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A seminar titled ‘Smart Cities in the Arab World and Digital Transformation’ was hosted by the Basil Fuleihan Institute of Finance in Beirut

The seminar ‘Smart Cities in the Arab World and Digital Transformation’ shed light on the numerous significant advancements currently witnessed by the Arab World. All of these developments are critical to the advancement of social and economic growth as well as have brought a significant change in the daily lives of citizens.

Hosted by the ‘Basil Fuleihan Institute of Finance’ in Beirut, the seminar witnessed the participation of various diplomats, Members of Parliament and academics. It commenced with an opening speech, which was delivered by Dr. Lamia Moubayed Bissat, President of the Basil Fuleihan Institute of Finance (IoF), followed by a speech by Ghassan Zeenny, Financial and Administrative Director at IoF. During the seminar, Dr. Nidal Abou Zaki, Managing Director of Orient Planet Group, underlined the significance of smart technologies and digital transformation in guaranteeing the prosperity of society, raising the standard of living, maximising service efficacy, and fostering sustainability in Arab cities.

Dr Abou Zaki said: “By serving as a testament to progressiveness and innovation, smart cities seek to integrate information and communication technologies (ICT) in order to enhance various facets of citizens’ lives. Additionally, it also seeks to provide high-quality services to citizens by successfully incorporating automation technologies in government tasks. It assists in guaranteeing continuous service accessibility, cutting down on time and effort, and improving service efficiency. Furthermore, citizens are the primary focus of smart city development, with flexibility and ease of use being given top priority. By fostering innovation and technical progress as well as offering more safe and sustainable living environments, this unique approach significantly improves people’s quality of life. The ultimate objectives of the smart cities are to improve the overall social well-being and achieve sustainable development.”

In addition, Dr Abou Zaki highlighted the pivotal role of smart cities in promoting economic growth. He stated that it sets forth excellent career opportunities across a number of fields, including software development, infrastructure maintenance, and data management and analysis. He added: “Nonetheless, the employment prospects offered by smart cities will require a workforce of professionals, who are equipped with the requisite skills and knowledge. This emphasises how important it is to support skill development in order to ensure that the workforce can adapt to the evolving demands of the market.”

During the seminar, he also emphasised how digital transformation has advanced and enabled the fields of education and remote work. It offers integrated digital learning environments that help students engage in virtual classrooms and access learning resources from the comfort of their own homes or any other location, and at any time they prefer. As a result, smart cities promote lifelong learning and increase educational possibilities for everybody. In a similar vein, the technologies adopted by smart cities offer a streamlined and effective way for remote working, bringing forth innovative avenues for new job opportunities for those residing in remote places.

Additionally, he stated that planning the future of smart cities in the Arab world represents a significant step forward in the dedicated efforts to accomplish the region’s objectives for advancement in knowledge, economy, society and environment. He indicated that a number of Arab countries are already setting the standard through their remarkable projects. This includes Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, the New Administrative Capital in Egypt, and Rabat in Morocco. These cities serve as a beacon of innovation and excellence in the Arab world for the development of smart cities.

Furthermore, Dr. Abou Zaki drew attention to the examples in developing countries, with a particular focus on India’s path toward digital transformation. He highlighted the increased adoption of digital technologies and data in India, as well as the presence of over 250 technical centres in the country, which attest to its rapid progress and development. He further went on to emphasise how this change has a very favourable and profound influence on India’s society and economy.

Furthermore, he praised Singapore’s journey as a pioneer in digital transformation among developing nations. He explained that this success can be credited to a number of crucial factors, including creating a robust digital infrastructure, placing a high priority on the skill development of the workforce, and cultivating an atmosphere conducive to the growth of global tech start-ups, which attract significant international investments. Dr. Abou Zaki emphasised that Singapore’s ascent as a leading regional and global hub for technology and innovation can be attributed in large part to its strategic planning and smart investments, which saw investments in its startups reaching USD 16 billion by 2022.

Dr. Abou Zaki further underlined the significance of digital transformation in improving citizens’ quality of life and propelling the economy forward in Lebanon. He also emphasised the necessity of an open government that offers e-services to meet the needs and ambitions of its populace. Furthermore, he also highlighted the challenges that the nation has faced in this field, namely the lack of digital infrastructure. He pointed out the necessity for increased investments for building the infrastructure required to support the digital transformation.

Additional point he emphasised during the seminar was the necessity to forge strategic partnerships between the public and private sectors to drive successful digital transformation. Furthermore, he stated the significance of developing a skilled and qualified workforce. To achieve the digital transformation, Dr. Abou Zaki urged to create a clear and comprehensive strategy that prioritised innovation, sustainability, and the integration of infrastructure and technology.

Dr. Abou Zaki’s closing remarks shed light on the importance of robust collaboration between governments, private entities, and civil society as a strategic imperative to accomplishing the vision of smart cities. He stated: “Comprehensive and integrated strategies are what is required for propelling digital transformation and developing advanced technological infrastructure in our cities. The future holds great opportunities, and I am confident that with combined efforts, technological investments, and innovative thinking, we will be on the right track to achieve this vision.”

In his remarks, Ghassan Zeenny said: “The digital transformation plays an instrumental role in driving sustainable growth. Furthermore, maximising resource efficiency by utilising emerging technologies and advanced data analysis contributes to delivering top-notch services that foster economic growth, environmental sustainability, and overall quality of life.”

Furthermore, Al Zenny emphasises that the Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan has been constantly working to organise training sessions, workshops, and seminars in order to empower individuals from both public and private sectors, as well as the general public, with key insights on the field of digital transformation. These initiatives contribute to growth and hasten the transition towards new business models that relies heavily on digital technologies, thereby elevating the quality of services offered to citizens.

Dr. Abou Zaki recently published his new book titled ‘Smart Cities in the Arab World and Their Economic and Social Impacts’, which dives deep into how urban hubs are adapting to the rapid advancements in digital technology and AI. The book explores the future of smart cities in the Arab world, showcasing significant examples, technologies and methods employed in urban systems and infrastructure. Furthermore, it also examines various ambitious Arab initiatives that are targeted at advancing the smart city concept, in keeping with the global technological trends in the coming years.


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Quelle/Source: Zawya, 05.06.2024

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