The Arab world must invest in educating youth or risk missing out on the fourth industrial revolution, said Jordan’s Prime Minister Dr Hani Al Mulqi.
Speaking at the Knowledge Summit in Dubai on Tuesday, Dr Al Mulqi said Arab countries were completely uninvolved in the second industrial revolution and “simply received” the technologies of the third one, without making a significant contribution. “We do have the ability to play a big role in this revolution,” he said. “We must also have the will to do so. The UAE has made great strides in that regard and its successes are a source of pride for all the countries of the region.”
On concerns that technology will increase unemployment, Dr Al Mulqi said technology would not replace humans as it goes against the basic law of supply and demand. “Unless these technologies leave room for people to have jobs, these people will not have the money to buy the products these technologies will produce,” he said. “We simply need to adjust our policies and steer them towards the benefit of the people. Young people are the most effective weapon in the arsenal of Arab countries so Arab leaders must set the necessary legislation and instruments to produce knowledge and channel these developments towards the progress and well-being of societies.”
Dr Al Mulqi said youth in Jordan comprise two-thirds of the population, “so it’s very important to have skilfull youth that are specialised in technology and innovation to get the opportunities they want and to have more knowledge disseminated in the region.”
He said the fourth industrial revolution “stands out from its predecessors because it includes all people, all societies and governments, unlike the previous revolutions which were limited to certain specific sectors.” He said “Arab governments must work to develop their operations to suit the changes that this revolution brings, and to channel them to serve Arab societies”.
It was announced at the summit that millions of Arab youth will be provided with quality education by 2030 in an aim to eradicate illiteracy in the region.
The Literacy Challenge in the Arab World project was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
It is designed to help eradicate illiteracy and provide people with the skills and knowledge needed for them to succeed in a world of rapidly changing technology.
“This will empower them socially, culturally and economically, enabling them to become productive members of society,” the foundation said.
“Knowledge is a source of strength,” said Jamal bin Huwaireb, chief executive of the foundation.
He said, “Those who own knowledge own the future. We’re confident the summit will constitute a road map for building and advancing knowledge-based societies in our Arab region.
“Such societies build on innovation and creativity and we synchronised (the summit’s) topics and activities with the UAE’s plans to capitalise on opportunities brought about by the (fourth industrial) revolution for the benefit of society.”
The summit marks a decade of work for the foundation, which is inspired by the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the foundation’s chairman. “They understand that knowledge is a key pillar for building and developing societies,” the foundation said.
The project aims to ensure education provision for 30 million Arab youth under the age of 18 by 2030.
Mr bin Huwaireb said, “Education is our best tool to fight ignorance and extremism. It is the only way (to ensure) the development and well-being of our people and societies.”
The project is still in early stages. “The letter (of intent) covers three points in which the parties intend to co-operate on,” said Hamed Al Hammami, Unesco regional education director. “These include gathering and analysing information, including detailed statistics about the status and extent of illiteracy in the region."
“This project is not only important to tackle access to schooling but also to emphasise quality of education provided to students. Recent reports by Unesco Institute for Statistics shows that in some countries students cannot perform the minimum standards in reading and writing even at low secondary grades, which put a big question regarding the quality of education,” he said.