Broadband is increasingly being recognized as a general purpose technology that can have wide-reaching impact on economies by transforming the way people communicate, innovate, and do business.
At the Connect Arab Summit hosted by the International Telecommunication Union in Doha, March 5-7, 2012, the World Bank announced its regional initiative to improve broadband connectivity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
“Worldwide, broadband is becoming an essential infrastructure for innovation, economic growth, and competitiveness,” said Doyle Gallegos, Practice Leader, Connectivity Infrastructure, World Bank. “This World Bank initiative will help increase MENA countries’ capacity to cope with the tremendous predicted increase in broadband traffic and to compete in the 21st century’s global market.”
The World Bank’s broadband connectivity initiative will study the potential for developing regional
broadband backbone networks in MENA and will use a new approach that leverages already-deployed infrastructure from other utilities, such as electricity, transport or oil and gas. The study is expected to tackle bottlenecks to broadband connectivity in the region and will include case studies on Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia.
The MENA region has been actively increasing broadband connections and, as of today, broadband
connects over a quarter of MENA households. Broadband traffic in the region is predicted to grow
over 100 percent in the next five years, making MENA the fastest growing region in the world with Sub-Saharan Africa.
The broadband connectivity initiative is part of the World Bank’s Arab World Initiative and is supported by the Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) and the Korean Government. Jointly with InfoDev, the World Bank has also produced the Broadband Strategies Handbook a tool providing hands-on knowledge of broadband market, technology, and policy action.
Citizen Participation in ICT Solutions
The Bank is also finding ways to leverage citizen participation in the creation of information and
communication technologies (ICT) solutions to development problems, building on the success of the
Cairo hosted the first-ever WaterHackathon in October 2011 which brought together Egyptian
technologists with water specialists to brainstorm innovative ICT solutions for Egypt’s biggest water
“The Cairo WaterHackathon allowed the World Bank to ‘do things differently’ in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and engage local communities interested in shaping the future of their country,” explained Carlo Rossotto, MENA Regional Coordinator, ICT, World Bank. “Based on this success, the World Bank will increasingly use citizen participation in the creation of ICT solutions as a mainstream tool to tackle development challenges.”
The winning solutions at the Cairo WaterHackathon included:
- A mobile and web-based application for more equitable water distribution, enabling farmers to
remotely control irrigation (Salt & Rocks team)
- An application for irrigation optimization and water saving in agricultural production, using smart mobile devices to enhance collection of field data (Abu Erdaan team)
- A concept addressing water saving in industrial line production, using data visualization and
SMS and web updates on water consumption (Run Time team)
The Cairo WaterHackathon was organized by the World Bank in close collaboration with local partners such as the American University in Cairo, the Desert Development Center, and the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.
For more information on what the Bank is doing for ICT development in MENA, please contact Carlo
Rossotto, Lead ICT Policy Specialist, TWICT.
For more information on what the Bank is doing for broadband development, please contact Doyle
Gallegos, Lead ICT Policy Specialist and Practice Leader for Connect Infrastructure, TWICT.