Envisioning digital transformations in the Arab region
The Digital Arabia Network (DAN) was founded to explore the impact and opportunities digitalisation can bring to the Arab world. At the end of last year, DAN partnered with jovoto to collaborate with our creative community in a Crowdstorm™, a global brainstorming session. It was an open call to anyone interested in using technology to transform lives for the better. Creatives were asked to share their ideas about how digitalisation can contribute to the political, economic and societal development of the Arab region, and what that might look like in detail.
More than 100 ideas were submitted over the course of the Crowdstorm, including 44 creative collaborations, and a total of €5,000 was awarded for the best submissions. Three creatives – Elyess Ben Amor & Fatma Triki from Tunisia and Hicham Bahr from Egypt – received Jury Awards for their ideas. For all of them, the project was an attractive opportunity to put their creative skills to good use: Hicham said it was the “the connection to the reality of problems in the region” that made him want to take part in the Crowdstorm. Fatma felt it was “an incredible initiative to pave the way for digital transformation” and Elyess broke it down like this: “When the word “Arab” and the word “digital” are used in the same sentence, it gets my attention.”
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The three ideas that caught the Jury’s eye:
Recovery map, by Elyess Ben Amor and Fatma Triki, is a data-driven mobile app that pulls information from a dynamic database of drugstore inventories to show users where their medications are available. If all your medications are not available in one drugstore, the app plans the shortest route needed to get the different medications from different stores.
DAMJ (Merge), by Hicham Bahr, is an online learning platform based on the format of a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) with a specialized offer for school students with learning difficulties. DAMJ aims to build a learning community founded on equality of opportunity, understanding that students with different learning needs, need a differentiated learning offer.
Arab e-story, by Elyess Ben Amor, is a collaborative online Arab photography museum. Many rare historical photos of Arab culture are hidden away in private family collections. Arab e-story will provide a platform for photo owners, historians, and history of art experts to connect with one another, create a digitized database, and conserve the Arab history for future generations.
Digitalisation on the road…
DAN took the results of the Crowdstorm on the road, presenting the top 20 ideas to digital players in five different cities; Cairo, Beirut, Tunis, Casablanca, and Amman. Each roadshow was unique, with a different line-up of speakers and workshops, but all were an opportunity for participants to exchange knowledge on and around digital transformation. Elyess and Fatma were able to accept DAN’s invitation to attend the Tunis event and to travel to Amman in Jordan for the final roadshow. We wanted to share a few of their insights and impressions from the experience with you.
What was your most memorable interaction?
Fatma: I think the most remarkable interaction I had at the roadshows was with DAN Co-Chair, Bassant Helmi. What impressed me the most about her is the fact is that she was such a free spirit that was dedicated and had the goal to actually make a change in the Arab world.
Elyess: Dr. Jawad Annani, former Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and Investments in Jordan. He was the wisest and most modest person I have ever met; we had an intergenerational discussion about the responsibility of the Arabs to their nations. A discussion that I will never forget.
Who were the most interesting speakers?
Fatma: DAN Co-Chair, Dr. Ayad El Ani and Christin Schäfer (a member of the Data Ethics Commission of the German Federal Government). They changed my perspective on the implications of the digital transformation, the threats as well as the potential of data and the importance of protecting it. They sure gave us food for thought.
What was your favourite place?
Fatma: Downtown in Amman was definitely my favourite place, the city never ceased to amaze me. And I got to eat Jordanian sweets, Kanafeh and also Shawarma.
Elyess: Amman was special since it was my first trip abroad. The people were friendly and the food was exceptional!
What was your personal highlight?
Fatma: I think the most incredible experience was when Elyess and I presented our ideas and got to see other people’s reaction and discuss with them. The roadshow gave me the chance to meet investors and professionals coming from many different backgrounds to discuss the feasibility of our idea and the improvements that can be made to actually make it happen. I considered my work in a more technical and practical way rather than theoretical.
Elyess: The DAN roadshows were an experience of A LIFETIME, making it difficult to pick one highlight. I can remember all the people I met and all the discussions I had, I could mention dozens of people who made an impression. I was lucky to meet more experienced marketers and to get an idea about their work and their objectives. I also met digital players with a wide variety of expertise, and got to hear and understand many points of view on digital transformation. I realized digital marketing is an essential skill, but that I will not be able to make a real impact without collaborating with a multidisciplinary team.
Looking to the future…
Traditional methods of innovation are increasingly losing effectiveness, jovoto believes in and practices a collaborative, creative approach to ideation. Many of our projects focus on brainstorming and iterating ideas to help our clients adapt to a more complex, fast-paced, digital world. Facing the future also calls for individuals to adapt and change and innovate our career paths in a way the previous generation never had to. To this end, while we had the attention of Elyess, Fatma and Hicham, we asked two more questions:
If you had to go back to school or learn a new skill, what would you want to learn?
Hicham: Strategic planning.
Fatma: Data science for sure. This roadshows made me realize the importance of data for business and how necessary it is for marketers like myself to acquaint themselves with such digital tools.
Elyess: I am a freelance media planner and buyer but I am also a digital marketing master student, what I really want to learn besides digital marketing is project management, the idea of managing a team with people of several backgrounds fascinates me a lot.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Hicham: Do not only just try, but always strive to succeed.
Fatma: At the roadshow in Tunis, Amal Saidane (President of TunisianStartups) told me not to just go home and forget about my idea and actually take action.
Elyess: It may seem funny to you, but the most valuable advice I got was “Keep the same spirit!” – for a person who always questions himself, it means a lot!