Youth, future of knowledge economy focus of Dubai summit

Most countries have 5- or 10-year development plans but the UAE has plans for 2071.
Sunday 16/12/2018
Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan  bin  Mohammed  al-Maktoum (3rd-L) with the winners of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Awards in  Dubai.    (MBRF)
For the future. Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al-Maktoum (3rd-L) with the winners of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Awards in Dubai. (MBRF)

DUBAI - Governments’ role in empowering young people, establishing a knowledge economy and exploring ways to transform societies from knowledge consumers to knowledge producers, dominated discussions at the fifth Knowledge Summit.

A highlight of the December 5-6 event, organised by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation in Dubai, was the announcement of the “Global Knowledge Index 2018,” which tracks knowledge around the world and was created by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the foundation last year.

One of the most significant results was registered by the United Arab Emirates, which climbed six places from 25th last year and is among the top 20 countries regarding knowledge-based society and economy and first among Arab states.

The index ranked 134 countries with Switzerland at number one, followed by, in order, Sweden, Finland, the United States and Luxembourg.

The United Arab Emirates also figured among the elite group of countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Finland and Singapore, leading progress in new technology such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, blockchain and biotech.

Foundation CEO Jamal bin Huwaireb said that most countries have 5- or 10-year development plans but the UAE has plans for 2071.

“When the summit was launched, we only sought to instil knowledge in the UAE and the Arab world, our audience was aged 40 on average and we received no invitations from any Arab country,” he said. “Everyone is talking about knowledge and the knowledge economy. People ask for our reports and we are having ‘Knowledge Weeks’ in Jordan and Egypt. We are now reaping the benefits of the Arab Knowledge Project, launched in collaboration with the UNDP.”

Winners of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Awards, which seek to recognise knowledge pioneers around the world, as well as the winners of the first round of the Literacy Challenge, which aims to eradicate illiteracy in the Arab world, were announced.

The Saudi Digital Library (Saudi Arabia), Magdi Yacoub Heart Foundation (Egypt), the Institute of International Education (US) and the Amersi Foundation (founded by UK businessman Mohammad Amersi) were the winners of this year’s Knowledge Awards.

In the Literacy Challenge awards, the Egyptian Ministry of Education won in the government category; UNESCO was the winner in the NGO category and Shifa Hassan from Sudan was the winner in the individual category.

Plans for an Arab Digital Union were also announced.

Egypt’s ministers of education and higher education, Tarek Shawki, and Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, explained the need to re-educate society to move away from a culture of memorisation to embrace an education system that promotes knowledge, critical thinking and preparedness for the future.

The two ministers discussed the Education 2.0 overhaul of Egypt’s education sector in a session titled “The Egyptian Model for Education Development.” The project will see traditional learning abolished to make way for a new system that focuses on the development of character, skills and competencies that will enable a future generation to be competitive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution in line with the ambitions of Egypt Vision 2030.

During a discussion on “The Role of Governments in Empowering the Youth and the Knowledge Economy,” Jordanian Princess Sumaya bint Hassan, chairwoman of the Princess Sumaya University for Technology, spoke of the Jordanian experience. “The foundation of our success is that we invested in minds before looking at the quantity,” she said. “We mainly focused on how to attract the most able students. We are very selective in ensuring we have great students.”

“Illiteracy is the biggest issue in a large number of developing countries in the Southern Hemisphere,” she said. “Sometimes, we have been too good at imitation rather than innovation and that’s where, at times, we have fallen flat.”

Ahmad Belhoul al-Falasi, minister of state for higher education in the UAE, pointed out that “research shows that 47% of current jobs will cease to exist in the future, which creates a great burden on higher education due to different transformations in the labour market.”

“How do you prepare students to adapt themselves in the future?” Belhoul asked. “There is also scepticism regarding the importance of education, and university degrees are not seen as important as they were 10 to 15 years ago.”

“The Future of Knowledge: A Foresight Report,” a pilot study on future fields of knowledge, produced in partnership with the UNDP, is expected to shape the transformation of knowledge societies. The study covers 20 countries and reveals a new knowledge measurement tool using Big Data.

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