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.

Day 6 – Safari Shenanigans

Heading on a plane from the gulf area to Tehran, Iran, the authors of this last blog entry reflect on an unusual, fascinating and informative week in Doha. The experience was indescribable, we all gained insights into a new and fascinating world, so unknown and different, and yet oddly similar in certain aspects. We have to pleasure to write the blog entry for the last day of this amazing week; in our minds the best and simultaneously saddest day – we experienced a breathtaking safari and had to say goodbye to each other a few hours later. But let’s go through the day more detailed:

We enjoyed a last breakfast in our beautiful hotel, Mike was feeling bad after having eating 5 burgers the previous day and opted for a small plate of fruits; the majority however enjoyed the voluptuous buffet provided each day in our hotel. Since the safari take off was scheduled for a quarter past two, most of us decided to sleep in, at least for a bit. Some of us stayed in the hotel and enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere in the Spa-area on the 26th floor; there were some more sportive members of our group who decided to visit the in-house gym, however, the author of these pages is not one of them and enjoyed the Jacuzzi instead.

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At quarter past two, we met up at the back entrance, where 6 Jeeps were ready to take us on an adventurous trip. Well, frankly, the first 45 minutes of our drive weren’t that impressive. Once outside of Doha, we were driving south; all there was to see was sand. Some barracks, one or two oil-refineries and more sand. We arrived at our first stop, where we saw some more sand but also had the chance to ride camels for the rather steep fee of 20 Rials – steep since the ride lasted for roughly 2 minutes. Mr Dia-Eddine called it “ABZOCKEREI” (rip-off).

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After having deflated the tires of our jeeps, the ride continued – or rather started properly. The next 30 minutes of our ride were unforgettable and quite honestly indescribable. Speeding over sand dunes while yelling of excitement is what we did the next half hour. Our jeeps took us across the desert up and down the dunes in a spectacular fashion. We stopped in the deep south of Qatar for pictures (a lot of new Facebook profile photos were shot that day). Even the Saudi-Arabian border was visible from our panoramic stop. The sun started to set and we continued our ride until we halted at south beach (literally south of Qatar). Directly at the beach, there was this resort, where we enjoyed cold or warm beverages, depending on taste preferences. The sunset itself, as stunning as it was, became secondary to some of us after having discovered a beach volleyball pitch, while other just relaxed at this beautiful spot. However, once the sun set, we started heading home. The ride back passed rather fast, stopping once for re-inflating our tires, we arrived back at the hotel at around 7-ish.

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Dinner was on an individual basis, some went to the Souq Waqif for what felt like the 10th time, some to a very local restaurant outside of the center where the menu composed of hummus and falafel – you could chose from a variety of options (humus, falafel, humus with falafel, falafel with humus, humus and falafel mixed together – I think you get the gist), and some gourmands ordered McDonalds to their rooms. We met up at a quarter past ten and headed together to Traider Vic’s, a bar which is part of the Hilton Hotel and the closest place to our hotel. There we enjoyed farewell drinks together (starting off with beer, but after having realized that Gin Tonic is actually cheaper, the order pattern quickly changed) and one after another member of our amazing group left until there was a small party left pulling through until last call. Saying goodbye was brutal, after having spent a week together, we felt inseparable, but we took solitude in the fact that we will see each other again in a bit more of a week. Bild8

So this extremely serious and precise report is the last entry of our Qatar Study Trip Blog and we want to take the opportunity to thank the people enabling us to be part of this experience. First of all, thanks to Khaldoun Dia-Eddine, our professor of this module; a man who knows more about this region than all of us combined (this does not count for Deeran) and has an answer to every question. We also want to thank Maya Gadgil, we did not know her before the trip but won’t forget her after this week (how could we?). Making sure we were on time was her top priority, and without her relentless efforts we wouldn’t have made half of our appointments. We further want to thank Sarah from the Swiss Embassy for her work and organizational skills, making a lot of the events of the past week possible. A last thank you is for everyone involved in our study trip, ranging from the friendly hotel staff (especially Panda, you know who you are) to the members of the Swiss embassy in Qatar over to all the companies and NGO’s we visited. Without you, this week wouldn’t have been such a success.

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Cheers

David, Deeran, Ruben and Mikael