Opening Remarks: “Data-Driven Innovation in the MENA Region: The Way Forward”

Opening Remarks: Ms. Anita Nirody; UNDP Resident Representative  

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here with you today at this important event on the role of data driven innovation in Egypt and the region in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

I would like to thank the Director of the International Development Research Center, and his team, for our productive collaboration over the years and on the organization of this workshop, one in a series of events taking place in the context of the Data Driven Innovation Week.

This week on data driven innovation is the outcome of a joint collaboration that brings together the United Nations Development Programme, the International Labour Organization and a few of our most valued partners, namely the Embassy of Canada, the International Development Research Center, Cairo University and the Information Technology Institute.

At UNDP and ILO, we are firm believers that as development challenges become increasingly complex, development stakeholders must design and adopt more innovative approaches to tackling them.

Since UNDP launched the ‘Innovations for Development Lab’ in 2014, the team has been intensively exploring and promoting new innovations tools and methodologies to engage and empower youth and support social enterprises to address national development challenges.

Innovation tools such as User Centered Design, Games for Social Change, Foresight, and the highlight of this event: big and open data.

With Cairo University and the Central Laboratory for Agricultural Climate, and with the support of the UNDP Bureau for Europe and Central Asia and the UN Global Pulse, the UN Secretary General’s flagship innovation initiative on big data, the lab showcased the use of data collected from over 30 environmental sensors around the country to support irrigation planning and water management by decision makers. In a country aiming to adapt to the impact of climate change, and make more efficient use of its water resources, data such as that produced by these environmental sensors is of tremendous value.

The three day big data hackathon organized in partnership with ITI is a brilliant demonstration of the power of youth engagement: when empowered and supported, youth exhibit sincere commitment to assisting in tackling national development challenges. In just three days, youth were able to come up with impressive and winning ideas which we will hear more about later.

On February 24th, UNDP will be celebrating its 50th anniversary globally – which will also be an occasion to reinforce and renew our commitment to work closely with the government, the private sector, youth and academia in supporting development in the countries we work with, through continuously innovative ways.

In Egypt, where 62% of the population is under the age of 29, youth present a tremendous potential and we believe they hold the key to their own empowerment. Which is why, at ILO, we constantly seek out innovative ways to addresses unemployment, a key barrier to youth empowerment. In the big data 3-day hackathon which ended yesterday at ITI, we supported the participation of youth from all over the country, with a special focus on Upper Egypt. Through building their capacities in the field of data analytics, we enhanced their employability and their entrepreneurship potential.

The value of data lies in its use as a driver of economic growth, job creation, entrepreneurship and innovation – and contribute to the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals and in improving the lives of people in this country.

We look forward to our continued collaboration with IDRC, Cairo University, ITI and the Embassy of Canada on these and other initiatives and thank them.

This event has been a long time in the making and I would be remiss if I did not thank Dr. Heba Saleh, Chairperson of ITI, Dr. Raed Sharif, Senior Programme Officer of Innovation and Technology at IDRC, Amal Mowafy, Chief Technical Advisor of Decent Jobs for Egypt's Young People at ILO, Dr. Hisham Abdelsalam, Director Decision Support and Future Studies Center, Mr. Sherif El Tokali, the head of the Innovation portfolio and their respective teams for their intensive efforts leading to this week.

I hope that today’s event and the recommendations that stem from what I’m sure will be vibrant discussions will serve to stimulate the data ecosystem in Egypt and the MENA region.

Thank you.

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