Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) within the AUC School of Business held its annual workshop on October 15 and 16.
Researchers, entrepreneurs and data enthusiasts flocked to Oriental Hall on October 15 and 16 for A2K4D’s Seventh Annual Workshop. The two-day event, entitled “Collaborative Innovation for Open and Inclusive Development: Data, MakerSpaces and Mobile Telephony”, utilized a panel-based structure to address various issues affecting development in the Middle East and Africa.
It was made up of five sessions spanning the two days – with panelists from Canada, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Kenya and South Africa, as well as local partners from Egypt – and was attended by 87 people. The goal of these talks was to present quality, inquisitive work to the audience in an effort to raise awareness on important societal issues. The conference was not just about the world-class research projects conducted by the panelists; it was also about opening up discussions on shared progress and, more importantly, on the best methods to put compiled data to practical contexts.
"This year’s A2K4D workshop brought together a community of enthusiasts from all areas of our multidisciplinary work," said Nagla Rizk, economics professor and A2K4D director. "From data, makerspaces, innovation, development and beyond, we had the unique chance of hosting interesting and inspiring conversations. We had speakers from our regional and global networks, with visitors joining us from all over the world, bringing critical insight and new opportunities for collaboration."
The workshop featured the soft launch of A2K4D’s Solar Data Platform – an online, open-data system that maps out the sector through data compiled from investors, installers and clients. The first of its kind in Egypt, the platform sets out to be an open knowledge-sharing hub for the energy sector. Its launch, in many ways, encapsulated the workshop’s emphasis on data sharing.
Indeed, as Raed Sharif from the International Development Research Centre succinctly put it, “data is a resource that does not end.” Discussions on integrating its use in wide-ranging themes brought forth several interesting developments on the present and future of data consumption in the region. In doing so, the A2K4D workshop showed that putting two and two together might not always be as simple as some make it out to be.
Despite all the challenges at hand, one could not help but feel an inherent optimism attached to the two-day event. The bright minds in attendance showed that while roadblocks are aplenty, powering through them is still very much possible with steady hands on the wheel. The data for enhancing the ecosystem is there; all that is missing are reliable frameworks to put the ideas to good use.
SETS North Africa’s Hisham Osman perhaps summarized the workshop’s mood when asserting: “There are 31 or 32 cities with more than one million inhabitants in the Middle East. Cities are magnets for people; they’re [thus] magnets for innovation.”