In their opening remarks, Dr. Hessa, Al Jaber, Secretary General, Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology, ictQATAR, and Ms. Walda Roseman, Chief Operating Officer at the Internet Society, recognized this event as a milestone in fostering the Internet community in the region.
Discussions began with an overview of the state of the Internet in the Arab region. As demonstrated by Professor William Dutton from the Oxford Internet Institute, we have seen in the past years tremendous developments of the Internet in this part of the world. The development of the physical infrastructure has given birth to new trends in the region with regards to multilingualism, but also security, privacy or freedom. Panelists emphasized how timely and critical it is to address these issues to ensure the Internet’s development is for everyone - and allows progress “Towards an inclusive Information Society”.
The conference continued with a reflection on how and why the Internet is such a strategic resource for “Spurring Innovation and Economic growth”. Many stakeholders and business entities believe it is the Openness of the Internet - an open architecture, based on open development standards processes – that is the cause of this success. Taylor Reynolds, Senior Economist at the OECD, demonstrated that policies that preserve this openness contribute to a sustainable economic growth.
The last session was the occasion of a frank dialogue on current “Internet Policy Challenges and the Way Forward” between policymakers (Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Lebanon, Kuwait Information Technology) and representatives of the business (Microsoft, Verizon and Samena Telecommunications Council) and the technical communities (Ripe NCC and ISOC). A series of international and regional conferences currently shed light on the different possible policy frameworks – different models – that can be chosen. The 2012 ITU World Conference on International Telecommunications, the OECD High-Level meeting on Cyber-Security planned for 2013, the 8th Internet Governance Forum also planned for 2013 – and many other tracks of discussions and negotiations with a constant and unchanged question: How should Internet-related public policies be developed? – What is a multi-stakeholder model? What kind of added value does it bring to the development of the Internet?
Finally, and because our attempt was to discuss the foundations of tomorrow’s information society, it seemed more than legitimate to involve the next generation of policy and industry leaders in Inet Qatar’s discussions. We had the privilege of hearing students from Education City and their professors – Professor John Laprise from Northwestern university, Professors George White and Daniel Phelps from Carnegie Mellon – interact with the panelists and share their views on the rise of the Arab information society.
Inet Qatar was preceded by the first Middle Eastern and Northern African Chapters’ Workshop, held on 26 November. Chapter representatives from the following Middle Eastern and Northern African Chapters participated in the workshop:
- Lebanon Chapter
- Palestine Chapter
- Bahrein Chapter
- United Arab Emirates Chapter
- Qatar Chapter
- Morocco Chapter
- Tunisia Chapter
- Egypt Chapter (in rejuvenation)
In addition to the chapter representatives, Damian Radcliffe, Internet & Society Manager of ictQATAR and other staff members of the Internet Society participated in the meeting chaired by Ms. Walda Roseman. The workshop was organized by Ms. Christine Saegesser Baethge, Senior Manager, Chapter Development-Africa and the Middle East of the Internet Society, with the generous support of ictQATAR.
The chapters’ representatives had the opportunity to discuss our common strategic planning, the various activities of the Internet Society and the chapters as well as the tools available for chapters. The workshop was an opportunity to share experiences between the chapters and Internet Society staff members present at the meeting. The participants appreciated the Internet Society’s interest in this increasingly important region and urged for an increased presence of the Internet Society in the Middle East and Northern Africa for increased collaboration to strengthen the region. We would like to thank ictQATAR who has made this workshop possible by sponsoring the venue, catering and half of the chapters’ representatives.
Inet Qatar was also followed by a half day Briefing Session on Internet Governance with ictQATAR managers. Internet-related policy and governance issues at the global and the regional levels were discussed with representatives from the technical community including Ms. Theresa Swinehart, Member of the Board of ISOC, Ms. Sofie Maddens, Senior Director of Global Services at ISOC, and Mr. Paul Rendek, Director of External Affairs at Ripe NCC.
These events in the Middle East are the first of a series in the region where the Internet Society is looking forward to developing its presence and outreach in close cooperation with Mr. Fadel Al Enazi, Chairman of ISOC Qatar.
Presentations and videos:
The presentations made
during the Chapter workshop on 26 Nov are now available for download at: http://www.internetsociety.org/chapter-workshop-arab-region
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