Dubai, 23 November - The Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) of the United Arab Emirates, in collaboration with the RIPE Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC), the regional Internet registry for Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia, convened the Seventh Government Roundtable for the Middle East Region on 21 November 2023 at the Ritz-Carlton in Dubai.
High-level government delegations, including Arab ICT ministers and heads of regulatory authorities, gathered in Dubai to discuss the theme of "Cooperation for Digital Infrastructures and Sustainable Internet Policies in the Arab Region", focusing on the critical challenges of building a sustainable and secure Internet in the region. The roundtable aimed to continue the progress made during the previous meetings by fostering cooperation in developing digital infrastructure and discussing sustainable Internet policies.
Opening the roundtable with welcome speeches were prominent figures, including the minister of MoICT in Palestine and the heads of regulators in the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Egypt, and Bahrain, in addition to the League of Arab States and the GCC Telecom bureau. Their collective presence underscored the importance of collaboration among governments and the RIPE NCC in advancing digital infrastructures and Internet policies.
In his opening keynote address, H.E Eng. Mohammad Al Zarooni, Acting Director General of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) in the United Arab Emirates, pointed out how critical the present moment is in shaping the digital future. He noted that as technology rapidly advances, it is incumbent on governments to build the necessary infrastructure and environment to support it. He highlighted the importance of working together in these efforts: “Collaboration is a cornerstone of our approach. Working with all stakeholders, including the technical community and organisations such as the RIPE NCC, is necessary to prevent Internet fragmentation. This roundtable can be a milestone towards a secure and connected future for all citizens.”
In his speech, Dr. Ishaq Sider, the Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology in Palestine, stressed the extensive damage inflicted upon the telecommunications and Internet infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. He highlighted his ministry’s achievements in developing the Palestinian ICT sector and shared the vision and strategy of the Palestinian government through the "Digital Palestine Agenda 2023," which is based on five pillars: digital strategic frameworks, infrastructure, legal environment, digital employment and trade, and digital transformation for social inclusion, culture, and media.
Engineer. Bassam Al-Sarhan, Chairman and CEO of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRC) in Jordan, pointed out the importance of joint efforts in building digital economies. He stated, “We need an inclusive, collaborative and supportive environment to achieve the promise that the Internet offers. We at TRC take great pride in our collaboration with the RIPE NCC, working together in improving routing security and resilience and achieving unparalleled Internet speeds. Our notable strides in deploying IPv6 and transitioning to 5G have resulted in extensive coverage, setting the stage for even more pervasive connectivity.”
Mr. Omar Al-Omar, Chairman and CEO of the Communications and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA) in Kuwait, recalled the impact of the pandemic and the need for Internet resilience that it demonstrated. He noted that Kuwait took the opportunity to invest in its Internet infrastructure. He added, “While development at a national level is important, it is crucial to also develop regionally. This includes alignment between countries through working groups and linking IXPs. A key part of this effort is continuing the dialogue and enhancing capacity-building programmes by publishing reports on Internet statistics and trends. We must also stay up to date with the adoption of emerging technology to enhance our connectivity.”
Dr Ali Al-Muayed, CEO of the Communications and Media Commission (CMC), shared the country’s efforts to promote digital transformation. He said: “The challenges facing our countries today in the digital realm emphasise the need for collaboration to create conditions for an open, secure and flexible Internet. Emphasising the preservation of public freedoms for citizens and freedom of expression is crucial. Thus, establishing the right collaborative environment is essential to overcoming obstacles to developing the ICT sector, especially in the context of the Internet.”
In his speech, Eng. Hossam El-Gamal, CEO of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) in Egypt, noted that the digital sector has become a leading part of the economy, which presents its own challenges. He also acknowledged that “Although Egypt is outside of the RIPE NCC’s service region, we embrace strategic cooperation with the international community to develop our network infrastructure. This collaboration is also important for routing security, a priority in Egypt and Africa overall.”
Mr. Philippe Marnik, Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of Bahrain, highlighted the necessity of collaboration for even the most fundamental aspects of routing and digital communication. He said, “For the Internet to work, it needs collaboration between everybody, not just to make sure the basics work but also the overall systems and services. We must speak with one voice to understand the needs of Internet users worldwide.”
Dr. Khaled Wali, Minister Plenipotentiary and Director of the Directorate of Communications and Information Technology Development for the League of Arab States, remarked on the progress many Arab countries had achieved in the digital sphere. He said, “Despite significant challenges with developing sustainable infrastructure, the Middle East has greatly enhanced its routing security and Internet speeds. Our excellent partnership with the RIPE NCC has significantly contributed to this success.”
Mr Hans Petter Holen, CEO and Managing Director of the RIPE NCC, thanked speakers for their remarks. In his speech, he addressed how geopolitical developments had begun to threaten the advancement of Internet connectivity. He reaffirmed the RIPE NCC’s commitment to neutrality and providing support to all members. He added: “We believe a reliable Internet cannot be created through regulation, policies or legislation. The promise of an Internet that will bring innovation, growth and social prosperity will only be met through trust and collaboration.”
In the concluding remarks of the opening session, Mr. Piotr Strzyżewski, an Executive Board member of the RIPE NCC, highlighted the significance of the United Arab Emirates hosting the seventh roundtable meeting. He emphasised the collaboration with governments and Arab communications and information technology regulatory bodies as a testament to their dedication to establishing a robust and secure digital infrastructure, which is pivotal in accelerating the evolution of the Internet across the Middle East.
RIPE NCC experts actively engaged in the roundtable meeting discussions. Dr Chafic Chaya, Regional Public Policy and Government Affairs Manager for the Middle East, shared more about the RIPE NCC’s efforts in the Middle East. He explored cooperation with governments, reviewed the challenges identified during the sixth roundtable meeting, outlined the measures implemented to address these issues and emphasised the specialised support programmes they provide for each country.
Engineer Jad El-Cham, Regional Program Manager at RIPE NCC, shared important regional statistics and trends, including IPv6 deployment, Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI) and routing security coverage, and the IXP and peering landscape. Engineer Hisham Ibrahim, Chief Community Officer of the RIPE NCC, also contributed his thoughts on good policy development in the technical world, stressing the valuable information, statistics and reports that the RIPE NCC makes available, which are instrumental for policymakers and regulators.
As the roundtable sessions progressed, participants engaged in deep discussions about the latest trends, shared success stories and addressed challenges. This roundtable marks another significant step in the collective journey towards a more connected and secure future for the Internet in the Middle East region.
You can also view this press release in Arabic.
The Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates (TDRA) is responsible for digital transformation at the national level through two strategic objectives: enhancing the smart lifestyle and providing leadership in the digital infrastructure of the UAE.
The regulatory role of TDRA is to ensure the provision of excellent telecommunications services, develop the industry, protect the interests of various parties, implement relevant policy and regulatory frameworks, develop human resources and promote R&D, thereby ensuring the UAE is a leading regional and global driver in the telecommunications sector.
About RIPE NCC:
The RIPE NCC is an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation supporting the Internet's infrastructure through technical coordination in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. The most prominent activity of the RIPE NCC is to act as the regional Internet registry (RIR), providing global Internet resources and related services (IPv4, IPv6 and AS Numbers) to members in the RIPE NCC service region. The RIPE NCC also offers services for the benefit of the Internet community at large. The RIPE NCC operates from its main office in Amsterdam and its regional office in Dubai. www.ripe.net
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