Information & Communication Technologies
Statistical agencies in the Middle East and North Africa have now started to open up access to their raw datasets (micro-data). In a break with their old ways, they have begun either to post them on their websites or to share them on a bilateral basis. To support this wind of change, a group of donors active in the statistical domain and avant-garde partner countries joined forces for the first time to launch the Data Improvement and Quality in Access initiative (DIQA – which reads as “precision” in Arabic).
Something new and important is happening in the Arab world, and it has so far gone largely unnoticed. Since the beginning of the 2011 revolutions, statistical agencies in the North Africa and the Middle East have started to open up access to their raw data and sharing it not only with selected individuals and institutions but also with the public at large. This amounts to a cultural revolution the implications of which are exciting and wide ranging.
Launching a sustainable business goes well beyond learning how to draft a business plan or fill out a financing application. It involves a range of skills, both “hard” and “soft”, such as managing a start-up enterprise, motivating employees, assembling a cohesive team, tailoring a product to a well-defined market, adapting rapidly to fast-changing circumstances and consumer sentiment, and understanding how to convert an interesting technology into a viable business.
In a country like Egypt which faces a host of political and economic challenges, innovative solutions are very much in demand. The good news is that there is a wave of innovation and entrepreneurship spreading across the Arab world. The bad news is that micro and small enterprises -- mostly working in low-tech industries -- in Egypt are not getting the support they need to be part of this wave.
Microwork presents a unique opportunity for jobs and income for sections of Palestinian society that face high levels of unemployment, such as youth and women. It is a new phenomenon in the digital economy: anyone anywhere can work through an online platform equipped with just a computer and internet access.
The World Bank, together with the ministries of Communications and Transport and Egypt’s information technology industry, just organized the first ever Cairo Transport App Challenge (Cairo TApp). Teams of digital innovators tackled a range of issues related to moving about the Egyptian capitol’s congested streets.
When the Arab Spring broke out and regimes began to fall under the pressure of their own citizens, a revolution on social media also took hold. During this critical period, the use of Facebook and Twitter was ubiquitous, especially in Egypt and Tunisia. Social networks and cell phones played an important role.
“We are not geniuses. We just use common sense.” For CEO and co-founder Ahmed Zahran of Karm Solar Egypt, a company that aims to commercialize solar technologies, it’s not about being a visionary. It is about good business. Ahmed and other young entrepreneurs and business leaders discussed the challenges and opportunities of doing business in the region.
One could easily think that in Tunisia the "International Right to Know" day would be a celebration. As a result of the January 2011 uprising, the country hosts one of the most progressive access to information laws in the region, its press is active, and civil society has flourished. But what I experienced last Friday was hardly a celebration – it was work.
Pervasive unemployment is arguably one of the most pressing policy challenges in many countries across the Middle East and North Africa region. Youth, women, and higher education graduates seem to be the hardest hit. With reference to the latter group, some say the youth bulge combined with better access to higher education has produced more graduates, but these then entered relatively stagnant economies with rigid labor regulations.