.
We are entering an era of accelerated change. Since the dawn of the Internet more than two decades a go – and the popularization of smart devices in more recent years – countries around the globe have been evolving at unprecedented rates, sustained by the advancement of technology and its effects on societies, economies, and the world as a whole. Technology has managed to both augment our reality and create its own virtual world, leading to a growing global interconnectedness the likes of which have never been seen. It can be used as a product, a medium, or a playground; but more importantly, technology can be used to empower individuals with the tools, ideas, and support necessary to thrive in today’s world. Technology does not discriminate based on socioeconomic status or an individual’s geopolitical environment – which is why it is the perfect instrument for those in underprivileged societies to create a better life for themselves and others. With tensions between and within countries in the Middle East and North Africa growing daily, accurately predicting how their unstable economies will turn out is difficult. However, one thing can be certain – technology is becoming increasingly accessible to people throughout the region. The Atlantic Council recently released report detailing how the MENA region can revive and revitalize its economy. Unsurprisingly, the study found that technology plays a key role in most (if not all) potential solutions to stimulating the region. The report itself stressed two core factors necessary to saving MENA’s economy: improved education, and a decrease in regulations to create a more open environment for business and society. Technology is key in both these solutions. By 2020, more than two-thirds of people in the Middle East will own a smartphone. Many in the region are already well connected to the Internet, and the number of tech-savvy citizens is growing daily. With ninety percent of youth putting their faith in technology to help them gain employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, it is imperative that the Middle East create an environment capable of fostering their talents. Technology-driven entrepreneurship is one of the most practical solutions to reviving the Middle East due to the fact that both technology and entrepreneurship can be successfully used at the individual level. In order for entrepreneurship to truly thrive, the education system and business environment of the Middle East need to be drastically overhauled. The Atlantic Council’s report points to three barriers that have prevented the education system from advancing thus far: first, a lack of long-term educational reform programs; second, the reform programs that have been implemented focus on minute problems rather than the education system as a whole; and third, the money being put into education is poorly allocated. This has created a convoluted system where little gets done and flaws in the education system are perpetuated. However, technology can help alter the education system. The report stresses the need for critical thinking, retaining and attracting talent, and creating a quality curriculum – but these are far-reaching goals. Through the use of technology, strategies can be implemented to help students immediately. For example, the report details how parents can use home PCs to help teach their children the necessary information they are not getting from school. Similarly, the rise in start-ups in the Middle East has created an increase in university-based business accelerators, which gives university and technology access to students. This shows that not only are students using technology to create start-ups – they’re learning through technology how to do it. This partnership between educational institutions and the private sector is creating a new generation of tech-enable entrepreneurs. However, the amount of regulations and barriers the economy faces in the MENA region is hindering the potential entrepreneurial boom. In many Middle Eastern countries, the economic system is built in a way so large that established businesses are favored over small start-ups; yet the economic environment’s unpredictability ends up hurting both. A consistent and predictable business environment would benefit both large businesses and start-ups, so it is crucial for governments to create such a stable system. It would be a large undertaking, but it is one that could save their economy. The elephant in the room – or in this case, the elephant in the Middle East – is the social unrest that is prevalent throughout many of the countries in the region. How can a business thrive or even survive in such unruly conditions? This has been the common thought process of many since the onslaught of the Arab Spring. Nonetheless, if there is one thing to be learned from the Atlantic Council’s report on MENA’s economy, it is this: the people of the Middle East are rapidly evolving into tech-savvy citizens. Gone are the days of isolation and controlled information; now is the era of the Internet, mass communication, and globalization. People everywhere are privy to the pools of information, and they are managing to tap into these databases despite government control. The people are learning, and they are empowering themselves through technology. No matter how much corruption and conflict plague the Middle East, it cannot stop the tide of technology that is overtaking the region. The people are learning, the entrepreneurial spirit of the Middle East is growing, and the population is ready to take back their economy. Now, it is up to the governments of the region to either stand up for their people and stabilize the economic environment, or become flattened in the wake of an empowered generation.

About
Winona Roylance
:
Winona Roylance is Diplomatic Courier's Managing Editor and Special Series Editor.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Report Review: Atlantic Council’s Economic Recovery and Revitalization in the Middle East

The Doha skyline shot through traditional arches from inside the Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar December 2008
March 28, 2016

We are entering an era of accelerated change. Since the dawn of the Internet more than two decades a go – and the popularization of smart devices in more recent years – countries around the globe have been evolving at unprecedented rates, sustained by the advancement of technology and its effects on societies, economies, and the world as a whole. Technology has managed to both augment our reality and create its own virtual world, leading to a growing global interconnectedness the likes of which have never been seen. It can be used as a product, a medium, or a playground; but more importantly, technology can be used to empower individuals with the tools, ideas, and support necessary to thrive in today’s world. Technology does not discriminate based on socioeconomic status or an individual’s geopolitical environment – which is why it is the perfect instrument for those in underprivileged societies to create a better life for themselves and others. With tensions between and within countries in the Middle East and North Africa growing daily, accurately predicting how their unstable economies will turn out is difficult. However, one thing can be certain – technology is becoming increasingly accessible to people throughout the region. The Atlantic Council recently released report detailing how the MENA region can revive and revitalize its economy. Unsurprisingly, the study found that technology plays a key role in most (if not all) potential solutions to stimulating the region. The report itself stressed two core factors necessary to saving MENA’s economy: improved education, and a decrease in regulations to create a more open environment for business and society. Technology is key in both these solutions. By 2020, more than two-thirds of people in the Middle East will own a smartphone. Many in the region are already well connected to the Internet, and the number of tech-savvy citizens is growing daily. With ninety percent of youth putting their faith in technology to help them gain employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, it is imperative that the Middle East create an environment capable of fostering their talents. Technology-driven entrepreneurship is one of the most practical solutions to reviving the Middle East due to the fact that both technology and entrepreneurship can be successfully used at the individual level. In order for entrepreneurship to truly thrive, the education system and business environment of the Middle East need to be drastically overhauled. The Atlantic Council’s report points to three barriers that have prevented the education system from advancing thus far: first, a lack of long-term educational reform programs; second, the reform programs that have been implemented focus on minute problems rather than the education system as a whole; and third, the money being put into education is poorly allocated. This has created a convoluted system where little gets done and flaws in the education system are perpetuated. However, technology can help alter the education system. The report stresses the need for critical thinking, retaining and attracting talent, and creating a quality curriculum – but these are far-reaching goals. Through the use of technology, strategies can be implemented to help students immediately. For example, the report details how parents can use home PCs to help teach their children the necessary information they are not getting from school. Similarly, the rise in start-ups in the Middle East has created an increase in university-based business accelerators, which gives university and technology access to students. This shows that not only are students using technology to create start-ups – they’re learning through technology how to do it. This partnership between educational institutions and the private sector is creating a new generation of tech-enable entrepreneurs. However, the amount of regulations and barriers the economy faces in the MENA region is hindering the potential entrepreneurial boom. In many Middle Eastern countries, the economic system is built in a way so large that established businesses are favored over small start-ups; yet the economic environment’s unpredictability ends up hurting both. A consistent and predictable business environment would benefit both large businesses and start-ups, so it is crucial for governments to create such a stable system. It would be a large undertaking, but it is one that could save their economy. The elephant in the room – or in this case, the elephant in the Middle East – is the social unrest that is prevalent throughout many of the countries in the region. How can a business thrive or even survive in such unruly conditions? This has been the common thought process of many since the onslaught of the Arab Spring. Nonetheless, if there is one thing to be learned from the Atlantic Council’s report on MENA’s economy, it is this: the people of the Middle East are rapidly evolving into tech-savvy citizens. Gone are the days of isolation and controlled information; now is the era of the Internet, mass communication, and globalization. People everywhere are privy to the pools of information, and they are managing to tap into these databases despite government control. The people are learning, and they are empowering themselves through technology. No matter how much corruption and conflict plague the Middle East, it cannot stop the tide of technology that is overtaking the region. The people are learning, the entrepreneurial spirit of the Middle East is growing, and the population is ready to take back their economy. Now, it is up to the governments of the region to either stand up for their people and stabilize the economic environment, or become flattened in the wake of an empowered generation.

About
Winona Roylance
:
Winona Roylance is Diplomatic Courier's Managing Editor and Special Series Editor.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.