17 December 2020
Egypt Assumes ATICM 24th Session Chairmanship; New Administrative Capital Selected as Arab Digital Capital 2021


Egypt has assumed the chairmanship of the 24th Session Meeting of the Arab Telecommunications and Information Council of Ministers (ATICM), held today via videoconference. The Minister of Communications and Information Technology Amr Talaat chaired the meeting.
 
The meeting was organized by ATICM Technical Secretariat, headed by the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs at the League of Arab States (LAS) Kamal Hassan Ali.
 
During the meeting, Talaat announced that the New Administrative Capital has been selected as the Arab Digital Capital for 2021. The New Administrative Capital encompass the efforts for achieving the digital transformation, developing digital skills and capacities, and promoting digital innovation. It provides a smart, integrated and consistent environment, and an ecosystem that incorporates a solid partnership between all stakeholders, with the aim to reinforce Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and serve Digital Egypt national project.
 
Talaat praised the successful Arab Digital Capitals Initiative and naming Riyadh the Arab Digital Capital in 2020. The Initiative was launched with the aim to create an enabling environment for investment in the ICT sector, through highlighting the technical value of the city hosting the Arab Digital Capital activities and developing its key role in introducing technology and intellectual innovation.
 
The ICT Minister highlighted that the meeting is part of the combined efforts to build an Arab digital society, in light of the technology and information revolution that the world is witnessing. He said that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic proved that the ICT sector is a crucial component and a driver to all other sectors. The ICT sector also became a key factor for raising efficiency and improving performance of those sectors, as well as one of the main resources for sustainable development in the Arab World, at social, economic, cultural and political levels, he added.
 
Talaat presented Egypt’s vision for building an Arab digital society, based on three main pillars: achieving digital transformation, building digital skills and capacities, and promoting innovation and digital creative work. These pillars stand on important bases: developing the digital infrastructure and providing the necessary regulatory framework for governing the system.
 
Moreover, Talaat stressed the significance of developing the digital information infrastructure in Arab countries, in a way that ensures improving the quality of digital services and the sustainability of providing them to citizens and to the business sector, thus contributing to achieving digital inclusion and laying the foundations for digital economy.
 
The pandemic helped create a collective awareness of new ways of work, education and social communication, reflecting the importance of communication and leading to an augmented Internet traffic, Talaat said.
 
The ICT Minister underlined Egypt’s keenness to perform its role as one of the Arab countries that host a large number of international cables. Egypt continued to develop a robust international infrastructure through adding more stations to the 15 international cables that it hosts, he added. Talaat called for establishing an international network linking Arab countries to each other, adding that for implementing this initiative, Egypt is ready to provide 10 Gbps on the submarine cables owned by Telecom Egypt to connect the country with the Arab countries who also host the cables. The aim is to create a unique and excellent Arab communications network.
 
The ICT Minister referred to another pillar of joint Arab cooperation, which is exploring the potentials of emerging technologies, the most prominent of which are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain. He stressed the paramount importance of technology ethics, given the dangerous implications of misusing these technologies, and the resulting socio-economic repercussions in data protection and privacy, transparency and integrity in AI applications, and preserving cultural and religious values and cultural heritage.
 
Talaat said that he looks forward to the Arab AI Working Group coming into effect. The formation of the Group was approved last year, but it has not entered into force due to the circumstances that the world is going through as a result of COVID-19. The Group work is important for forming a unified Arab stance in international forums to represent the Arab identity and showcase the development projects that Arab countries seek to carry out in this area.
 
Furthermore, the ICT Minister referred to the proposal to organize a competition for young Arabs, as one of the initiatives of the Arab ICT Strategy that is currently being worked on. The aim is to promote innovation and entrepreneurship, and develop solutions and applications using emerging technologies to tackle today's pressing challenges, the most prominent of which is COVID-19 and its resulting implications in multiple sectors, including education.
 
The third pillar of the joint Arab action is building the capacities of Arab youth in state-of-the-art technologies. This is achieved through building a base of digital competencies, and adopting effective policies for concerting the efforts of key players, including government, academic and research bodies, financial institutions, and the private sector, said the ICT Minister. He called for adopting a proposal for creating a regional Arab capacity building platform that comprises and enables access to the best relevant Arab practices in the ICT industry, to help young Arabs leverage different experiences, and to shed light on successful young people in relevant fields.
 
For his part, the Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah bin Amer Alswaha wished Talaat success in chairing ATICM 24th Session, and congratulated him on naming the New Administrative Capital the Arab Digital Capital, succeeding Riyadh. It is worth mentioning that Saudi Arabia chaired ATICM previous session.
 
Moreover, the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs at LAS Kamal Hassan Ali said that COVID-19 helped raise awareness in Arab countries of the need to achieve the digital transformation to face the crisis. He praised the vision Talaat showcased in his speech, for enhancing joint Arab cooperation. Ali added that he looks forward to a productive cooperation between Arab countries to achieve a breakthrough in the Arab World.
 
The meeting discussed the results of the 38th Session of the Arab Permanent Postal Committee (APPC), and the results of the 46th Session of the Arab Permanent Committee for ICT. The later addressed the role of ICT in facing COVID-19; cybersecurity; fighting cybercrime and cyber terrorism; Arab cooperation with other ICT regional groups and organizations; and the importance of the Arab participation in the preparation for the World Telecommunication Development Conference 2021 (WTDC-21).
 
In addition, the meeting reviewed the activities of ATICM observatory bodies, including ITU Regional office for Arab States; the Arab Information and Communication Technology Organization (AICTO); the Arab Regulators Network (AREGNET); and China-Arab States Technology Transfer Center of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (CASTTC-AASTMT). This is in addition to discussing issues facing Palestine, the initiative for Internet governance in the Arab region, and the work of the Regional Forum on Arab Digital Content.
 
Egypt's proposal to host the 47th Session of the Arab Permanent Committee for ICT during the second quarter of 2021 was welcomed during the meeting. The meeting also discussed the potential structure of ATICM Executive Bureau, and the date and place for holding the Bureau’s 48th and 49th Sessions and ATICM 25th Session.
 
From the Egyptian side, the meeting was attended by the Deputy ICT Minister for Infrastructure Raafat Hindy, and the Director of the ICT Department - Economic Affairs Sector at LAS Khaled Wali, representing LAS Technical Secretariat.
 
On the ministerial level, the meeting was attended by Alswaha; Palestinian Minister of Communication and Information Technology Ishaq Sider; Jordanian Minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Ahmad Hanandeh; Mauritannian Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Technologies of Information and Communication Sidi Ould Salem; Algerian Minister of Post and Telecommunications Brahim Boumzar; Bahraini Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed; Yemeni Minister of Communications and Information Technology Lotfi Mohammed Salem Bashrif; Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori; and Chairman and CEO of the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA) in Kuwait Salim Al Ozainah.
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