Dubai: The Knowledge Summit called upon Arab countries to bridge the knowledge gap between the region and the rest of the world.
Addressing a session dedicated to discussing the results of the Global Knowledge 2018 at the Knowledge Arena at Dubai World Trade Centre, Khalid Abdul Shafi, director of the UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States, said, “The knowledge gap between the Arab region and the rest of the world is huge.”
He said barring a few exceptions like the UAE, other countries have a lot of a catching up to do.
Listing the reasons for the knowledge gap, he said, “The quality of education in the Arab world needs improvement. There is too much spoon-feeding and memorisation and very little innovation. What is taught in the schools and colleges has little relevance to the requirements of the marketplace and economy. The youth must be more enthusiastic and actively participate in the learning process. Without them, the UN’s 2030 SDGs Agenda cannot be achieved.”
Jamal Bin Huwaireb, CEO of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation, organiser of the two-day summit which concluded on Thursday, said the progress of the summit from its inception in 2014 is itself an indicator of how the concept of knowledge is evolving in the region. “Everyone is talking about knowledge and the knowledge economy and people ask for our reports. We are reaping the benefits of the Arab Knowledge Project, launched in collaboration with the UNDP.”
He thanked the UNDP for making the foundation a global partner, even as the release of the Future of Knowledge: A Foresight Report (see highlights) coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Knowledge for All project which seeks to shape a new vision for the 2030 agenda within and outside Arab states.
He said, “The UAE has jumped six spots to the 19th place on the Global Knowledge Index. Most countries have five or 10-year plans, but the UAE has chartered its course till 2071, working for the happiness of its people in the next 100 years. Long-term plans are important because the lifespan of countries is measured by centuries.”
Bin Huwaireb said the UAE and its Rulers have a long-term vision that has ensured the country’s phenomenal progress in a short span of time. “The illiteracy rate just 40 years ago was 99 per cent, but look where we are today,” he said, referring to the current less than one per cent rate.
Hany Torky, chief technical adviser of the Arab Knowledge Project, said, “Three of the seven sub-indices in the Global Knowledge Index are focused on education. The platform we use to extract data for the ranking aggregates information from 150 million sources in 16 languages. We are proud the UAE is one of the seven countries that will lead the way in knowledge.”
On the issue of research, development and innovation (RDI), the speakers admitted that there is much room for development. The UAE has been ranked 36 on the RDI score.
‘AI cannot replace doctors’
A panel on utilising knowledge to improve health care focused on how artificial intelligence cannot replace doctors, but can only help make things more convenient, improve accessibility and provide more accurate diagnoses and treatment plans. It also touched upon the role of apps in providing convenience and speed, enabling patients to access medical records and prescriptions, in addition to reminding them to take medication and schedule follow-up visits, leading to faster and better recovery. The panel was moderated by Brig. Dr Ali Singel, director of Dubai Police Health Centre, and brought together Dr Reem Osman, CEO of Saudi German Hospital; Ziad Sankari, Founder of CardioDiagnostics; and Conor McCarthy, International Business Development Lead at Babylon Health.
Soft skills needed in digital economy
The knowledge economy will integrate with the digital economy to create a better future, but it is important that soft skills are not lost, according to a panel that discussed the role of youth and the future of the knowledge economy. In attendance were Simon Galpin, managing director at Bahrain Economic Development Board; Ahmad Bin Ali, Senior vice-president, corporate communications at Etisalat Group; and Sarfaraz Alam, chairman of TEXPO group of companies. They said digital economy and the knowledge economy are converging, but at some point digitalisation could lead to the loss of certain jobs in the race to deliver services more efficiently and cost-effectively in the next decade.
Future of Knowledge report highlights
• Outlines levels of readiness to embrace technological changes in 20 countries
• Aims to encourage decision makers to create policies to accommodate skills development
• Helps position companies and labour market to adjust to changes
• Identifies teacher shortage as a common problem when it comes to future skills
• Low-quality teaching at primary and secondary level is also found to be a challenge
• Stresses on development of soft skills