The issue of affordable connectivity gained prominence last week when photographer John Stanmeyer won World Press Photo of the Year for his eloquent picture of people standing on a beach at night in Djibouti, trying to access cheaper wireless service from neighboring Somalia. In a new study “Broadband Networks in the Middle East and North Africa: Accelerating High –Speed Internet Access” (launched February 6 in Abu Dhabi) my colleagues Carlo Maria Rossotto, Michel Rogy and I looked at prices and other market structures in places like Djibouti when we set out to understand what it will take to expand broadband internet in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) from its current low base.
The Palestinian economy is stalling. Growth dropped sharply in 2013, unemployment is on the rise, and tax revenues for the Palestinian authority are falling significantly short of what is needed to finance even recurrent expenditures. That’s the bad news that many are well aware of. There is however a potential source of good news that currently lies dormant, but if tapped could both stimulate growth and transform the Palestinian economy.
There had never been a problem with attendance at the Indian High School in Dubai, the largest school in the city with over 10,000 students. But when a new metro station opened right outside the school in 2009 things changed. Students were suddenly tempted to skip school and head to the largest mall in the world, now just a short hop away.
Photo: "January 25th is the best and most honorable day in the history of Egypt"
In the World Bank office in Cairo, there is a beautiful poster that proclaims January 25th as the best day in history. I do not know its origin, but it looks like a drawing made in the heart of Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the January 25th revolution. Three years later, January 25th has a deep meaning in modern Arab history.
I remember once at a conference in Tunisia being asked by a young member of parliament why it made sense to invest in a fiber optic cable to a remote village in Djerba instead of improving more basic services such as electricity grids or water irrigation. The interesting thing is that the two are not mutually exclusive, as most of the times conventional infrastructure projects also have the capacity to deliver fiber at a small incremental cost. But at the time I answered that investing in internet infrastructure should not only be seen as an economic activity but also as an extension of the values of the “Arab Spring”.
This blog post was first published on the ICT blog.
On affordability grounds alone, millions of people in the Middle East and North Africa region could be excluded from today’s information revolution. Meeting this challenge has become a top regional priority. Many countries in the Arab world have identified broadband Internet as a critical input to the broader objective of nation building and the transition to a knowledge-based economy.http://www.worldbank.org/en/region/mena/publication/broadband-networks-in-mna
Boy with Flag. Photo credit: Al Jazeera English
With the successful conclusion of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), Yemen has demonstrated both to the region and the world that there is another way of dealing with conflict and grievances. One clear outcome of the NDC is a political transition based on dialogue rather than confrontation. The challenge now will be to convert this outcome into meaningful results for the people of Yemen.
Statistical agencies in the Middle East and North Africa have now started to open up access to their raw datasets (micro-data). In a break with their old ways, they have begun either to post them on their websites or to share them on a bilateral basis. To support this wind of change, a group of donors active in the statistical domain and avant-garde partner countries joined forces for the first time to launch the Data Improvement and Quality in Access initiative (DIQA – which reads as “precision” in Arabic).