The Arab World and the Required Forces of Change

  • 13 March 2006

"Transformation" is the motto of the Arab world in present times and the subject of a lot of thought, research as well as disagreement in almost every Arab country, though with varying degree of intensity. This complex issue raises important, sometimes complicated, questions involving the nature of a desired transformation and its essential preconditions, the forces clamoring for a particular transformation, the role of internal and external forces in bringing about a transformation, the cultural and social particularities that affect the nature, form and time span needed for a transformation. Within this context, the importance of the ECSSR's annual conference, entitled "Current Transformations and their Potential Role in Realizing Change in The Arab World" is of particular significance. The conference, which started yesterday and will end tomorrow, has drawn the participation of several relevant Arab and foreign intellectuals and elites. The most important element for any transformation in a society is, what we call, "the forces of change" that have the ability to highlight the need for a change. These critical forces advance and ensure the continuation of the process of transformation and the realization of its objectives. It is important to note here that the objectives for any transformation should be set in response to the real needs of the community.

The most noteworthy aspect of "the forces of change" is that they emerge from within a society and that their focus is on the citizen, whom they consider to be "the architect and the beneficiary of the transformation". For this reason, the rehabilitation of citizens, promoting their level of awareness and capabilities, providing them with more and better opportunities and enabling them to adapt to the changing developments in various fields is an essential prerequisite for any transformation to succeed in the Arab world.

At present, there are many grim indicators of reality regarding the level of education, and technological and cultural awareness among Arab nationals. Many Arab countries suffer from high rates of illiteracy, particularly among women. They also suffer from technological backwardness and show an inability to adapt to the pace of global transformations in these fields. The Telecommunication Development Conference 2006, which commenced last Saturday at Doha, revealed an important aspect of the shortcomings of, what can be called as, "Transformation Infrastructure" in the Arab world. The conference also highlighted Arab backwardness in the field of Information Technology by revealing that Internet users in the Arab world do no exceed a total of 11,755,000. This constitutes only 3.7% of the Arab population, compared to the 429 million Internet users found in the eight most industrialized countries. Hence, combining the strengths of the IT revolution and the digital economy is a vital area for transformation. It goes without saying the significant role Internet can play in bringing about change and in raising awareness of the people in the Arab world and the world at large.