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Regional Networking and Partnership for Information Society Development

Crowne Plaza Hotel, Beirut

1) Background

Partnerships play an important role in the successful implementation of many projects, including those that contribute towards the development of knowledge-based economies.  To stress that fact, the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society underlined the importance of establishing multi-stakeholder partnerships, particularly for infrastructure projects, educational programmes, ICT training, as well as research and development.  Additionally, the Regional Plan of Action (RPoA) for building the information society highlighted the importance of partnerships in building the information society.  The RPoA was formulated within the context of the preparatory activities of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
ESCWA preparations for the two phases of WSIS, the Geneva 2003 and Tunis 2005 phases, included two major regional preparatory conferences, held in Beirut and Damascus in February 2003 and November 2004, as well as a number of meetings and workshops.  More specifically, the Second Regional Preparatory Conference for WSIS (Damascus, 2004) paid special attention to the role that partnerships play in building the Arab information society, and proposed for the convening of an expert group meeting aimed at establishing regional networks and partnerships that would foster the development of the information society.  The proposed meeting falls within the scope of work of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division of ESCWA that calls for activating partnerships for implementing ICT projects to achieve socio-economic development, with emphasis on the Millennium Development Goals.
2)  Objectives
The main objective of the meeting is to create networks, within the ESCWA region and in the rest of the Arab countries, of institutions and organizations sharing similar or complementary goals, and to monitor the development of partnerships between the various stakeholders, including the public sector, private enterprises, academia and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  Networks and partnerships would in turn incubate projects that would be of direct benefit to the development of the region and that would help achieve the main goal of WSIS, which is the creation of a people-centered, development-oriented and inclusive information society.
3)  Topics
The main topics to be discussed or activities to be carried out during the meeting include the following:
(a) Reviewing, from a regional perspective, the outcome of both phases of the WSIS;
(b) Determining the nature and extent of progress that was achieved in the ESCWA region since the second WSIS phase with regard to the development of the information society;
(c) Case studies of networks within and outside the ESCWA region, to share knowledge and experience and to plan or initiate partnerships that would lead to projects that could be implemented at both the national and regional levels;
(d) Reviewing the ESCWA RPoA for building the information society;
(e) Tools to support networks and partnerships;
(f) Partnerships needed and progress towards the implementation of the RPoA.
The meeting includes round tables that will discuss modalities for implementing projects adopted in the RPoA, to identify sources of financing, and to foster the formation of partnerships.  A background paper prepared by ESCWA, on ICT financing, venture capital and entrepreneurship in the region, will be presented to participants for discussion.
4)  Outcomes
The main outcome of the meeting will be the formation of viable partnerships and tangible projects that will lead to the development of the information society.  To achieve its main goals, the meeting will strive to:
(a) Raise awareness on the importance and benefits of partnerships in ICT and in community development projects;
(b) Promote collaboration and networking between public and private institutions as well as private firms, universities and NGOs;
(c) Identify modalities of financing projects that are aimed at reducing the digital divide and integrating ESCWA member countries and the rest of the Arab World in the Information Society.
5)  Organization
The meeting is organized by the ICT Division of ESCWA, and will be held, in principle, during 5-6 September 2007 in Beirut, Lebanon.  The meeting venue will be announced later.
6)  Participants and registration
Participants in the meeting will include representatives and decision-makers from ESCWA member countries, as the main target audience.  ESCWA will also invite participants from other international organizations, experts from academia and the private sector, and NGOs and most importantly, existing ICT incubator facilities in the region.  The most important factor in the selection of the meeting's participants will be the capacity of a participant to form viable partnerships within the general context and the stated goals of the meeting.