MENA ICT Forum 2022

HOP ON TO 2022 TOPICS

The MENA ICT Forum 2022 presents a rich selection of current and trending topics such as the impact of Artificial Intelligence on vital sectors (i.e. education, medical care, banking, and business), understanding how vast volumes of data stored by governments and big organizations are infused with machine learning and analytical tools to innovate and create, and how we can protect our new world from cyber-attacks amongst others.

Foremost all, the forum aims to address how technology can help in solving pressing challenges that most nations face in today’s times, such as the drastic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, an alarming rate of global job resignations, and how the way we go about our daily lives and business has changed permanently.

A BRAVE NEW WORLD WITH NEXTGEN CYBER SECURITY

Cyber security attacks are on the rise. So what are the new trends that we are expecting to witness in the coming few years? Who are the new victims? What are the new attacker's demographics? How will these attacks change the way we live our lives and how to be ahead of the trend?

With the advancement of AI, increasing reliance on FinTech, and people literally living online on social media channels, cyber security is the underlying backbone for continuous evolvement. It takes only one major accident every now and then to create a rippling panic en-mass.

Yet, the same technology that could be perceived as a major threat – AI – is one of our strongest defenses and tactics toward cyber security. Along with modern public infrastructures, a reliable (but not overprotective) legislative framework, and public awareness, these elements can lay the foundation and secure cyberspace for technological advancement to flourish and continue evolving. Conversations regarding security must be grounded in ethics, transparency, and traceability. The conversation should move from ‘Are we compliant?’ toward ‘Are we doing the right thing?’

When it comes to cyber security, the MENA region truly is part of the globe and cannot be isolated in any form or manner. Hence, a number of critical questions arise to that end; how secure are we in cyberspace while physically located in the region? Do our governments provide their citizens with protective, yet supportive environments? Are enterprises and citizens confident enough to welcome modern technologies into their lives?

​THE AGE OF CREATIVE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: LIVING IN THE NEXT ERA STARTING TODAY

How will AI help solve the world’s most pressing issues? The digital revolution has already changed how people live, work, and communicate, but how will AI help billions of people live happier, healthier, and more productive lives ?How can we use AI in preventing the meddling in elections and prevent data breaches and cyberattacks? How will automations and AI impact the jobs marketplace, our identity, and our privacy?

In addition to an extensive plenary session to discuss macro issues and several break-out sessions to dive deeper into how AI affects societies, industries, and our lives at large, join us in a lively debate featuring prominent supporters and opponents of AI; you never know, either may sway your opinion to the opposite side. 

Artificial Intelligence has been – and continues to make exponential progress which we are experiencing increasingly in our daily lives. Whether applications that support our business decision-making processes (or even make decisions on our behalf?) to sophisticated home appliances, AI has become an integral part of life.

“With great power comes great responsibility” is a phrase that is definitely highly relevant to AI. How do we ethically enhance, deploy, and use AI. How do we secure the AI models themselves and the data used to support them? Will AI replace humans in their jobs, or will it create new opportunities? What will the workplace look like in a few years? How will AI benefit the quality of education, medicare, governments, business, transport? How will the convergence of AI with IoT impact our lives?

Most importantly, how are enterprises, governments, and educational institutions contributing to the enhancement and deployment of AI in the MENA region? What – and where are our opportunities in this arena, and how can we capitalize on those? Which companies have made notable progress and developed regional intellectual properties in AI?

ACHIEVING GREAT MILESTONES: CONVERGENCE OF BLOCKCHAIN WITH OTHER TECHNOLOGIES

Blockchain has the potential of not only opening the MENA region to vast new opportunities, be those in trade and commerce or otherwise; equally important, and given the fact that each region has its own legal, social, and other requirements, blockchain offers MENA-based companies with tremendous opportunities to develop products and services they can offer globally to businesses and governments to connect with the region.

Yet, these companies will not be able to succeed in growing their global footprint in the absence of clear, relevant, and applicable local flexible legislative environments and supportive infrastructures that enable them to build offerings that appeal to today's business and private user.

There’s a solid reason why JP Morgan employs 50,000 technologists, and why Bank of America is the world’s largest blockchain patent holder; banks are getting back into the innovation game to attract and retain customers. Especially millennials!

Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce. And their banking needs are significantly different than those of their predecessors. They have different aspirations and goals, and they need different financial services that help them in reaching those. 

The youth is by far the largest population in the Arab world. With this in mind, what is the MENA region’s position in terms of localized technologies, supportive laws, and a flexible infrastructure to foster a new wave of banks and financial institutions that appeal to the typical Arab youth now and in the near future?

Which MENA companies made breakthrough advancements by designing and building innovative banking and financial solutions that are specific and unique for the region? How can we help these companies to grow globally and develop localized solutions of their systems for other parts of the world? And, what will it take to see the JP Morgans and Banks of America of the world using solutions that were made by MENA enterprises?

FINTECH, SHAPING THE “NOW” AND “FUTURE” OF FINANCE

Remember the old days when you would waste half a morning only to cash a check or perform a routine banking transaction? All those banking charges that would accumulate over the months into considerable expenses you could definitely do without?

FinTech is posed to end to all of this; with most transactions now being done online via phones and easy-to-use apps, standing in line is becoming extinct. And since you - the consumer - are doing all the work, why pay banking fees, right? Millennials are definitely not okay with this. Hence the fast rise of Neobanks; banks with only online presence and no need for physical branches. It's the way of the future. It's happening now, and it's spreading fast!

And it's all just starting as we haven't even began to tap into the endless opportunities that are available through FinTech technologies. Now the question we need to answer - and swiftly at that - where do regional ICT companies come into play in the context of providing the world with safe and reliable applications, and most importantly, innovative and exciting banking solutions that appeal to the MENA consumer?

Whether we realize it or not, FinTech is becoming more and more of an integral part of our daily lives. And the number and variety of players are increasing and expanding at an equal pace.

Neobanks are becoming the norm for millennials. Waiting in line to cash a paycheck? Who gets paid by check anymore nowadays? Banking transactions? What are those, and why? Keeping in mind that today’s millennia are tomorrow’s drivers of change and progress, their banking and financial management norms and needs cannot but be accommodated.

Players such as telcos understand this very well and are moving into position. By integrating creative and easily accessible payment services through their brick-and-mortar foundation, they are transforming into providers of financial services that appeal to millennia - and all others as well!

With cryptocurrency paving the way into the new era of banking, the debatable issue of regulation emerges as a vital issue; to what extent does the new e-world of finance need to be regulated - if at all? What are the pros and cons? Where will we be in two, five, and even in ten years? Keeping in mind that we will sooner than later probably take out bank loans to purchase that gorgeous beach-front property in a Metaverse coming near you, surely some degree of protection and regulation will be required? Or will it? Let’s talk about this …

​THE METAVERSE; IS IT TRULY A REALITY, AND WHEN?

With the dawn of the Metaverse, commerce, students, and societies will enjoy global access at a whole new level, and in its truest sense. Students for example will no longer "read" about distant places and histories, but experience them (almost) physically and in person.

And what's so special about the Metaverse, is that all we will soon be doing online will be with our friends, families, and peers. So join us for a morning coffee in Paris, then for a bit of skiing in Dubai, an afternoon stroll through Vienna's zoo, and an early dinner in Sidney. And bring your friends along ...

Taking augmented and virtual realities beyond the realm of gaming, and into creating that multi-experience of how people interact with and perceive the digital world, AR and VR are one of today’s most significant advancements in business, education and learning, consumer entertainment, travel and tourism, social collaboration, medical care and well-being, and virtually every aspect in life.

Now let’s take this a few notches into the future and look at the Metaverse that’s coming our way; how will our lives look like in this 3D next version of the internet in which we socialize, work, and “virtually” interact with others and exist in our societies and communities?

Capitalizing on the region’s young population and impressive count of universities, how can the MENA region support startups and entrepreneurs in leaving their global mark by designing and building innovative applications that become the foundations for world-renowned multi-billion corporations? What patents have been developed, and what has been done with those?

Moreover, given the volatility of some of the region’s parts, how can we democratize, and build a part in the Metaverse that is regional and avails access to all of the above to citizens who live in less favorable conditions and remote areas? How can a classroom full of students in a school that’s fifty miles off the main road between Amman to Aqaba have its students visit remote cities, experience history, experiment in chemistry, and fundamentally enjoy the same learning privileges as their fellow students in the capital with whom they are now engaging and interacting in 3D and real-time mode?

​​WELCOME TO THE NEW DATA UNIVERSE

Unlocking the power of data enables us to finally address the world's biggest challenges including climate change, inequality, global health, and economic resilience. It will change the way we set our strategies and create our future visions, and it will help unite the world by allowing data flows and data sharing across countries. By applying predictive and perspective analytics, the world will be able to handle its major health and economic crises more efficiently and effectively than ever before.

Data is available today in abundance, primarily because we’ve become really good at collecting every piece of information that can be digitized. The challenge with “big data” is that it’s grown so big it could stop making sense; or at least in the absence of prescriptive analytics.

This, in turn, requires very specific skill-sets, access to immense computing power, and of course reliable cyber security to protect all this accumulated wealth. Providing all of this, and empowering our schools and universities with the labs and equipment they need to build adequate labs and R&D centers with their students, the MENA region is presented with an opportunity to nurture a wealth in entrepreneurs and startups that can impact our countries economically, intellectually, and socially.

​Cognitive Cities and INTELLIGENT SOCIETIES - POWERED BY IOT

The future is here! If you were born and grew up anytime before this millennium, then you will remember the old SciFi movies which - then - tried to portray the future just as it has become today. Cars driving on their own, robots humming and being busy in the background, and computers/ machines becoming smarter and smarter.

This is the norm today. With more and more cities becoming "cognitive" and "smart", our lives are increasingly more comfortable and efficient. Yet, some critical questions surface that need to be debated; from a societal aspect, will this all expand the digital divide for some nations and regions who are not in a position to keep pace? In conjunction with AI, how will this affect the workplace and employment rates?

At a more pragmatic level, what should "cognitive cities" really look like today, and into what can we expect them to evolve? Self driving buses are nice and all, but they are becoming the norm. What else is there? What else can governments and municipalities plan and offer to improve the quality of our lives more and more? Which MENA nations have made significant progress?

The Internet of Things is evolving at a pace that seems to near the speed of light. Drones and self-driving cars have become the norm, and smart homes are becoming increasingly popular and common. As the use and existence of autonomous things grows, we expect a shift from stand-alone intelligent things towards collaborative intelligent things, with multiple devices working collectively and independently of people or human input.

While the applications and implications of IoT are endless, one needs to take a deep look at the building blocks that would, for example, make cognitive and smart cities become mainstream. Examples of those are the convergence of big data, edge computing and data processing, cyber security, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and consumer adoption to name a few.

All of these elements (and lots more) require close cooperation and collaboration between academia, business, government, and citizens who need to continuously join forces and work together to explore, innovate, and build.

5G; It's coming, and it's coming soon. What will MENA look like with extreme bandwidth?

The opportunities will be endless. With extreme bandwidth and unprecedented speeds, a new era of the internet is dawning.

Build on the discussions of our forum topics, this final session will elaborate on how 5G connectivity will impact and enhance cyber security, increase the usage of FinTech, enhance AI even further, spread blockchain applications, and  how it will make the Metaverse possible and accessible to all.

Imagine the very near future when everything and everybody is and are super-connected. Extreme speeds and near-none latency. The opportunities are vast and endless.

How will 5G enhance education in remote regions so all students have full and unlimited access to the internet? What are the possibilities for healthcare practitioners to help patients even if they reside across the globe? What are the new opportunities for business (and business models) we will soon witness take shape and form?

Join us in this final session to connect the dots and learn more about how 5G will impact the world and its citizens. All of them!