.

There will be no difference in priority between previously identified speakers, walk-in users in the audience, remote speakers and social media participants.


Diversity:
The proposal strives to bring in diversity in its different aspects, as it has speakers, co-organizers, and moderators, from different regions, stakeholder groups, age, gender, disability and specialization. Further diversity will be brought in from participants in the audience as well as remote. While the topic is centered around the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, the discussions will not be confined to this region, and will touch upon the applicability of the Middle East's Digital Economy model in other regions. By giving appropriate publicity about the workshop, and by ensuring top-class experts amongst the speakers, the workshop will attract a cross-section of audience at the IGF, and further add to the diversity.

Onsite Moderator: Ali AlMeshal
Online Moderator: Lianna Galstyan
Rapporteur: Satish Babu

Online Participation:
The online moderator for the session will be Lianna Galstyan, who is has participated in several IGFs in the past (including IGF 2016) and is an experienced online moderator. Online participation will be encouraged from all participants including the host-provided remote participation tool (such as Adobe Connect) as well as email and Twitter. The online moderator will ensure that remote participants get the same priority as the speakers and the audience physically present in the session. The advantage of the Round-table format is that (a) it is easily amenable to remote participants to see and participate; and (b) since it is based on conversations, it is easier for remote participants to join the discussions.

Discussion facilitation:
The session will follow the following format:

1. Welcome and Session Objectives: Moderator (5 min)
2. The Digital Economic Future: Domain Expert (10 min)
3. The Middle East Experience in Leveraging the Digital Economy: Domain Expert (10 min)
4. Sharing of experiences (3-5 min x 10 = 40 min)
5. Open Q & A (20 min)
6. Summing up and Conclusions: Moderator (5 min)


Conducted a Workshop in IGF before?: Yes
Link to Report: https://www.intgovforum.org/multilingual/content/igf-2016-day-1-room-7-ws14-asia-and-the-next-billion-challenges-in-digital