IGF 2021 – Day 1 – OF #68 ESCWA Open Forum for Digital Cooperation in the Arab Region

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



(Video plays:)

>> We all live in a digital world. We all need it to be open and safe. We all want to trust.

>> And to be trusted.

>> We all despise control.

>> And desire freedom.

>> BOTH SPEAKERS: We are all united.

(End video.)

>> MODERATOR: Bonjour. Good morning, everyone. Greetings from Beirut Hub to Poland.

>> QUSAI EL SHATTI: Do you hear me?

>> AYMAN EL-SHERBINY: We are going to speak in English. But anyone who wants to speak in Arabic is very welcome. And in a minute, we will start, but I see the room is getting filled, so we can wait a couple of minutes.


>> MODERATOR: Ayman, I think we are ready.

>> AYMAN EL-SHERBINY: With that, are we ready to start?

>> MODERATOR: Yes. Yes, I think we're ready to start. Yes. I can speak better like this.

>> AYMAN EL-SHERBINY: Okay. We have ‑‑ (echo on line.)

>> MODERATOR: We're muting, Ayman.

>> AYMAN EL-SHERBINY: Thank you for muting, because we had some side noise from the floor.

So now, let us start.

It is my pleasure to welcome you all on behalf of ESCWA and the Arab IGF community to this Open Forum on Digital Cooperation in the Arab region. This open forum is designed under the title of Digital Cooperation in the Arab Region. And in fact, it is much more than digital cooperation. It is related to internet governance, relationship with the digital cooperation modality and the new concept launched by the Secretary‑General a few years ago, as well as it relates to digital development at large. So now we would like to set the scene and define the program of that session and the format. This session will be divided into two segments. The first segment I will moderate and at the end of that segment, which is 30 minutes, we will get some questions from the floor in Poland or from the chat box virtually. Then I will give the floor to my colleague, Ms. Mirna Barbar, who will be the moderator for the second segment. She will also take questions from the panelists and also questions from the floor. Without further ado, let me give a few introductory remarks. First of all, we're very happy and glad our colleagues in the IGF and Secretariat at the Global level, our colleagues, working on the Secretariat for a few years, for many years, actually, they managed to put together this very complicated hybrid model, which appears to be very successful, as I see. It served a purpose. It could manage, really, to bring people who want to fly to Poland on board, and people who could not fly also on board. That is really an innovative model and we commend the Secretariat, and, of course, our USG on the Department of Economic and Social Affairs for that real effort to serve the Global IGF community.

This is the first message.

The second message I'd like really to thank all the colleagues and IGF community and colleagues in ESCWA, and the multistakeholder advisory committee, for putting together this free event to our upcoming IGF next week that is going to take place in collaboration and conjunction with the Arab WSIS. We have two identities, in a way. We are doing an activity related to the Global IGF. At the same time, we're doing the same activity as part of the Arab IGF. And that is the beauty of the digital world we are living in nowadays. And that is also the beauty of how it's such a challenging pandemic last year, how it brought new realities to our lives where we are actually now recommitting ourselves and our realities, augmenting our reality in different settings, different locations, different points in time, for the first time in the lifetime of the planet, these kind of complex human interactions are taking place.

That is really also intriguing and some of the intriguing questions we are going to get today from the panel, and also from next week in our intended meeting that we will talk about next segment or at the end of the panel.

So today, we have that discussion about digital cooperation in the Arab region. And I'm glad and proud the Arab region has been instrumental in providing consultation to the digital cooperation global movement since its inception in 2019 and its maturity in 2020 in the roadmap of the Secretary‑General. This group has been instrumental during the COVID, during, I remember, April, May, 2020, we have also came together and sent our views on that IGF plus. And then we did three consultations in the Arab region on the way and the road towards IGF plus, as well as the road towards Arab IGF plus. From these questions, I'd like to introduce the first panelists today who have played a big role in the consultations on the road towards digital cooperation, that as I said started in 2019. By the way, it was the last time we met physically in IGF Berlin, and then as I said in April, 2020, then again in August, 2020, then again in December, 2020, and last but not least in April, 2021. So let me introduce Mr. Charles Sha'ban who is the Executive Director of a very important organization in the Arab region working on intellectual property, from the very respectable business sector players in the region. He's Executive Director. And not only that, he's a long‑seasoned expert in the Global IGF community, being one of the Arab MAG members early players. He as well as Christine Arida, I'll be giving our greetings to her, she's one of our participants today. Charles Sha'ban is Chair of the Arab Multistakeholder Program Advisory Committee that manifests the bottom‑up nature of our Arab IGF. I would like to give you the floor. You can please unmute yourself.

>> CHARLES SHA'BAN: Can you hear me, please?

>> AYMAN EL-SHERBINY: We still cannot hear you.

>> QUSAI EL SHATTI: We're hearing you.

>> CHARLES SHA'BAN: Maybe, Ayman, you have maybe there is something. Thank you, Ayman, and thank you, everybody, for having me at this open forum. I will speak just for a couple of minutes, to be honest, just to build on what you started, Ayman, please, which is mainly to thank the Arab IGF umbrella organizations, United Nations ESCO, of course and the League of Arab States, who started this almost 10 years ago now, and to be able to do the rest of the work. As you mentioned, we were instrumental and followed the global and general regarding the internet governance.

Especially thanks to Christine, as you mentioned, and who were our Secretariat, since we started. They had a wonderful and big role in that.

So in my intervention, I want just to mention to the people because I noticed there are many from our region and besides people from the world in general to talk about only introduction about this year how it happened that the internet governance would continue at the Sixth Arab Internet Governance Forum. Again, I have to thank ESCWA because they included within their digital cooperation event that will start next week. Another special thanks. I will only talk about thanks. I will leave the substance maybe for my colleagues to talk more about it, because I have to be very frank, as I mentioned, I'm in intellectual property. This year's event was led by a subcommittee and it was led by a few experts from outside, and it was led and cultured by our colleague here who is with us, Qusai El Shatti, and another colleague, Hana, I don't think she's with us today. But I will thank this small committee who worked on this year, and we wanted to talk maybe more about what they did, but I think this will be covered by the second segment so no need to talk twice about it. I will be here. I'll be on session here for any questions related to the impact in general, or about any other thing. I just a small first message for everyone attending, please check next year, next week, sorry, next week, the Arab Digital Cooperation Event that is led by ESCWA. Hopefully we'll have more people joining from the global internet bodies, too, and multistakeholder in general. Thank you very much.

>> MODERATOR: Shukran lakum. Thank you, Charles. And merci beaucoup. And many other languages. Danke schon, and others. Let's move to Qusai, who is Cochair of the Special Task Force that was composed by the AMPAC, the Arab Multistakeholder Program Advisory Committee, for expediting and accelerating fast‑track progression of the program in a very, very remarkable four or five months period. Qusai is also the Chair of the first MAG in its first year, 2012. Qusai, would you like to give us your views? Since we started the IGF and now the IGF is in the 16th year, we see different, let us say, metamorphosis or different shape of the IGF issues at the global work, some kind of themes and regimes. How can you describe your views now of the status of the Global Internet Governance ecosystem? And how do you see the most important topics from your point of view as Cochair of Special Task Forces here? Qusai, the floor is yours.

>> QUSAI EL SHATTI: Thank you. I am humbled by my dear colleague Charles and his compliment to our work. Really, as the nature of many things, it involves time. We develop a better understanding. We understand more the details that underlies under each theme or issue or topic. With time, we can identify priorities and what we want or what is the next steps or what is needed.

Whether it's global or regionally or a national level.

And the other part, we took our time to develop our understanding of internet governance. And it took time for us to absorb these issues and the conduct and to adopt, let's say, a climate of a policy dialogue on these issues that is nonbinding but brings all the stakeholders together, so eventually the other IGF became such a unique event that it's an independent platform for all of us to talk openly about the issues related to internet in the Arab world.

Moving from there, we look for the evolution of the Global IGF. We look forward to seeing the IGF Plus and their leadership committee, as we are hearing right now, to emerge and take a leading role in bringing the Internet Governance Forum, whether globally, regionally, or nationally, into current issues and drive the way toward the future.

One of the most important aspects for us, for example, in the Arab world, is digital economy, and its impact especially with the coronavirus and COVID‑19 situation when we're working remotely, learning remotely, doing many of our tasks remotely, linking this to digital transformation and the impact of digital transformation. There are many economic and social impacts and effects that will take place on generations to come in the Arab world when it comes to these matters.

Before we looked at many issues as silos. Data privacy, cybersecurity, content, and so now we are linking these issues more together because we are more mature in understanding these issues and what underlies under each. So today, we cannot speak about cybersecurity without linking it to data privacy, without linking it to building the trust in e‑transaction and how we conduct digitally, for example, our activities, whether it's commerce, services, or issues or matters related to digital economy.

Moving specifically toward the Arab world, there's a need for an ecosystem with the digital economy, and have a tool or a mean of measurement to see how much it is contributing to our GDPs and what opportunities it is creating to countries or to the region in the Arab world, whether to the youth or all segment of ages.

And more importantly, global companies, global internet companies growth. There is a major issue coming, and that is the taxation of these companies, the 15% taxation specifically under the G20 group. So with global companies, whether it's operating in sovereignty, whether it will be taxed. Today we're talking about the percentage and a 15% has been spoken out loudly on this. In a nutshell, this is what comes through when we talk about issues when we talk about what's coming to the future. Thank you, dear Ibaa.

>> AYMAN EL SHERBINEY: Thank you, dear Qusai. Now, with that, the issues at the global level, we reflect that actually in our IGF next week, the Arab IGF, would really show how we view all these issues from an Arab perspective. That will take place over two weeks, starting next Monday. It will end the week after. So that really makes me ask another question. Now from the standpoint from the perspective of someone now on the ground and arrived yesterday, day before, to Poland, and not only during the opening session but even in the corridors and here and there, he has set some kind of course of pressing the issues of topics of overarching importance that the IGF 2021 is something signals around. So Ibaa, if you can unmute yourself and tell us that perspective from within IGF Poland, and if possible from participants who are around you who would like to make such intervention, from their sense and feel and sentiment about what is the IGF in Poland focusing on today. What is the take‑home message that we can get from the ground, from the floor, in Poland? Ibaa.

>> IBAA OUEICHECK: Thank you, Ayman. I hope you can hear me.

>> AYMAN EL SHERBINEY: Okay. So that's good. It can be interactive. Go ahead.

>> IBAA OUEICHECK: I will provide my own insight about what has been said during today opening ceremony and even more important yesterday, at the Day Zero, the first panel which was about the global recovery. Very important speeches we're given, and not only speeches, but sometimes they were very compact.

The very short speech by the Secretary‑General today, it was very dense and carried very strong message about the importance of the internet, which was displayed during the last year. And it's all into supporting millions and hundreds of millions of people living and conducting their lives, socializing, during the pandemic.

And he immediately highlighted the shortcomings. He used the term "the dark side of the internet." Immediately, in a nutshell, he immediately went through the description of what he hopes to do during the future period. He gave a vision of globally connected with everyone and safe and open internet. And he emphasized that the report of the Secretary‑General, which was delivered, I think, a couple of months ago, invited and called for a summit of the future to agree on a Global Digital Compact. He used this term exactly: The Global Digital Compact. With a purpose, several purposes, mainly talked about the safety of the internet, about the rights of people to have control on their data, about the security of the internet, and about the need to connect everyone and not leave anyone behind.

The same message was delivered yesterday by the Secretary of ITU and the Undersecretary of the UN when he was talking about how great the global cooperation was in face of the pandemic and that how many countries supported each other in the effort to vaccination. They made the analogy that there needs to be a similar effort to bring everyone to the internet and joining it.

So these are the strongest signals. Global cooperation is needed. Not a single region or a single country or single stakeholder can do this on his own. Everyone must cooperate. The Secretary‑General stated clearly he's concerned about cooperation between these main stakeholders: Governments, private sector, and Civil Society, to work together to fulfill these requirements for a safe and fully connected internet during the next years.

And again, he mentioned this hope that there will be a call for a Global Digital Compact. I will ask the floor here if everyone would like, after with your permission, Ayman, I will ask the floor here if anyone would like to make a short comment on this.

>> AYMAN EL-SHERBINY: Yes, a couple of minutes, appreciated, if you have one from the floor, please introduce yourself and give us your views on what seems to be the most overarching issues of IGF this year.

>> IBAA OUEICHECK: Mr. Yusef Arman, please.

>> YUSEF: Thank you. Actually, I need to highlight and thank ESCWA for issuing an IGF in the Arab region and also for including academia as one of the multistakeholder group and so on.

So for this point, I want to highlight for the rest of the world, the networks to take their stake and do their role, because we're part of the internet governance, as we work for internet, for research, and education. And in addition to that, there are very high priorities from the United Nations like achieving the SDGs which cannot be done without science and cooperation. In addition to that, UNESCO has recently announced their recommendations that every country, every state, has to adapt and to be part of the open science, to make science available not only for certain communities, but the entire community. So for this point I want to highlight the role of research and education communities to contribute to that internet governance. I see that academia is not really involved. I can see that in the opening, as well. So this is the first point.

The second point is also related to that priorities. Like climate, for example. Climate has been mentioned yesterday in one of the activities which can be also addressed through these infrastructure and so on.

So maybe I can talk about this more in the session that I will be speaking tomorrow. Thank you very much.

>> AYMAN EL-SHERBINY: Thank you. So I can think that you have a concern that academia is one of the three layers, as mentioned today, as earmarked as the champions of the digital compact or the digital future. And I think that is an important remark to be taken.

So Ibaa, do you have any other interventions from the floor?

>> IBAA OUEICHECK: Well, it doesn't seem that there is another intervention. Yes, please, please.

>> AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. I am Mohamad Uneef, with an internet agency. I would like to present some thematic or problematic. In fact, we talk about Internet of Things, about smart cities, about digitalization, about health, about education, learning, et cetera, et cetera.

We talk about many other 4G, 4G, for broadband, fix the broadband, and mobile broadband. But the operators of our countries have many challenge, in fact. They have many challenges. And I hope that in IGF, Arab IGF, we put some recommendation to help our operators to invest in infrastructure, for example, in fast‑link and optic fiber. And they need, and they have, to invest big amount, big amount, in this side. And they have to face some taxes and costs, et cetera, to our government. And on the other hand, the revenue is strongly decreases because of the usage and the peoples use some application like Viber or Facebook, et cetera, et cetera. And so they, in one side, the revenue decreases, and the other side they should invest big amount to ensure many good infrastructure.

That is the first question.

The second question, we talk about 5G and the speed ‑‑

(Overlapping speakers.)

>> AYMAN EL-SHERBINY: I think the message ‑‑ (non‑English) broadband, I'm asking about what Mr. Mohamad has detected as the top‑most issue raised in the arena today. Was it broadband? Or was it something else? Was it this topic?

>> AUDIENCE: I don't know why our countries ‑‑ (non‑English) ‑‑ we are not in the good ranking, in good rates, because IPVs is more than necessary, actually, if we talk about 5G. If we talk about smart cities and many things to connect to internet and so on.

We hope that it will be stronger recommendation to allow our countries to do the translation to IPV6.

>> AYMAN EL-SHERBINY: Thank you very much. It's very obvious you're keen on the issues related to infrastructure, the IPV6 dissemination in the region. I invite you to attend next week the Arab IGF, because we'll discuss that from an Arab perspective.

>> IBAA OUEICHECK: May I add one quick comment, please?

>> AYMAN EL-SHERBINY: Yes, quick.

>> IBAA OUEICHECK: Yesterday, the Secretary‑General of the ITU talked about the new release of ITU statistics.

I have the fortune of having a quick look at it, and about the situation in the Arab region, I think this is something which we need to look deeper in the next few days and weeks that there looks to be a huge increase in the use of the internet bandwidth in the Arab region. For once, we went higher than some other groups, but it looks like, unfortunately, very probably this increase has been uneven. Like the global digital recovery that was mentioned yesterday by the undersecretary, that the world is recovering from the pandemic, but the recovery is uneven. What we need to take care of is that the Arab region is picking up in the ranking of internet and statistics, but we need to have not forget anyone aside. We will talk about this later but we'll talk about that in the future.

>> AYMAN EL-SHERBINY: I'm happy you touched on that. Exactly one hour ago while we were trying to find the new release of the statistics, and so that is important, but our understanding of our status and our latest status. Now, I would like to move to the second status of today's open forum, my colleague will take us more into a deep dive into the plans for next week, and how and what are the main themes and issues we are focusing on. Mirna, the floor is yours. Thank you.

>> MIRNA BARBAR: Thank you, Ayman, and colleagues for being with us at this important forum. Our presence in the global forum is very critical and essential for our digital cooperation. In this segment, we will be speaking about selected, actually, initiatives, regional initiatives, to highlight how we are recovering also at the regional level from this pandemic and surviving this and leading the new normal, actually, with this under the framework of these regional initiatives.

As first speaker in this segment, I would like to welcome Fatna El Farsi. Fatna would like to speak in English, but I will actually ask her in English, but she will be replying in Arabic. Fatna is a member of AMPAC. She played a critical role through the years in the Arab IGF. Fatna, it would be very appreciated if you could brief us on this forum, what are the most important developments in the work of the Arab Internet Governance Forum, its process, objective, linkages with the Global IGF and so on? And especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic, can you give us an overview on the process of the preparation for this year and for the IGF 6? Fatna, the floor is yours. You have maximum five minutes if possible.

>> FATNA EL FARSI: (Non‑English)

>> MIRNA BARBAR: Thank you so much, Fatna. I will give the summary about actually the presentation of Ms. Fatna. Ms. Fatna overviewed about the Arab IGF process since 2012, in line with the Global IGF as a multistakeholder platform, having an Arab multistakeholder also advisory group working on its program, annual program. For this year, it was very special because of the pandemic and among the MAG members we selected, actually, nine members in addition to other experts from the region in order to work intensively to prepare for the program of this year's event. That will be actually next week. Now, actually, within the same context, I would like to move, from the same background, a digital transformation and innovation consultant, digital consulting in Canada, but he is also one of the main pillars and very active member from the start of, actually, the Arab IGF, and currently he's an active AMPAC member and he works also as a member of this dedicated Special Task Force that was formed this year to prepare for this upcoming annual meeting. Dr. Badran, based on your participation in this year STF, Special Task Force, could you present for us the main areas as identified for this year's annual meeting? Thank you.

>> HOSEIN BADRAN: Thank you very much for this kind introduction. Thank you, ESCWA, for leading this and this organization and open forum, which I think is an excellent opportunity to share from the Arab region with the wider audience. Just to correct my work title, I'm a Director with the Internet Society, Internet Growth and Trust with the Internet Society, ISOC.

Yes, the task force, as was described my colleague Dr. Fatna, identified four critical areas that translated into our plenary sessions that I will describe shortly. The first session deals with meaningful access and inclusion, and it addresses key, specific key areas. One of them, of course, is access and connectivity, but more importantly universal access and how to bridge the digital divide. As we have heard in the many interventions so far, with the pandemic situation it became very apparent globally that there is a digital, strong digital divide, between those who have access to the internet and those who don't. And access here can be translated not only in terms of connectivity but also in terms of meaningful access. That's something this session will try to describe. And how to overcome this digital divide that has prevented itself very strongly during the pandemic? And on the other hand, the digital equality, particularly on inclusion of women, and meaningful access to the internet, this will also be a pillar of this discussion, as well as accessibility requirements, special requirements, for people with disabilities to make use and full use of the internet.

The other aspect is in terms of access and resiliency of digital infrastructure. Resiliency is a key issue that has become much, much more relevant during the pandemic, with the growth of number of users, the growth of access to online services, to conferencing, to meetings, e‑health services, and e‑commerce applications. So resiliency is becoming a key priority for many, many governments and stakeholders.

Also, the digital financial services will be discussed, and also in terms of financing and pricing, and cost barriers of these services offered by the internet architecture and national architectures.

So this is a summary of the first session, dealing with meaningful access and inclusion.

The second session deals with legal policy and regulatory framework. So related to something that is quite critical globally, but more importantly in the Arab world, we will discuss legal framework for the protection of private user information, and regulations to access, how to access, this information.

In addition, collaboration between private and public sectors needs to be highlighted, and building regulations for consumer protection, to identify the responsibility of not only the government only, but also participation and collaboration with Civil Society, private sector ‑‑

>> MIRNA BARBAR: For the sake of the time remaining, actually, for the other speakers, and topics, we need to cover during this session, it would be appreciated if you can summarize, actually, the content of each session and we would like to invite everybody to attend these plenary sessions next week.

>> HOSEIN BADRAN: Absolutely. Thank you for the note. Within this legal framework, one final point is taxation of e‑commerce and the service offered by global platforms. Third session deals with digital economy, digital transformation, particularly digital identity and fintech, and the key instruments for digital transformation.

The fourth sessions deals with a different angle, basically the social and human angle of accessing the internet and making use of the internet, like youth, raising awareness about misinformation and disinformation during COVID‑19, issues with internet addiction, mental health, issues triggered by excessive use of social media.

So we're leading with access, legal framework, digital transformation and digital economy, and then the human and social impact and aspects of accessing the internet. Thank you very much.

>> MIRNA BARBAR: So actually, we're covering in these remaining four plenary sessions all the thematics we need to discuss as priority areas for the region and the implication of the socioeconomic development and sustainable development.

Thank you so much, Dr. Badran, for this presentation.

I would love to actually move now for another actually just highlight, also, digital cooperation but at local level. And I would like to welcome Ms. Zeina Bou Harb, who is Head of International Cooperation at OGERO Telecom, Lebanon. She is the Secretariat of the Lebanese IGF, which is a national forum that was launched in 2016. Under the framework of digital cooperation, Zeina, how do you actually describe the role of the Lebanese IGF? And how was the meeting this year? And what were the key messages from the annual meeting?

The floor is yours.

>> ZEINA BOU HARB: Thank you, Mirna. Good evening, everybody. Actually, the Lebanese IGF this year was held on November 23 and 24, and the last session is happening, actually, the last session started 12 minutes ago. So the forum was held under the overarching theme of digital transformation for resilience. And we insisted on having the "resilience" due to the multiple problems that we are facing in Lebanon. The issues, I need to mention here, also, that the forum was held in hybrid format. The speakers and the Lebanese MAG were invited to the host venue at Roja Roja which is a continuous supporter of the Lebanese IGF, and other participants joined online. We had four main sessions and three community workshops. The main sessions were decided based on the priorities, either identified by the Lebanese MAG and through a public consultation with the Lebanese community. Many things were highlighted. To mention, the free flow of information in times of nationwide crisis, driving digital access and inclusion in Lebanon, the digital transformation challenges and the way forward. In addition to the last session happening now, which is the governments and security of data.

So to be very brief, I will share with you the main messages that we want to raise with the decision‑makers in Lebanon and also to the media in order to get some help in spreading the word about what the IG community in Lebanon set as priorities and defined as actions to be done by the Lebanese government. In Lebanon we have a law called the Right to Access to Information. So this law, we at the Lebanese IGF, we called to activate it, and at the same time the law on the protection of ‑‑ the necessity of forming the anticorruption commission to monitor the proper implementation of the law.

>> MIRNA BARBAR: What was the main messages, Zeina, from this year's forum? Especially in relation with the COVID‑19 pandemic and the whole situation in Lebanon, maybe?

>> ZEINA BOU HARB: Well, we certainly agreed altogether that cooperation is needed among all stakeholders to sort out the issues that we are facing in Lebanon and to resolve our problems. There is a need, for example, to encourage youth to get involved in the IG process. We have to also highlight the issue of involving people with disabilities in any discussion or design of a policy or program on electronic services for the digital transformation. We need a clear action plan because we lack this plan for digital transformation in Lebanon in order to make the best of use of the internet and technology. That's in brief the main messages.

>> MIRNA BARBAR: Thank you so much, Zeina, for this overview about the Lebanese IGF and the key messages and its process, actually. Thank you for joining, although you are sick, so thank you so much for being with us.

I would like to actually now move to our last intervention in this panel, which we will discover together another initiative that it was launched by ESCWA since 2018, which is the Digital Development Tract Initiative. And it covers the national and the regional digital development process. This also contributes to the digital cooperation at national and regional level. So I would like to welcome Dr. Mansour Farah who is International Expert in Technology for Development. Your experience in digital development and international and regional progress, such as WSIS outcomes and others, is very long, Dr. Mansour. And it goes back many years. As one of the main players in the Digital Development Tract at national and regional level, as mentioned launched by ESCWA a few years ago, how to describe the role of these two tracts, national and regional digital development, as main contributors to the digital cooperation framework we are hoping to achieve and to have good results in it? Dr. Mansour?

>> MANSOUR FARAH: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Actually, the NDDR, National Digital Development Reviews, were developed by ESCWA in 2018, and the decision was taken then to go ahead with a series of such reports that will be done on a national level. And then, that we combined at the regional level in what is called the Arab Digital Development Review, which comes out every two to three years.

This tool is important. When it was founded it was very important for digital cooperation and it was structured around the WSIS action lines, as well as the 17 goals of the sustainable development agenda of 2013. So the first session of these reports were launched, achieved, in 2019. And now we're working on the 2021‑22 session. These reports were based on a guiding template that was designed by ESCWA to make all reports similar in order to be able to combine them into one regional report. This guiding template, as I said, covers the needs of the WSIS as well as SDGs. And has been clustered, divided, into five clusters that cover all these requirements. The most important point is that these documents or these exercises should point to existing gaps in transformation policies and strategies in the region, in the Arab region, and facilitate the development of national agendas, as well as the Arab digital agenda, that the League of Arab States and ESCWA are working on.

Thank you.

>> MIRNA BARBAR: Yes. Thank you very much. So this tract contributes a lot to the digital cooperation by highlighting the gaps and building on that to build the national agendas, as well as contributing to the unified Arab ICT strategies, also ESCWA, and other partners from Arab States and other institutions are working on.

Now, I would like to leave the floor to my colleague, Ayman, to close the session before the technology are closing it automatically.

>> AYMAN EL-SHERBINY: Before closing, I would like to take a group picture. Please, anyone who is posting this video, please open the video channel and take a quick group video. If we have time, we can take further questions from the floor, in case they don't shut us down.

Now, everyone opens the camera, our team here.

We take our first encounter in hybrid mode.

Okay. Thank you so much.

And I would like to seize this chance to also thank and greet all my colleagues that I am used to see virtually for the last year and a half. It's always good to see you all. Also, you play a big role in where we stand today.

(File closed at 9:18 AM Central Time.)