Internet Policy Analysis for the MENA Region

Majdoubi Mohamed showing the most downloaded mobile applications in the MENA

The second day of AIGF 2015 kicked off with three different simultaneous workshops. Among these was Workshop 8 of the forum, “The Internet Policy Analyst: A Grassroot Policy Analysis Initiative”, which was introduced by Policy Analyst, Hamza Ben Mehrez.
Houda Ben Kassem, Moroccan and Internet Policy Analyst, began the first panel discussion by describing the Internet as the foundation of the global economy and cybersecurity as a critical issue in internet governance. The latter will most probably lead to a lack of sustainable economic growth and of both resilience and trust in the global digital ecosystem. Ben Kassem continued that the digital world provides a suitable platform for the growth of ICTs (information and communication technologies) and for an emerging digital economy in which production, distribution, and consumption will be a critical enabler of sustainable development.
But, what’s the problem? Exchanges through ICT increasingly impact economic growth. This justifies the need to identity threats and understand and measure the value of information in order to create a climate of trust and confidence. Ben Kassem listed the goals of this digital trust, namely certainty in electronic exchanges, information security, data quality, and sustainable economic growth. Therefore, building trust in online services is essential to the Internet’s continued growth. For instance, businesses and development stakeholders need data security and network reliability, particularly when delivering important services such as financial transfers. Ben Kassem then explained how KSA initiatives such as the national strategy of “Digital Morocco 2013” ensure the security and integrity of critical Information System infrastructures, electronic data interchange, and the protection of privacy by building confidence in digital economy. She finally added the importance of the relationship between the Internet and SD.
The second panel discussion was conducted by Ines Hfaieth, Tunisian English teacher and Internet Policy Analyst, who went over the “ICT Implementation in Tunisian Education and Pathways to sustainable Digital Economy”. Some teachers, including herself, have opted for ICT implementation in their teaching practices in order to compensate for the lacunae in official curricula and make youth more active in the learning process. After discussing the percentages of internet users (46.16%) and literates (78%) in Tunisia, she asserted that ICTs restore curiosity, motivation, and participation to students and promote an environment of global citizenship.
Next, Internet Policy Analyst, Majdoubi Mohamed, went over the most downloaded mobile applications and their relationship with user behavior in the MENA. The Arab world lacks data about  internet user behavior, which makes it difficult to keep up with the widespread of smart devices. The goal of behavioral evaluations would be to find a reliable reference for Arab user behavior and interaction with mobile apps for instance, in order to meet the needs of Arab users. Mohamed conducted such a study, based on the ARABNET Report results, entitled: “Top App Trends Dominating MENA in 2015”. He found that the most downloaded apps in the Arab World are concerned with gaming, music and social media, while, the least downloaded are related to business and transportation. He hence pointed out that Arabs don’t take advantage of technology in their professional lives, compared to the Occident.
Marwa Gobran, Translator and IPA Author, the tackled the theme of Internet Openness. She stated that Tunisian Internet control has been gradually tightening since the last terrorist strikes. The Internet in Tunisia is used primarily as an entertainment tool. However, with the growing number of Internet users and foreign and local investors, the Internet is being more and more utilized as a means of production. In other words, the internet is no longer being  used exclusively for communication or information dissemination, but also for electronic business and commerce. Internet Openness directly contributes to the Internet economy and hence affects governmental restrictions which increase the risks and costs of doing businesses. Gobran acknowledged that open Internet possesses four core attributes: freedom, interoperability and equity, transparency, and security and privacy. As for overcoming the impact of censorship and surveillance on the Internet, online censorship policies should be annulled and liability costs limited, in order to promote the global interoperability and equity of the Internet, ensure universal and affordable access to it, and enhance Internet economy measurements.
Thus the session mainly served to raise awareness about Internet policy and digital rights through online tools and campaigns, as well as to make some recommendations about how to move forward with its development into a more sustainable model for the MENA region.
Report: Nancy El Hachem – Victoire Bejjani
Edited by: Sarah Yakzan


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