A ZHAW Senior Lecturer at the KL Summit 2019

Khaldoun Dia-Eddine, Senior Lecturer at the Department of International Business, recently presented an invited talk in the plenary session on Advanced High-Tech at the KL Summit 2019 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the official invitation of the Secretary-General of the KL Summit, H.E. Tan Sri Samsuddin bin Osman, ex-Chief Secretary to the Malaysian Government, ex-minister of Home Affairs, ex-minister of Domestic Trade, and current President of Putrajaya Corporation, and the local government of Putrajaya.

Held on 18-21 December 2019, the 2019 KL Summit’s theme was “the role of development in achieving national sovereignty”. Attendees included several heads of states and ministers from various emerging economies in the Islamic world.

The idea of the summit was to unify and bundle the efforts of those countries in order to create a political-economic bloc capable of competing in a world in which big entities, globalization, and technological advancement are the most important drivers.
Khaldoun Dia-Eddine’s talk presented a vision for combining the efforts of these countries in order to take advantage the momentum of the digital revolution.

Dia-Eddine described some of the most dramatic results of globalization and technological changes, namely: consumerism and its impact on status and society, the development of smart cities and the societal changes linked to it, and “Industry 4.0”, including the digital transformation of conventional industrial processes. He then discussed the Islamic world and technology, highlighting that despite the historical role of Islamic civilization in the advance of human knowledge, Islamic cultures failed to contribute to and benefit from the printing revolution, steam revolution, and automation revolution. This presents these countries with the very real question of how to approach the information and digital revolutions. Dia-Eddine emphasized the importance of reaching a critical mass regarding economic power in terms of resources and customers, competitiveness and synergies for technological development. He also highlighted the set of ethical values that Islamic civilization can bring to this new revolution.

The core idea of the paper was the need to create a common framework for initiatives toward development of the tech sector in the participating countries, since the current frameworks in these countries are fragmented and incomplete. As was mentioned in the presentation, the framework should be social, political, and legal, giving the chance to forge a system of open access and opportunity, that is, the underlying condition to starting an innovative and unique action toward mastering the actual technological transformation.” It also describes the need to align the public and private sectors, technological development and ethical values, and the capacity to manage the three major power centers within and outside the participating countries: technology, finance, and government.

In the next section, the speaker explained some issues related to this framework:
First: organize and activate political will in this regard, which includes the complicated task of decision-making since economists don’t really understand technology, technologists don’t understand economics, and politicians understand only politics. Second: guarantee the base for continuous and coherent resources, primarily financial resources and technological skills.
Third: the need for the framework to cover legal aspects, including intellectual property, data security, and privacy, limiting monopolies and combating corruption.
The fourth issue the speaker highlighted was social aspects. This covers a lot of ground, from social inclusion to education and cultural identification with the Internet of Things, as well as the ethical values underlying the whole initiative.
The fifth issue was the need for the framework to be technology-neutral in order to be sustainable and removed from local and national biases.
The sixth issue identified was the innovation policies in the participating countries, which have to be based on three pillars: education (particularly applied sciences and comprehensive research), technology transfer, and the protection of intellectual rights.

At the end of this section, Dia-Eddine expressed the importance of embedding this framework in a larger strategy (individual or collective) addressing political, economic, social, ecological, legal, and security aspects.

Dia-Eddine then presented a proposal for the implementation of this idea through the creation of a “commission” to deal with: gathering facts, experiences, and best practices, conducting research in various technology fields, developing a modern set of values compatible with Islamic values and current needs, and issuing recommendations for strategy, roadmap, business cases, and implementation plans.

Dia-Eddine explained the work phases of such a commission with a timeline and suggested a possible form of organization. This will place leadership in the hands of a neutral, international academic organization in order to get away from biases and approaches dictated by self-interest. ZHAW was suggested for this role due to its international exposure and the available pool of experts, the fact that Switzerland is a leading country in the innovation domain, and the fact that it is a politically neutral country.

The last part of the paper was devoted to the 10 key success factors required to make the project of “the Framework” a success. At the end of the panel’s presentations, a Q&A session of 30 minutes followed, in which Dia-Eddine had the opportunity to elaborate on some points of his presentation.

The composition of the plenary session panel had been changed several times on short notice as a result of political and personal issues. In the end, the speakers had been, in addition to Khaldoun Dia-Eddine, Dr. Igor Stanislavovich Ashmanov from Russia, Managing Partner and founder of Ashmanov and Partners, co-chair of the Great Fatherland Party and co-founder of Internet Research Agency; the Hon. Haji Mohamad bin Sabu, Malaysia’s Minister of Defense; H.E. Mohamad Javad Azari Jahromi, Minister of Information and Communications Technology of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Mohd Abdul Karim, founder and major shareholder of SERBA Dinamik Bhd, a listed company in Malaysia.

It is worth noting that the only presentation that Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed attended during the three-day summit, apart from the sessions with the heads of delegations, was Dia-Eddine’s. He was congratulated by the Prime Minister and the two later posed together for some photographs to commemorate the occasion.