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Arabs talking ICT
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 12 - 05 - 2005

Arab information technology policy- makers, professionals and civil society met this week to discuss an upcoming summit in Tunisia, Niveen Wahish reports
In preparation for the second phase of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) scheduled to be held in Tunis in November, the "Pan-Arab Conference for the WSIS-Phase II: An Arab Dialogue" took place in Cairo this week.
Organised by the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) in coordination with the Arab League, the conference aimed at coordinating Arab stances in order to "have a bigger role in shaping the international ICT agenda," as the Egyptian minister of MCIT told conference participants.
The outcome of the conference will also be presented to the Arab Ministers of Telecommunications and Information Council (AMTIC), to be held in Tunis next month. A draft Arab action plan was also discussed by the Arab concerned ministers. That plan will be presented to AMTIC for endorsement as well as to the third WSIS preparatory committee meeting, scheduled for next September. AMTIC, the Arab umbrella for the Arab ICT industry, will use the outcome of the conference to prepare a joint Arab message on the global information society.
The conference tackled a spectrum of issues including funding mechanisms, public private partnerships, creating the knowledge society, Internet governance and e-content and the post-Tunis phase. Through the participation of the African Union and a number of African ministers, parallel meetings were held to continue preparation for the African action plan and to discuss coordinating Arab and African efforts. The work of the conference carries on from the recommendations of the first phase of WSIS held in Geneva in 2003 as well as other preparatory meetings. A similar pan- Arab conference was held in preparation for the first phase of WSIS in June 2003.
Arab countries are increasingly awakening to the importance of information technology to economic development. Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif told conference participants that "recent developments in communication and information technology have created unprecedented opportunities for bridging the developmental gap in our world." He highlighted the importance of establishing a national, regional and global environment suitable for building and strengthening the information society. This, he said, entails providing the political, legislative and organisational framework that encourages investment and enhances competitiveness.
The second phase of WSIS aims at moving from the preparatory stage of the first phase to the implementation of practical projects. Such projects are implemented through partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society.
Several events took place concurrent to the conference. Among these is the Global Knowledge for Partnership meeting, the first IPv6 Regional Summit, discussing the latest IPv6 uses and applications in the world and present Egypt's experience in this domain.


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