Policymakers emphasized on creating partnerships, capacity-building, and improving enabling frameworks to realize benefits from digital technologies across the SA-ME-NA region
SAMENA Telecommunications Council's SAMENA Accelerator series of policy-level roundtables, serving as an extension of the Council's overarching advocacy goals to help build the SA-ME-NA region's digital economies, and initialized in November 2020 with the collaboration of Huawei Technologies Middle East and strategic partnership of stc Group, and Zain Group, have addressed foundational issues and needs in a region-wide drive to accelerate development of the Digital Economy.
Drawing representation from the League of the Arab States as a 22-member country organization, Minister-level participation from several GCC and South Asia regions' transforming digital economies, as well as participation of renowned global ICT development and international cooperation development bodies, SAMENA Accelerator on Fiber (November 19) and SAMENA Accelerator on Digital Economy (November 25) have identified and pressed upon key policy initiatives and focus areas for the region's Policymakers, Regulators, ICT Private Sector, as well as Adjacent Sector stakeholders, to help harness digital technologies in improving the socio-economic profile of the region. It is critical that the SA-ME-NA region promptly foster and enable ICT infrastructure investments, especially in Fiber deployment, and that the region's digital transformation and policy-making endeavors, as a general principle, sustain progress on the implementation and fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Recognizing the criticality of universal, secure, and affordable connectivity, for which expansion of ICT infrastructure is a pre-requisite and the fundamental enabler of development of the Digital Economy, the observed policy-level consensus during the SAMENA Accelerator on building PPP, conducting ICT capacity-building, and improving enabling frameworks to realize benefits from citizen-value-driven implementation of digital technologies across the SA-ME-NA region, has underpinned the need for developing frameworks that can help harness the "connect, compute, comprehend" technological capabilities to provide "value" in both societal and business activities.
The SAMENA Accelerator roundtables have delved into enabling the sustainable Digital Economy imperative from multiple key enabling environment perspectives, including the need to address Fiber deployment challenges and seeing the Private Sector's role in new lens, and to corroborate the urgency with which the right policies and governance frameworks should be expedited in the SA-ME-NA region to transform countries according to their current state of digital development as well as their aspirations for the future.
Bocar BA, CEO and Board Member of SAMENA Council, expressing his observations on the level of steemed participation and thought-leadership from of Ministers, Regulators, CEOs, and other Private Sector Leaders, stated that: "Following deliberations and exchange of insights during the SAMENA Accelerator, SAMENA Council views the need to accelerate ICT infrastructure expansion, particularly Fiber deployment, migration from legacy copper networks to Fiber, and to future-proof connectivity and resilience in communications networks as a top priority."
He further stated that "As we build the right infrastructure, we must bear in mind that sustainability and inclusion are the key principles for building successful digital economies. It is truly through collaboration and by fostering inclusion and participation of everyone that we can ensure that we will take into account different needs and issues into consideration. In many ways, we have succeeded in doing so during the SAMENA Accelerator. SAMENA Council is pleased to acknowledge the enabling support expressed by the Policymakers, which we have observed during the keynote messages from the Excellencies who participated in the SAMENA Accelerator roundtables. Such policy-level support is fundamental to catalyzing cooperation and multi-stakeholder engagement for the Digital Communications Industry as well as for other industries. Indeed, such approach and collaborative mindsets are what will help design and implement evidence-based digital policies, which can tackle the multitude of challenges and unearth new opportunities for the countries and the region."
The COVID-19 pandemic has more than shown connectivity, more than ever before realized, is essential for inclusive digital transformation. While connectivity provides the key link between the emerging and new technologies, new digital services and applications of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), among others, the resulting hyper-connectedness generates a huge amount of data that needs to be transported via networks. This demands extension of more Fiber into fixed networks; a challenge for emerging countries. It must also be kept in mind that bringing connectivity to people is not an end in itself and what actually is at stake here is the ability to be able to develop and provide efficient healthcare, education and other citizen-centric services that improve the quality of life of nations. Moreover, it has to be ensured that countries create and protect healthy large as well as small and medium business ecosystems, in order to materialize financial inclusion for every member of the society.
SAMENA Accelerator has drawn attention to three-pronged policies that should be in play to meet the national digital transformation and digital-based socio-economic goals: One, policies that boost connectivity and lead by example; second, policies that bridge connectivity divides; and, third, policies that create enabling environments for business sustainability, investments and innovation. Acting upon such policies can allow developing countries to leap forward in shorter time frames in the post-Covid era than would have been possible otherwise. SAMENA Accelerator has also delineated that Digital Economy provides tremendous opportunities for rethinking socio-economics, for nation-building, and for overcoming developmental challenges. However, it is critical that the Digital Economy be managed well, as it demands societal and business continuity and it rests on creating and sustaining value.
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