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Growing the Internet 18 May 2020

Are We Ready to Work from Home in the Middle East?

Nermine El Saadany
By Nermine El SaadanyRegional Vice President - Middle East

Even before COVID-19, political and economic scenes within the MENA region were changing. Differences across economies, politics, religion, and even the weather kept governments occupied.

Amid all that, the region has been shaken by COVID-19 as nations have moved operations into the home.

Looking at this from a technology perspective, we must ask ourselves: Are we ready for this? Are we able to transfer all our businesses and schools to our homes? Do we have an adequate Internet-based economy and good quality connectivity to back up the huge demand?

There’s no question that the Internet provides significant economic and social benefits. COVID-19 has made that especially clear. For many parts of the world, it has allowed us to carry on. But for the first time, governments have had to face the reality that there is no time for pilot projects. This is happening and it is happening now.

COVID-19 has opened the world’s eyes to how critical the Internet is for the economy. How can the Middle East build on what COVID-19 has taught us about the Internet and connectivity? The Internet Society has released two papers that can help develop the answers: “Middle East & North Africa Internet Infrastructure Report” and “Internet Infrastructure Security Guidelines for the Arab States.”

The papers focus on infrastructure efforts needed to develop a digital economy. They were developed through engagement-based workshops in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman as well as discussions and input from stakeholders throughout the region. Through the lens of this community engagement, the papers look at solutions to building a bigger and stronger Internet.

The papers highlight three core things governments can help put in place:

  • Access Infrastructure: The entire value chain of infrastructure that carries traffic to and from international points, should deliver the traffic throughout the country, and connect users to the Internet. Through a network of networks, national Internet infrastructure will be better and stronger, and provide resiliency and redundancy.
  • Content Infrastructure: Internet exchange points (IXPs), where traffic can be exchanged on a local basis, and data centers, where content and applications can be hosted, should be developed to increase local resiliency and redundancy. Using local content infrastructure lowers the time and cost needed to deliver traffic, allows easier access to content, and improves quality of service, which in turn helps to promote Internet adoption and usage.
  • Digital Economy: The ecosystem to create content and services to fully utilize the access and content infrastructure drives socioeconomic development. A digital economy enables entrepreneurs to innovate while also providing consumers with the ability to use their new services, and helps bring existing sectors online to transform the entire economy.

We ask you to share these papers widely, especially with your local government. COVID-19 helped us realize how critical it is to bring all of the Middle East online. By working together, we can make a difference.

Read “Middle East & North Africa Internet Infrastructure Report” and “Internet Infrastructure Security Guidelines for the Arab States.”


Image of Cairo by Omar Elsharawy via Unsplash.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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