Tag Archives arab thought foundation

[FIKR6] quicky recommendations

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1. Look into improving the registration process. It’s taking unnecessarily long and people are getting rather frustrated.

2. The whole conference is about the intersection of technology and education, yet, we don’t have a free wireless network at the conference area which can not only facilitate its use for filing stories, but also its absence might demonstrate that the conference is all talk without implementation. I was rather frustrated by not getting access and not have a free and fast internet connection at the venue was roundly (and vociferously) criticised by several attendees.

3. (for the hotel) Paying BD7 for two hours access is absolute usury. Get with the program. Even 4 star hotels in Amman now provide internet access (both wired and wireless) for free. The Ritz being supposedly the best we have does not do itself nor its reputation any service whatsoever by this ridiculous fee.

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[FIKR6] Speeches – audio files

I thought you might want to listen to a couple of speeches I recorded at the session:

The first is the opening remarks by His Highness Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the Bahraini crown prince, on behalf of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa

Shaikh Salman’s opening remarks [5.9MB]

and the second is a rather interesting keynote speech by the president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, Mr. Abdulla Jum’ah:

Keynote – Abdulla Jum’ah, Saudi Aramco [17MB]

Both are in Arabic.

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[FIKR6] Education, The digital Arab

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We discussed some very thought provoking questions at the Digital Arab break-out session this morning. The basic questions posed were:

  • To what futures do Arab youth aspire?
  • What do you see at the intersection of the Internet, Arab culture and technology?
  • Will the lag in technology adoption between the teachers and the students restrict the success of technology use in the classroom? Where will Arab youth get the teachers they need to thrive in the digital global economy?
  • What can be done to retain successful young Arab minds to work inside the region (possibly creating new industries) instead of outside of the region (thus contributing to the increasing brain-drain)?

FIKR6 conference

The panel attempted to answer these questions each within his or her own sphere of experience and contributed informative answers which naturally raise even more thought provoking questions. It was clear to me right from the start that the single hour dedicated to this session (in fact to any session within the conference) will not be enough. If audience participation is factored in too, then each theme does illicit a complete dedicated conference due to the time each session would occupy. However, we have to respect the imposed constraints for obvious reasons.

The common answer to all of the posed questions above was predictably education. This is the common denominator through which progress is enabled and futures get drawn. It was agreed that modern education is the missing catalyst in the Arab world, a situation which must be corrected at all levels and completely overhauled should we wish to be part of this technologically advanced era. Moreover, we should look at education from the student’s points of view and empower the teachers to be more like mentors rather than the assumed fonts of knowledge, a position traditionally given to them which is no longer appropriate.

Young people are at the forefront of the technology curve, most of the time way ahead of their own teachers; hence, a serious investment should be applied to the teachers to get them retrained in new technologies not as “rote learning providers” or ones who teach how to use simple computer operations, but be mentors and enthusiastic educators who can explain the new trends and technologies which in turn will allow their charges to easily absorb and apply that information.

The political situation in many parts of the Arab world coupled with the dearth of opportunities for young minds provide a fertile ground for frustration, one that possibly leads to that young mind to prefer foreign lands for furthering their education or indeed to emigrate to in the hope of more respect, remuneration and a wealth of other opportunities. The “brain-drain”; however, is not that simple. The panel suggested that for enterprising minds the world over, geographical limits are immaterial, and in a lot of cases this migration is actually beneficial to the person’s country of origin or community as when the resources are provided, then the result of that migration will cross the physical geographical border and have a positive impact on the community as a whole. This, the panel decided, is not a bad thing at all. At the very least it provides a real cultural interchange that is sorely missing and creates a basis of understanding between cultures.

There are a lot of excellent initiatives in the region to propagate learning in innovative ways. The RI-SOL, Relief International, Schools OnLine is one that should definitely be supported. They have solid ICT training programs and have given thousands of PCs to schools in the region and are directly engaged in providing teacher professional development training through teacher centres in Jordan and Palestine and have been integral in providing design and implementation ICT education initiative in tens of countries around the world. Marry this to the 9,000 computers being equally provided by Intel and the Arab Thought Foundation in which an initiative is undertaken to install them in countries most in need of them in the Middle East and provide the required teacher and student training to use them and you will probably agree that it is a necessary first step in reforming traditional education.

There is more to be done of course, but steps as these which have been proposed – an enacted – at the conference is a good start.

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[FIKR6] Arab Strategies for the Global Era

FIKR6 logo - Arab Thought Foundation
500 intellectuals from over 30 countries have descended on Bahrain to participate in the Arab Thought Foundation’s FIKR conference, the annual think-tank that strives to make a change to the Arab world not by force or arms but those of thought.

These gatherings have identified and provoked a lot of thought in what needs to be changed in our societies in order for us to progress and integrate within the global community in an intrinsic and binding fashion. This year’s conference is not different, it challenges the participants to discuss various aspects which are germane to this region’s future and propose strategies through which we can ascend into a new Arab economy through which our transformation and shaping of this new era could be undertaken. The conference theme of “Arab Strategy for the Global Era” boldly plants the stake in the ground and invites the illustrious participants to keep that goal at the forefront of their minds.

Within the central theme of the conference, the areas of Energy, Investments, Media, Technology and Social Responsibility will be focused on as they all directly contribute to this new Arab economy and collectively provide a major impact to the way forward for all of our governments and societies.

The conference started today at the Ritz Carlton with a day-long Innovation Workshop which was open by invitation to our future leaders; those between 15 and 30 and were addressed by an excellent panel with varied backgrounds and each of which a leader in his or her field. The interesting thing about this, and one that is very indicative of how this conference is different, is that groups created from this workshop have been invited to present their solutions and innovative thoughts to close the whole conference with a very real possibility that one or more ideas might be chosen by those present for actual funding and transform it from an idea into a product. If this actually happens, then this will shows that this conference has transcended the “talk” and crossed the border into real action.

I look forward to my participation in this conference. My session is about education in the Arab world and specifically about the effects of digital technology and the digital readiness of the Arab world.

I am extremely humbled and fortunate to be joined on the panel by:

  • Haitham Obeidat, Factory of International and Political Studies, International Studies Department of Middle East an Far East Studies, Jagiellonian Univeristy (Poland);
  • Iman Al-Hindawi, Founder and CEO, Middle East Center for Culture and Development (Jordan);
  • John Davies, VP, Sales and Marketing, General Manager, World Ahead Program, Intel Corporation (USA); and
  • Nasser . Alardah, REgional Program Development Manager, Relief Organization – Schools Online (USA)

I am also thrilled to let you know that this event will be covered by five Bahrain-based bloggers so please also check their blogs for updates and their take on the conference.

Those who will cover the conference are:

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