U.N. Tech Summit Promotes Middle East

Jan 31, 2006 (02:01 PM EST)

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Women who aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia are learning how to become network engineers, thanks to one of many all-women's academies established by Cisco Systems Inc.

Jordan is on its way toward achieving its goal of becoming the next generation's repository for innovation and technology with Cisco helping revamp its entire educational system.

"We're interconnecting all of the schools, many of which have dirt floors," Stephen DuMont, vice president of Global Public Sector Internet Business Solutions Group for Cisco, said Tuesday during a press briefing at the United Nations.

That's just the kind of progress organizers of the first World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship "A Better Generation in the Making," are hoping to spur with a gathering of more than 1,000 delegates. The world's leaders in business, science, education, policy and research will meet in Oman for three days to promote innovation, entrepreneurship, scientific research and investment in the Middle East.

The summit is expected to serve as a model for emerging markets like Asia, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe.

The roster of attendees, participants and speakers for the April summit reads like a who's who in international policy and U.S. and global technology. They include representatives from: Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Computer Associates, Linux International, GE, Lenovo, Dow, Cisco, Samsung, Intel, Sony, Chevron, Quantum, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer, Pepsico, Harvard Business Review, Boeing, MIT, Oracle and Google.

Omani Ambassador to the United Nations, Fuad Al-Hinai led a panel at the UN Tuesday to outline how the summit will address the challenges and opportunities for businesses, governments, educators and social leaders promoting economic development through technology, innovation and private enterprise in emerging markets.

Oman, home to 3 million people near Yemen and Saudi Arabia, was chosen for its progressive policies and programs, which support the summit's mission. "Omanization" is a key initiative encouraged by the country's monarchy to help produce educational and career opportunities for Omanis.

"We have six operating academies in Oman today," DuMont said. "These academies enable us to provide educational opportunities for impoverished youths around the globe."

Sam Hamdan, chairman of the Global Leadership Team, a consulting firm specializing in strategic management, said the summit would focus on bridging the digital divide and enabling societies, regardless of disadvantages, to achieve empowerment. The agenda covers needs identified in the 2003 UNDP Arab Human Development Report.

CNBC will host live town meetings with youths in the Arab world.

Events at the summit will target youth and women in under-developed countries while examining six pillars, or actions, needed to spur innovation and entrepreneurship. They include: improving infrastructure to achieve global competitiveness; empowering human development to speed up knowledge partnerships; inspiring minds to leverage imaginative talents for sustainable development; making innovations foster better governance and legal reforms; sharing reports from leaders and entrepreneurs on stimulating growth ventures; and exploring the impact of innovation trends on future generations.

Participants will discuss how to create open investment climates, access to funding, increased trade capacity and improve infrastructure. They will also look at how to encourage youth development, knowledge dissemination, leadership for women, education for all, and innovation networks. Environmental and geopolitical issues will be discussed as well. Those include: sustainable policies, renewable energy, green supply chains, oil wealth management, governance, intellectual property rights, religious innovation, security and conflict resolution and demographics.

IT topics will cover electronics, telecommunication, biotechnology, chemicals and environmental technologies, wireless innovations, e-government, information security, nanotechnology and open source innovations.

Robert Lifton, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Medis Technologies Ltd., said during the press briefing that although his company is small compared to many of the heavy hitters attending the summit, he believes small businesses are crucial to solving some of the biggest challenges in the world. In addition to job creation, they hold potential for discovering new ways to deal with old problems. He pointed to a cell scan product his company has introduced to allow in-vitro testing of individual chemotherapy regimens on a patient's cancer cells.

Casper Sonesson, acting director of the U.N.'s Division of Business Partnerships, backed Lifton's statements up, saying that the private sector is the main engine for development and businesses hold the keys to development goals.