On June 8, 2015, IDRC Regional office for Middle East and North Africa organized the first MERO Forum series on “Data for Entrepreneurship and Youth Employment in the MENA Region”, at IDRC premises in Cairo, the workshop convened researchers from Jordan, Morocco, the West Bank, and Egypt to address the opportunities and challenges related to data revolution for development in the MENA region, including open and big data, data-rich communication and data-driven innovation.
The purpose of this high-level event was to engage representatives from the donor community, government agencies, academia, civil society organizations and international experts in a strategic dialogue to explore innovative technologies and approaches to improve data production, management, and usability, particularly in areas that could enhance entrepreneurship and youth employment in the MENA region.
The workshop shed light on the several sources of data rather than the traditional ones, such as new technologies and applications, like mobiles and social media, which are leading to an exponential increase in the volume and types of data available, creating unprecedented possibilities for informing and transforming society. A number of innovative initiatives using mobile technology, crowd-sourcing and other tools gather vital data to track and monitor outcomes in real time. The need for more and better data is particularly important in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). MENA faces a wide range of development challenges: one of most pressing is youth unemployment. While the region has the youngest population in the world, the youth unemployment rate is 26-29%. In addition to its value for more effective policies to promote youth employment, relevant and better quality data could become a valuable business resource for data-entrepreneurs, notably for MENA’s youth.
The workshop included presentations about Harnessing the Economic Power of Data in the MENA Region by Raed M. Sharif, Senior Program Officer at the Networked Economies Program, IDRC. and “Data for Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Examples from Around the World” by Rayna Stamboliyska, Founder of OpenMENA and International Expert in Open Data for Development. Finally, Nagham El-Houssamy, Research Coordinator, Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D), the American University in Cairo (AUC) presented “The Untapped Potential of Data for Digital Entrepreneurship in Egypt “. The workshop concluded by an open discussion about the challenges and opportunities for creating an enabling environment for data-driven innovation/data for entrepreneurship and youth employment in the MENA with some Suggestions for ways forward.