Geneva, 26 October 2011 -- Egypt is poised to emerge as a major player in the information economy, according to UNCTAD´s first Information Communications and Technology (ICT) Policy Review of the country.
At a special session in Geneva today, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Egypt, H.E. Mohamed Salem, welcomed the UNCTAD recommendations, stating that he sees "2011 as the dawn of a new era for ICT in Egypt, with even more Egyptians joining and embracing the information society as we continue to work to forge a knowledge economy".
The Review evaluates the main achievements and remaining challenges in the areas of ICT infrastructure, skills developments for the ICT sector, ICT use in the educational system, e-content development in Arabic and the promotion of an export-oriented ICT sector.
UNCTAD underlined the importance of building a more inclusive information economy, seizing the full economic potential of new ICTs and making the new national ICT strategy more demand-driven by assessing priority needs of Egyptian consumers and businesses.
To extend the reach and benefits of ICTs, Egypt is urged to enhance infrastructure coverage in underserved areas, promote greater use of ICTs among enterprises that are located outside the technology parks and find ways to reach Arabic-speaking users. Adequate attention should also be paid to the provision of services and content development using mobile platforms, as mobile phones are the most widespread ICT tool.
The contributions of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should be better harnessed in the next strategy. SMEs should play a greater role as producers as well as users of ICT goods and services. They represent an untapped potential for the ICT sector of Egypt to expand, produce local content and boost export revenues.
The Review points to the success of Egypt in establishing itself as a recognized location for outsourcing business processes and services. Egypt has surged from twelfth position in 2007 to fourth in 2011 in A.T. Kearney´s Global Services Location Index, and exports of ICT-enabled services have expanded greatly.
UNCTAD proposes ways to move towards exports of higher value-added services, such as knowledge process outsourcing, information technology outsourcing, business application development, remote infrastructure management and the Arabization of software.
In order to expand the pool of ICT skills, UNCTAD urges Egypt to develop strategies that engage Egyptian experts and scholars from the diaspora and to create incentives to attract other international knowledge workers by removing barriers to migration inflows.
The Government also should leverage new opportunities emerging as a result of technological change. In the area of education, it should explore innovative solutions, such as to reduce the cost of connecting schools using virtualization technologies and cloud-based services.