Shaikh Maktoum and Shaikh Ahmad with the winners of Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Award — Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al Faisal of the Arab Thought Foundation, Sultan Al Jaber of Masdar and a representative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — at the Knowledge Summit in Dubai yesterday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Preliminary findings released at the Knowledge Summit on Monday reveal that on an average Arabs living in the region devoted 35 hours to reading in a year. It was also revealed that they read about 16 books on an average every year.

The early results of the Arab Reading Index — to be fully released on Tuesday on day two of the three-day summit in Dubai — were drawn from a survey of 148,000 respondents across the region, delegates attending the summit were told.

Summit speaker Turki Al Dakhil, general manager of Al Arabiya News Channel, said, “We expected 20,000 respondents but 148,000 responded. So, we have a wealth of information on what Arab people are reading.”

An artiste performs during a short presentation on the future of technology at the Knowledge Summit. (Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News)

He said the new results paint a very different portrait from past statistics which suggested that some people living in the Arab region spent as little as six minutes a year reading.

Of the 35 hours a year respondents said they spent reading, 15 hours were spent on work-related topics while 20 hours were spent reading about general topics such as science, novels, special magazines and newspapers, Dakhil said.

Of the 16 books read every year, he said, an average of seven books were related to school studies.

A greater percentage of respondents spent more time reading digital content versus traditional print content, Dakhil said.

Now in its third year, the Knowledge Summit is organised by the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) and has assembled a body “of high-ranking decision-makers, ministers, senior officials, academics, and specialists from around the world to share their insights, expertise, and success stories in the knowledge industry,” said the foundation in a statement.

The summit was attended by Shaikh Maktoum Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, and Shaikh Ahmed Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the MBRF.

Delegates at the opening session of the three-day Knowledge Summit in Dubai yesterday. (Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News)

During the opening ceremony, the winners of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Award were announced and honoured on stage by Shaikh Ahmad and Shaikh Maktoum.

The three winners of the $1 million (Dh3.67m) Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Award were Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Masdar - Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, and The Arab Thought Foundation.

The awards were not separated by any category or rank.

The winners were honoured for their contributions and achievements in the production and dissemination of knowledge globally. The Award seeks to encourage creativity and innovation in knowledge-related industries.

Jamal Bin Huwaireb, managing director of MBRF, welcomed delegates in an address noting that the new Arab Reading Index as well as the Knowledge Summit were part of a larger sweeping effort “to allow the UAE to reach a leadership position to become a leading centre of knowledge and education.”

Huwaireb noted that the Arab Reading Challenge was a huge success with 3.65 million students from 15 Arab countries reading more than 150 million books.

“Such initiatives leave a very big impact on building knowledge and countries,” he told the standing-room only summit at Grand Hyatt Convention Centre in Dubai. ”Knowledge is the best path that leads to sustainable development.”

Sophie de Caen, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Regional Bureau of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said recent research in the region showed that higher quality education is critical to meet the rapidly changing world.

She told delegates that thanks to initiatives such as those launched in UAE, “basic literacy has improved rapidly” but access to quality education is still needed throughout the region.

A recent report, she said, showed that “reform and education was identified as a key priority.”

Tony Abbott, former Prime Minister of Australia, told delegates he was amazed to see the rapid progress of the emirate.

He lauded the UAE as a shining example of what the Middle East can become when leaders decide to embrace the future and move forward. The UAE’s speedy social, economic and technological ascent has caught the attention of Australia which considers the UAE a friend.

“What unites us is far more important than what divides us,” he said.

New findings

35 hours
Average time spent reading by Arabs in the region

16 books
Read on average every year

(Preliminary findings released at Knowledge Summit 2016)