For the third year in a row, the Annual Digital Arabic Content Forum was jointly organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA), the Arab Regional Office of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-ARO), and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of Egypt under the auspices of the League of Arab States (LAS). The host and co-organizer for this year was the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates (TRA-UAE). The forum was held in Dubai on 19 and 20 October 2015 under the theme "Arab content in the era of major digital transformations".
Mr. Hamad Al Mansoori, Director General of the TRA-UAE, opened the forum with a speech welcoming the delegates and experts and setting the scene for the deliberations while explaining UAE's initiatives for promoting the use of the Arabic language. Opening speeches then followed by Mr. Khaled Foda, Director of the Information and Communication Technology Department at LAS, Mr. Ebrahim Al Haddad, Regional Director of ITU-ARO, and Ms Nibal Idlebi, Chief of the Innovation Section at the Technology for Development Division at UN-ESCWA.
Representing UN-ESCWA, Ms Idlebi highlighted in her opening statement the need for enriching digital Arabic content that is of high quality. She explained the linkages of ESCWA's work on DAC with priorities of the World Summit on the Information Society after ten years (WSIS+10) and the new 2030 Development Agenda. She focused on the role of the forum as a platform for bringing together various stakeholders, facilitating knowledge exchange, and harmonizing efforts.
The forum included four main sessions as follows: (1) status and aspirations of the DAC industry and its management; (2) Arabic content in the age of modern technological developments; (3) research, development and innovation (RDI) as modern pillars for developing DAC; and (4) opportunities and challenges of content for journalism in the traditional and digital environments. The forum also featured the launch of ESCWA's study entitled "Improving the quality of digital Arabic content" and a detailed presentation on the forum's organizational framework which was developed by the co-organizers of the forum and adopted by LAS.
The third session on RDI as modern pillars for developing DAC was organized by ESCWA and it addressed the need for improved synergies between RDI efforts taking place at academic and research intuitions on one hand and market needs and industrial production on the other hand. Experts from universities, research institutions, and the private sector participated in this session and addressed these subjects. The presentations focused on tools for natural Arabic language processing and selected success stories for digitizing Arabic heritage.
The forum concluded with a set of recommendations drawn from the sessions and discussions while reiterating the importance of recommendations resulting from the 2nd Annual Forum held in Cairo in 2014. Some of the most notable recommendations are as follows: coordinate various dispersed efforts and activities taking place in the Arab countries and develop a roadmap for DAC and its industry, develop national strategies for DAC and complement these strategies with plans of action, organize awards and competitions for innovative DAC endeavors, stimulate collaboration in research activities for natural Arabic language processing, raise awareness on the importance of citizen journalism and the need for capacity building programmes in this regard, and strengthen the linkage between academic research activities for developing DAC on one side and market needs and industrial production on the other side.
It is worthy to note that the Arab Telecommunications and Information Council of Ministers, during its eighteenth session in Cairo in 2014, called upon Arab authorities and administrations to increase their participation in upcoming regional DAC fora. It also recommended improving coordination with the Council of Arab Minister of Information, supporting the launch of projects for the development of DAC, and increasing content on the Internet.
A dedicated website was developed by TRA-UAE as the official website of the forum. It is accessible at the following URL: http://arabiccontentforum.org