His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Shaikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum with award winners Gary Knell, Hiroshi Ishiguro and Ahmad Alshugairi at the opening of The Knowledge Summit 2015. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: The Knowledge Summit kicked off on Monday with the launch of the much-anticipated Arab Knowledge Index, a report which offers decision-makers, experts and researchers information on the status of knowledge in Arab countries, helping them implement development policies for building knowledge societies as well as regional and national programmes of world-class standards.

The Arab Knowledge Report and The Arab Knowledge Portal - which was also launched during the opening and will serve as a digital reference hub for all researchers, professionals, students, stakeholders and the general public in relation to various data and publications on knowledge-related topics- are both joint initiatives between the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the portal on an iPad during the opening ceremony

Jamal Bin Huwareib, managing director of MBRF, speaking at the opening, said that moving towards a knowledge-based economy requires developing and employing innovation in the dissemination and transfer of knowledge in fields such as education, scientific research and information technology. “Societies based on knowledge are able to innovate and follow values of coexistence,” Bin Huwaireb said.

Dr Sima Bahous, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States in UNDP, said the Arab Knowledge Index and the portal elaborate, in an innovative and interactive manner, the essential link between knowledge, innovation and sustainable development.

“Together, they provide two key tools in the pursuit of knowledge-driven societies and economies, which are critical to achieving sustainable human development in the Arab region,” she said.

In a televised speech, Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, said Shaikh Mohammad has shown great leadership by advancing knowledge, providing humanitarian aid and promoting sustainable development. “I have witnessed how his generosity has made a difference,” he said.

However, he noted that “Arab Human Development Reports have shown that the region needs more knowledge, women empowerment, and freedom” and that many Arab countries suffer from terrorism, repression and human right violations.

“In the Arab region, we need to expand investment, quality education and encourage critical thinking and foster dialogue,” Ban added. “The Arab world has contributed to human progress over many centuries, [and] a dynamic vision can advance progress for local innovation, scientific research and diversity. The UN stands with you in this effort,” he said.

Ahmad Al Shugairi, Saudi activist, media figure and presenter of well-known TV programme Khawater, referred to the improvement in the literacy rate in the Arab world, which from 18 per cent in 1960 has jumped to 82 per cent this year.

He attributed this improvement to adopting the right policies in terms of ensuring that every child has access to education. But there is more work to be done, he said, as compared to other countries.

“We need to see literacy levels reach 100 per cent,” said Al Shugairi. “There are many Arab countries falling behind,” he said.

Al Shugairi was one of the recipients of the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Award of $1 million. The other recipients were the National Geographic Channel and Hiroshi Ishiguro, Professor of the Department of Innovation Systems in the Graduate School of Engineering Science at Osaka University.

The three-day summit, being held under the patronage of Shaikh Mohammad, is focusing on areas having the greatest impact on sustainable development and positive flow of knowledge. Top international speakers, including ministers, knowledge influencers, scientists and innovators are participating in the summit, enhancing Dubai’s role in the field of knowledge in the global arena.