Hessa Al-Jaber Speech Digitally Open: Innovation and Open Access Forum October 23, 2010
Thank you and welcome to Digitally Open. Thank you to all of our esteemed speakers for coming today and a special thank you to our partner in this event, Creative Commons. They have been truly invaluable in helping develop this amazing program. I look forward to continuing our conversation tomorrow as we begin the important work of porting Creative Commons licenses to Qatar. These licenses will promote the creation of original digital content in the Arab world while protecting the rights of the content creators. I see this as an important step in our efforts to create a truly digitally open society in Qatar. That openness is key for Qatar’s development a thriving knowledge economy. Openness means collaboration; it means transparency; it means sharing; it means innovation. To this end, I believe digital openness across all sectors is essential to being a global leader of the future. Of course, this event is a big step. However, it is just a first step. At ictQATAR we are committed to going beyond this event and action to develop an open ecosystem in which digital content and innovation thrive. Tomorrow’s meeting with stakeholders from across the country will kick off the process of bringing Creative Commons content rights licenses to Qatar. Representative from the Intellectual Property Center, the Ministry of Business and Trade, the Qatar Museum Authority, Qatar Foundation, QSTP, numerous law firms and others will be in attendance. Truly a diverse group. Bringing these flexible licenses to Qatar will help us achieve our goal of increasing the amount of Arabic digital content. People will have confidence that the work they create and share will be credited and shared in an appropriate manner. Another initiative is our work with the Internet Society to start a chapter here in Qatar. The Internet Society is committed to shaping Internet standards and policies that promote openness and collaboration, benefiting everyone. Bringing a chapter to Qatar sends a clear message that we support a free and open Internet. Additionally, ictQATAR is committed to the open source software movement. We are in the process of moving our website to an open source solution and have mandated that all future ictQATAR web projects utilize open source solutions.

We are also working on policies that will encourage greater adoption of interoperable Open Source solutions across government. Government is one of the biggest consumers of IT and too often during the procurement process, open source options are not even considered. We would like to make it a requirement for Open Source solutions to be considered for every government IT project in this country; and decisions must be technology-neutral and vendorneutral. Requiring the inclusion of open source options has tremendous potential to not only save money, but also to help the government avoid “lock-in,” while being better able to upgrade and advance rapidly. And it will also force both traditional and new players to innovate. The creation of digital content and the move toward open source solutions come together in ictQATAR’s work with innovative local entrepreneurs and companies to develop more locally produced digital content, with a special focus on Arabic content. With the Arab world so grossly underrepresented on the Internet, we need to find a way to spur original content creation in this part of the world, and open standards are certainly a way to do this. Our goal is to work with approximately 30 companies through our incubation center by 2015. Each will be required to work using open standards and principles as they grow their business. I believe this will provide a unique competitive advantage and allow the content being created to be shared more widely and hopefully, to grow virally. Already we are seeing tangible results from local companies that take advantage of open practices. Al Jazeera is the most prominent example with its bold decision to make much of its content available under Creative Commons’ licenses. Sharing footage from events such as the conflict in Gaza has provided a different perspective on world events. As a result, the Al Jazeera brand has expanded and strengthened globally. Al Jazeera serves as a tremendous model. ictQATAR is also in the process of developing a national digitization plan to preserve Qatar’s national heritage and share it with the world. There is a wealth of information on Qatar’s rich history in print, photo and film format that should be digitized. There are also an abundance of valuable documents in Arabic that need to be brought to wider audiences. Digitizing these materials will allow them to reach a whole new generation. And of course these materials should be made open to the public without restrictions. And as we share our content openly, we will also be promoting the development of open Internet standards, especially in terms of accessibility. Digital content is only valuable if people can access it, and too often people with disabilities are left behind. Enabling them to use the Internet and participate in the open ecosystem means more people to create and innovate.

To this end, ictQATAR is exploring working with the World Wide Web Consortium to develop comprehensive accessibility standards in Arabic. This effort would be lead by Mada, Qatar’s Assistive Technology Center, which is also working to energize the open source community around developing and Arabizing software and technologies that can benefit people with disabilities. I encourage other government agencies, the private sector, and non-profit organizations to find ways to help grow this ecosystem. In the education field, for example, it would be hugely valuable to openly share educational resources, as recommended by UNESCO. In the medical community, researchers may be able to find cures for diseases if they work remotely with peers around world as opposed to rushing individually toward a patent. In many cases, being open can even be considered a moral obligation. I would also encourage each of you, personally, to make a commitment to openness. When I look out into the audience, I am excited about the potential this country has to innovate. I see a lot of young faces in this room, which doesn’t come as a surprise because 65% of the region’s population is under the age of 25. These are the people that will benefit the most from an open digital world. Right now ictQATAR is working on a study that explores how technology is impacting Qatari youth. And while we are still in the early stages of conducting that exciting research, it is no surprise that technology has a profound effect on how our youth communicate and interact. The younger generation is full of ideas, full of energy, full of passion. Understanding and embracing openness will create an environment in which our young people can flourish and not feel stifled by outdated practices and models. And in creating an environment that truly supports global collaboration and innovation, we will be creating a unique competitive advantage over markets that don’t promote a digitally open society. And this will help attract big thinkers and bold new companies. I am confident that our efforts will help us create a truly open digital ecosystem in Qatar and encourage other countries in the region to follow our lead. The Arab world has a strong and important voice that must be heard. Embracing a digitally open world will put us at the forefront of innovation and help propel us towards being a knowledge based economy. I thank you all for coming and hope that today’s event will inspire you to become part of that digitally open society. It depends on us all. Thank you.

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