IGF 2017 WS #50 "Data is the New Oil": Shaping the Digital Economy of MENA

Short Title: 
"Data is the New Oil": Shaping the Digital Economy of MENA

Proposer's Name: Mr. Ali AlMeshal
Proposer's Organization: Bahrain ISOC
Co-Proposer's Name: Mr. Satish Babu
Co-Proposer's Organization: ISOC-TRV
Ms.,Lianna,Galstyan,Technical Community, .AM Registry, Armenia

Ms.,Sarah, Kiden,Academia, Uganda University

Ms.,Maritza,Minan, Civil society, AUI PERU

Additional Speakers: 

Hanane Boujemi ,[email protected][email protected] 


Hanane Boujemi is Project Manager of Hivos’ Internet Governance Programme—MENA Region (IGMENA). She has a master's degree in Human Rights and Democratization from the University of Malta and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies—University of London. She previously worked as a consultant with UNESCWA as she contributed to defining the policy challenges and prospects of IG in the Arab region. She also participated in designing the Internet Governance Roadmap which maps the Internet Governance issues specific to the region. Ms Boujemi worked as a senior policy analyst with the International Communication Union (ITU) and she was associated with DiploFoundation as a tutor in the capacity-building program on Internet Governance and as the coordinator of Internet Governance Research Projects. Ms Boujemi is a regular contributor to GISWATCH annual report on Internet Rights and democratization, and she is also a member of the UN's advisory group of the Arab Internet Governance Forum.

Jorge Sebastiao[email protected]


International ICT speaker. Seasoned managed services, cloud computing, cyber security, blockchain, big data, IoT and ICT innovation professional focused on business value; brings experience, creativity, structure, motivation, & agility. Over 30 years of ICT experience, covering, managed services, cyber security, innovation, architecture as well as risk management, compliance, auditing, certification, business continuity, & disaster recovery. Served sectors include Telecom, Oil & Gas, Financial , Government, Defense, HealthCare, & Education. Created the process A6 of security: Assess, Architect, Apply, Administer, Awareness & Agility. He architects practical & business focused solutions using standards & industry best practices.
He has been the speaker at numerous international conferences with topics including: ICS Security, ICT Security, Business Continuity, ICT Architecture (TOGAF), Wireless Security, Regulatory Compliance, Physical Security, Biometrics and Smart Cards, Ethical Hacking, ISO27001, ISO27002 (ISMS), ISO2000 (ITIL), ISO13335 (Risk Management), ISO22301 (BCMS), CobIT, Basel II, EMV-2, PCI-compliance, SOX, Info warfare, Fraud, Identity Theft, SAP-Security, CISSP, Forensics & Incidence Response.
Jorge is action and results oriented with passion to deliver a results in a collaborative approach.

Mr. Sebastiao also co-authored book "La Face Cachée du Credit".


Khalid Al Rumaihi , [email protected]


H.E. Khalid Al Rumaihi was appointed as Chief Executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) in March 2015. He was appointed the Chairman of the Bahrain Development Bank in March 2016. H.E. Al Rumaihi currently serves as a Board Director of the National Bank of Bahrain, Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority and National Authority for Qualifications & Quality Assurance of Education and Training. He remains a Board Director of the EDB.

His Exellency previously spent more than 10 years at Investcorp as a Managing Director, a member of the Management Committee and Head of the Institutional Placement Team covering Investcorp's clients in the Gulf. Before joining Investcorp, H.E. Al Rumaihi spent 9 years serving at J.P. Morgan as head of the private client group in the Gulf. He Chaired the Board of Bahrain Airport Company and held previous Board positions at Gulf Air and Securities Investment Company (SICO).

He holds a Masters degree in Public Policy, specialising in Economic Development, from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

Tarek Kamel , [email protected]


Tarek Kamel is an Egyptian expert in global Internet governance issues. Kamel has been involved in global Internet Governance issues and he is well known for his support of the Multistakeholder governance model of the Internet

In August 2012 ICANN appointed Tarek Kamel to serve as a Senior Advisor to its President; and by that he is the first one from the developing countries to take one of the leading roles in ICANN’s senior management. Prior to joining ICANN, he was a board member of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority of Egypt from April 2011- July 2012.

Kamel served as the Minister of Communication and Information Technology from July 2004 to February 2011, where he was responsible for the reform of the ICT sector and the development of telecom services and the Internet industry in Egypt. Kamel joined the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology since its formation in October 1999, where he had been appointed Senior Advisor to the Minister following his pioneering efforts in ICT. He was board member of Telecom Egypt from 2000 to 2004 and a board member of Egypt’s Private Public Technology Development Fund (TDF) to support start-ups and incubators in ICT from 2002 to 2004.


Abdulaziz F. Aljouf , [email protected] 


Abdulaziz Al Jouf is a self-driven and passionate Entrepreneur, who is also the founder and CEO of PayTabs. His love for entrepreneurship and innovation stems from his childhood and university days where his studies mostly focused on technology and eCommerce. In addition to his love of entrepreneurship and innovation, Abdulaziz is committed to giving back to society through mentoring young and budding entrepreneurs to reach their full potential.

According to Abdulaziz, the idea of developing a payment gateway came when he realized how difficult it was for MENA SME merchants to get a payment gateway. This in his view hindered the MENA market from reaching its full potential from an online payments and ecommerce perspective, so he proceeded to develop a simple and secure payment platform known today as “PayTabs”. PayTabs was under the wing of Saudi Aramco’s Entrepreneurship Venture “Wa’ed” when it first established after the idea caught the eye of top institutions in KSA. Since then, Abdulaziz and PayTabs gained multiple industry related awards and recognition in renowned magazines such as Entrepreneur and Forbes, and gained exposure in top media outlets such as CNN Arabic, and Sky Arabia.


Ines Hfaiedh , [email protected]


Ines Hfaiedh is a teacher, ICT Implementation in Education Specialist and Internet Policy Analyst with ISOC Tunisia, and IGMENA under Hivos Foundation. She is member of the ICANN community as the Africa Representative in the NCUC Executive Committee and in the MEAC Working Group.

An ICANN, ISOC and AIGF Fellow, she reported sessions from WSIS2016 with the Geneva Internet Platform and Diplo Foundation. She was a Guest Speaker at the 2016 Gobal IGF in Guadalajara, the Fourth Edition of the Arab Internet Governance Forum, the International Symposium on ICTs, the Tunisia TESOL National Conference and a sponsored delegate during the MATE International Conference in Morocco. The European Educational Tool Portal has shared her tool of 'Interactive ICT Implementation in Formal and Informal Learning and selected it for the Internal Tool Fair in Budapest, Hungary.

She compiled ICT-enhanced lesson plans into a pedagogical paper. She holds a CELTA Certificate, a BA in English Literature and a BA in English Language Teaching from the Ecole Normale Supérieure. She was the British Council studio guest on National Radio RTCI several times and volunteered as an Editor for the Tunis Times Online Newspapers and Organizing Committee President of the Corporate Social Responsibility Project in AIESEC Tunisia.

Nasrat Khalid , [email protected]

Nasrat is an ICT innovation activist currently working with one of the leading development donors in Afghanistan. He was previously engaged with international NGOs, implementing partners, public sector and has succeeded throughout the startup cycle of an international ICT firm. Nasrat’s work focuses on the economic and social impacts of new technologies and development of ideas on how technology could be used in fragile and developing states such as Afghanistan. He further focuses on the study of modern technologies and it's possible implementation in under-developed, fragile and conflict-affected states.


1. Welcome and Session Objectives: Moderator (5 min)
2. The Digital Economic Future: Domain Expert (10 min)
3. The Middle East Experience in Leveraging the Digital Economy: Domain Expert (10 min)
4. Sharing of experiences (3-5 min x 10 = 40 min)
5. Open Q & A (20 min)
6. Summing up and Conclusions: Moderator (5 min)

Session Format: Round Table - 90 Min

Country: Bahrain
Stakeholder Group: Civil Society

Country: India
Stakeholder Group: Private Sector

Speaker: Walid Al-Saqaf
Speaker: Elias El Boustani
Speaker: Ali AlMeshal
Speaker: Satish Babu

Content of the Session:
One of the most impressive achievements of the Internet has been its impact on the global economy, particularly on the domains of finance, commerce, trade and innovation. The transformative nature of the Internet has resulted today in not just a connected world, but also in a world that transacts together.

The ‘New Economy’, as the Digital Economy is also known, is the result of the transition from the brick-and-mortar businesses of the Twentieth Century to the ‘Brick-and-Click’ and the ‘Click-only’ economies of today, which are built around the Internet. As we look to the future, the Internet is the enabler, the marketplace and the market, and has room for not just giant trans-national enterprises but also for the tiny startups. The space for ‘permissionless innovation’ that the Internet provides, overcomes all barriers such as geography and location.

Despite this sweeping potential, there are substantial variations in the way the Digital Economy has been leveraged by different regions and countries of the world. The Digital Divide that still exists—albeit different from the original digital divide that focused on access—is still a reality. While most people do have access today, the New Digital Divide is between people who have reliable, affordable, fast broadband, and the people who have intermittent, expensive Internet that are difficult to be used for transactional services. Given this gap, there are perhaps few countries amongst Emerging Economies which have fully leveraged the potential of the Internet as much as Developed Economies.

There are, however, a few examples from the Global South that illustrate how the Internet Economy could be leveraged provided there is coherent policy intent coupled with pragmatic and innovative approaches. Prominent amongst these is the Middle East.

As late as five years back, the Middle East was seemingly afflicted by a number of economic issues arising from the global recession, crashing oil prices, the social aftermath of the Arab Spring, subdued local demand, and social inhibitors, which together predicted a deep and protracted economic slowdown for the region.

Despite these dire predictions, the Middle East has shown remarkable resilience in not only maintaining the size of its economy, but even growing in the face of these challenges. The current GDP of the region is USD 1.7 trillion, far surpassing the pessimistic estimates of 2012-13. One of the most important technological enabler of this rebound appears to be the Internet.

This Round-table focuses on sharing the experience of the Middle East in using the Internet in building and stabilizing its Digital Economy, and the lessons for the rest of the world. The experiences of speakers and audience members from other regions of the world as well as their responses to the applicability of the Middle East model in their own context would add richness to the discussions.

The outcome from the session would be to evolve a consensus on the Best Practices in the use of the Internet in realizing the potential of a Digital Economy, and also regional and local Best Practices in any aspect of this transition, including Internet Governance aspects. The speakers at the Round-table represent the different stakeholders of the transition to digital economy, including Business, Government and Civil Society.

Relevance of the Session:
Economic factors lie at the heart of numerous problems that the world faces today. Measures that strengthen the economy will enhance the quality of life of millions of people around the world, permit poverty reduction, improve education & health, promote innovation, attract investment and stimulate wealth creation.

The Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, were expected to show little growth after the turbulence of the Arab Spring, coupled with the crippling impact of oil price crash. However, a few years later, contrary to expectations, the region has boucned back to a state of growth. To quote McKinsey (2015),

"The Middle East is on the verge of a massive digital disruption. In the past decade, the cross-border data flow connecting the Middle East to the world has increased by more than 150-fold. Several countries--including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar--are leading the digital consumer charge, with high smartphone adoption rates and social media use. "

For workplaces and economies of the future, it is clear that the Internet will play a central role, manifest through such components as e-business, e-commerce, and e-governance. The example of the Middle East, data has become the great lubricant for economic growth.

It is important to discuss and highlight the factors behind this remarkable turn of events, and how governments, Business and Civil Society from around the globe can learn from this Internet-driven transformation.

The Round-table will examine social, economic, technology, policy and Internet Governance drivers that have been at play in the Middle East, that have collectively contributed to this success. It will further examine, through interventions from speakers from different regions, if the same Best Practices would work effectively in other global contexts. Finally, speakers from the Middle East will also touch upon what else needs to be done to take this process to the logical conclusion and complete the transition to a fully-empowered Digital Economy.

Tag 1: Internet Economy
Tag 2: Internet & ICTs for the Sustainable Development Goals
Tag 3: Digital Economy

The Round-Table will have a mix of Subject Matter Experts (Economists, Internet Governance Resource Persons) as well as representatives of Business, Government, and Civil Society from different regions, who will be present in person as well by remote participation and social media (largely Twitter, but questions would be taken on email as well).

The Session would start with the domain experts (Economists and IG specialists) who would start off with a 10 minute introduction to the topic, followed by brief interventions (5 minutes or less) by speakers and walk-in participants (local and remote) from different stakeholder groups. 20 min will be set apart for open questions which will be answered by speakers that the moderator may identify.

There will be no difference in priority between previously identified speakers, walk-in users in the audience, remote speakers and social media participants.

The proposal strives to bring in diversity in its different aspects, as it has speakers, co-organizers, and moderators, from different regions, stakeholder groups, age, gender, disability and specialization. Further diversity will be brought in from participants in the audience as well as remote. While the topic is centered around the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, the discussions will not be confined to this region, and will touch upon the applicability of the Middle East's Digital Economy model in other regions. By giving appropriate publicity about the workshop, and by ensuring top-class experts amongst the speakers, the workshop will attract a cross-section of audience at the IGF, and further add to the diversity.

Onsite Moderator: Ali AlMeshal
Online Moderator: Lianna Galstyan
Rapporteur: Satish Babu

Online Participation:
The online moderator for the session will be Lianna Galstyan, who is has participated in several IGFs in the past (including IGF 2016) and is an experienced online moderator. Online participation will be encouraged from all participants including the host-provided remote participation tool (such as Adobe Connect) as well as email and Twitter. The online moderator will ensure that remote participants get the same priority as the speakers and the audience physically present in the session. The advantage of the Round-table format is that (a) it is easily amenable to remote participants to see and participate; and (b) since it is based on conversations, it is easier for remote participants to join the discussions.

Discussion facilitation:
The session will follow the following format:

1. Welcome and Session Objectives: Moderator (5 min)
2. The Digital Economic Future: Domain Expert (10 min)
3. The Middle East Experience in Leveraging the Digital Economy: Domain Expert (10 min)
4. Sharing of experiences (3-5 min x 10 = 40 min)
5. Open Q & A (20 min)
6. Summing up and Conclusions: Moderator (5 min)

Conducted a Workshop in IGF before?: Yes
Link to Report: https://www.intgovforum.org/multilingual/content/igf-2016-day-1-room-7-ws14-asia-and-the-next-billion-challenges-in-digital-inclusion

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678