Experts: Arabs Moving too Slow on Information Highway

Published May 17th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The Arab world has fallen behind in the race for knowledge in a world more and more dependent on technology, a leading Arab expert on management said on Monday, quoted by the Lebanese English Daily Star.  

The knowledge economy is the revolution of the time, and "we Arabs always arrive at the end of the party," said Talal Abu Ghazaleh in a keynote speech to information technology experts and international consultants at ESCWA House in Beirut.  

Abu Ghazaleh, a Jordanian businessman who also is president of the Arab Management Society, said private and government sectors need to create a coordinating council in league with the United Nations and other international organizations to catch up in what he called the "knowledge era."  

Defining the knowledge society as one where everyone is online, Abu Ghazaleh made an emphatic plea to create an Arab Knowledge-Based Economy Initiative.  

What was needed, he said, was a permanent body on information technology and knowledge economy, "to which Arab governments and Arab businesses can come for assistance."  

Roberto Blois Montes de Souza, deputy secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union and another keynote speaker, encouraged ESCWA member countries to devote "a large amount of energy and resources and energy to build the basis of a knowledge-based economy."  

The ITU official said "the share of developing countries in the overall global infrastructure has been improving in recent years," but he criticized the region's governments for imposing high rates for cellular and internet access.  

"Internet growth in developing countries is calling for a set of new policies aimed specifically at addressing the opportunities and challenges that the internet presents," Montes de Souza was quoted by the daily as saying.  

Agreeing for the most part on the need to join or strengthen the knowledge economy, several experts also argued for an increase in the overall levels of education, particularly literacy.  

Pointing to high illiteracy rates in the Arab countries, consultant Toufic Gaspard from Beirut warned that internet usage depends on literacy. He asked: "If TV wasn't used for educational programming in the Arab world, why should we believe that the internet will be used for it?"  

ESCWA's regional advisor in science and technology, Mohammed Mrayati, characterized the region's revenue as relying on a triangle of knowledge-based economics, natural resources and agro economies with low productivity.  

"We need to invert that triangle," he said, adding that he would be happy if that goal were achieved in 30 years' time – (Several Sources)  

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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