First Knowledge Conference calls for creation of knowledge incubators in Arab region

DUBAI: Experts at the First Knowledge Conference in Dubai have called for the creation of knowledge incubators and development of human capital to achieve localisation of knowledge in the Arab region.

Organised by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) with the theme ‘Empowering Future Generations’, the conference, which is the first of its kind in the region, is being held under the patronage of Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The three-day event, which began on Sunday, 7 December, is currently taking place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Dubai.

Addressing a panel discussion on the topic, ‘Producing and localising knowledge’, which explored how local knowledge pool can be created in the Arab region, Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director-General of Dubai Municipality, said, “In spite of technological innovations and availability of various knowledge tools today, it is still important to build minds, and to build minds we need new incubators. There should be no let up in the focus on human capital, for without the human element we cannot benefit from the tools.” Showcasing the UAE as a success story in the area of producing and localising knowledge, the participants in the session said the country has already taken a futuristic outlook in the field of knowledge by embracing innovation and has been pressing on with the efforts to create a knowledge economy.

Mohamed Albaili, Deputy VC for Academic Affairs at UAE University, said the region has knowledge but lacks the required skill to use the knowledge effectively. Pointing out that the region has as many as 3000 universities, Albaili said there is a deficiency of the right knowledge products.

“Universities are busy creating graduates and therefore the role of universities in the region is very limited. The Arab world therefore needs to establish a new culture in education in which students are prepared to be knowledge creators,” Albaili added.

Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor of Hamdan bin Mohammed Smart University, said the emergence of smart learning has brought about a comprehensive change in the knowledge field. Stating that storage and distribution of knowledge has transformed in the current world scenario, Al Awar urged the region to embrace smart learning techniques efficiently to achieve localisation of knowledge and build a knowledge community.

Talal Abu Ghazaleh, Chairman and Founder of Abu Ghazaleh Organisation, stressed on the need to differentiate between knowledge and information, and said in the new digital age the youth in the region are capable of empowering themselves.

“The coming decade will be an era of innovation for the region. Universities and schools will be a thing of the past and we are entering an age in which teachers will merely be mentors,” Ghazaleh said.

Sami Mahroum, Executive Director, INSEAD Innovation and Policy Initiative, said the region has been used to acquiring available knowledge and customising it to local requirements. Stating that 80 per cent of research and development (R and D) in countries such as Japan is in the private sector, Mahroum said private sector in the region needs to invest in R&D to achieve localisation of knowledge.

Looking ahead, Mahroum said the knowledge automation will drastically change the human factor in knowledge in the coming years. Pointing out that knowledge automation will threaten as many as 45 million jobs in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries alone, Mahroum called for urgent efforts to create a new approach to knowledge creation suiting the requirements of the coming age.