The fourth annual Knowledge Summit, organised by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation (MBRF), on its second day kicked off with a panel discussing the inaugural Global Knowledge Index, launched the previous day.
The Knowledge Summit 2017 was held under the theme ‘Knowledge and the Fourth Industrial Revolution’.
The panel brought together the leading figures on the Index, namely: MBRF’s CEO Jamal bin Huwaireb; Dr Hany Torky, Chief Technical Advisor of the Arab Knowledge Project; and Michael O’Neill, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations.
“What can’t be measured cannot be improved,” noted Huwaireb, “we began our efforts to quantify and measure knowledge with reports, which grew into indices covering all Arab countries and now we’ve expanded the Index to become international, covering 131 countries.”
“The Index is an instrument to help decision-makers in management and administration, as well as in preparing for the future,” he asserted. “If we’re well prepared, we can make sure our future is bright. If not, we risk losing time and resources. The Arab world is not lacking in universities, we have highly acclaimed universities in all Arab countries. What we need is research centres – we must invest in science and research to improve knowledge. Knowledge is essential to plan for the future. The UAE has made great strides in that regard: at the country’s inception in 1971, illiteracy was very common among Emiratis; now, it is almost non-existent.”
Collaboration with UNIDO
The Global Knowledge Index was developed in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and seeks to support knowledge projects, as well as economic and community development strategies around the world, while serving as a roadmap for the sustainable development of societies.
UN Assistant Secretary General Michael O’Neill said: “It is impossible to overstate the importance of data gathering. It is the first step for setting effective policies and this is what makes this Index such an important initiative that offers pertinent data spanning multiple sectors. At the end of the day, what can’t be measured can’t be managed.”
“The United Nations can play an important role in helping national governments efficiently utilise data,” O’Neill continued, “we can connect developing countries with governments such as the UAE’s and others who have succeeded in that regard. The UAE demonstrates the effects of visionary leadership: the country now ranks 25th on the Knowledge Index and second in the economy sector – a commendable progress.”
The final index includes 131 countries from all regions of the world and comprises a total of 133 distinct variables, from different sources, and with strict data availability inclusion rules. Plans are underway to increase data availability and include more countries in the future.
Dr Torky, for his part, remarked: “There isn’t a knowledge gap between Arab countries and the rest of the world, rather there is a data gap, which has limited the ability to measure knowledge in the region. The reason behind this gap in some of the countries in the region stems from disproportionate investment in select sectors with insufficient funds going to others. To prepare the Index, we look at specific sectors that affect knowledge, regardless of which country it is. The parameters we examine include higher education; pre-university education; technical/vocational training and continued education; information and communication technology; scientific research and innovation; economics; and enabling environments.”
Dr Torky went on to explain: “If countries only think about providing the basics for their citizens, they will not be able to sustain themselves. If governments invest in knowledge, they empower their citizens to provide for themselves. This is where this index can be of great assistance: it allows governments to determine the sectors they really need to focus on.”
The Knowledge Summit’s sessions discuss the concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the history of the previous industrial revolutions, as well as their impact on decision-making processes. Moreover, experts look into the future of these developments, their effects on knowledge and other aspects of human life, and their impact on media, technology, education, healthcare and the economy.