NNA- The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri said that "digitization is one of the primary building blocks for national prosperity", adding that "a digitized nation is simply more intelligent and we all need to work together, cooperate and coordinate on this issue ".
For his part, the World Bank Regional Director of the Middle East Department Saroj Kumar Jha said: "We will do everything possible so that Lebanon becomes not only Singapore, but Singapore 3.0 because you have the potentials, the minds, and the determination to make it happen".
They spoke this morning during the opening of a workshop at the Grand Serail entitled “Roadmap for a Digital Economy in Lebanon”, organized by the Prime Minister's office and the World Bank, attended by a number of ministers, MPs and experts.
Jha said: “It is an honor for the World Bank Group to be co-hosting this event with the government of Lebanon and with all of you being here.
I want to start with my personal experience. Before I moved to Beirut, I had the opportunity to be part of a meeting with his Excellency the Prime Minister who was meeting with our CEO Kristalina Georgieva, and soon after he was about to meet the Lebanese staff at the World Bank Group. As you know he have a very large number of top class, high Lebanese professionals in the World Bank Group. In that discussion, many people mentioned to his Excellency that they should be looking at Lebanon 2.0. With a country with amazing human potential globally very known, why shouldn’t we be able to crack this one, and this should be very easy for the Lebanese innovative minds. I am so happy today that we are really embarking on this agenda under the leadership of the Prime Minister and please count on the World Bank group support. We will do everything possible so that Lebanon becomes not only Singapore, but Singapore 3.0 because you have the potentials, you have the minds, you have the determination to make it happen and we shall do everything possible to really make this happen, bringing our expertise, working with other countries in the world, bringing our experts, bringing our financing where needed but we really want to help you make this happen.
We are very concerned that unemployment in the country is increasing and in my view, technological transformation creating more enabling conditions for the businesses, more investments to come to the country, will really create the opportunities so that more Lebanese minds can be really at work. And that is good for Lebanon but also for the region and globally. I really hope that we can continue working on this.
Mr. Prime Minister, I want to assure you that this is only the beginning of the World Bank’s commitment to work with you on this agenda and to work with you hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder to really make this happen.
There is a number of actions that you will be taking in the coming months. We are very hopeful. One of these is the digital transformation strategy, which I hope will be done soon. I also just learned this morning that you are already thinking a lot about the anti-corruption inclusive governance and I understand you are also looking at the opportunity to be part of the open government partnership globally. ”
Hariri then said: “Welcome to this government’s first practical working session on fostering the Digital Economy in Lebanon.
Since 2003, over 10 national studies have been conducted on Lebanon’s E-Government Strategy, ICT Strategy, the Digital Economy and Digital Transformation. Fifteen years of studying the topic should very much be sufficient.
Today is not about drafting another lengthy strategy. It is about identifying the foundational elements of a Digital Economy, taking stock of what has been worked on so far in Lebanon, identifying roles going forward and consolidating priorities into an actionable plan which is to be implemented as soon as possible.
In the words of the World Economic Forum: “A Nation’s Level of Competitiveness reflects the extent to which it is able to provide rising prosperity to its citizens”.
Today, Digitization is one of the primary building blocks for national prosperity. A digitized nation sparks economic growth faster, and fuels transformation across all economic sectors.
A digitized nation is simply more intelligent.
By 2025, which is only six years from today, it is expected that the
Digital Economy should represent anywhere between 15% and 24% of world GDP. In Lebanon, we are at 4% today.
Building a digital economy is an enormous and complex project. It needs all of its stakeholders working together and coordinating in order to be efficient and effective. Our problem in the country is that we don’t like to work together. Each one wants to compete with the other, thinking that he can do it better. We all need to work together, cooperate and coordinate. All the ministries and everyone should be cooperating on this issue. We aspire to a collaborative, connected republic where government institutions seamlessly serve businesses and citizens.
On the world Digitization Index, Lebanon ranks 105 amongst 183 countries, scoring 57% in terms of overall digital adoption, and only 49% in terms of the government’s digital adoption.
Digitization is one of the fundamental steps towards achieving the Innovation Nation. In fact, there are 12 building blocks to this vision of an Innovation Nation that I am putting forward, all of which need to be addressed before Lebanon can achieve its full innovation potential.
These 12 pillars are the same 12 used to rank every economy of the world by the World Economic Forum.
Lebanon aims to rise higher on this Global Competitiveness Index, our dashboard for national advancement.
On the Innovation scale of the Global Competitiveness Index, Lebanon ranks 61 out of 140 countries, scoring only 39% in terms of its Innovation status. Although still low, this score has been achieved thanks to the efforts of our private sector and entrepreneurial minds, both of which are looking towards the right enabling environment from our governmental institutions.
Between Digitization, which is a basic and fundamental step to be taken at Lebanon’s infrastructural level, and Innovation, which is the end objective of our Innovation Nation, is a considerable list of challenges, each of which requires a conference on its own.
Take for example the case of Infrastructure, one of the 12 founding pillars of a competitive nation. The set of challenges we are facing is monumental. From waste and air pollution all the way to mobility and telecom, Digitization is the core missing element, the primary and most efficient tool to transition from problem to solution, and the first core enabler of the Innovation Nation.
A digitized nation is simply more intelligent. Coupled with the expertise of our private sector and our highly skilled human capital, the opportunities will be endless.
Lebanon needs to strengthen its enabling environment by driving forward education, infrastructure, institutional reform and Research & Development.
Next, we must create the right legal environment to embrace the new innovative Lebanon.
We must expand every ecosystem by encouraging clustering, cooperation and support to where we have a healthy cycle of education feeding into research and innovation feeding into industry.
We must work on expanding Lebanon’s markets abroad and leverage technology to the largest extent to achieve that.
We must install a monitoring system run by national champions who nurture all these achievements.
And last but not least, we must work to continuously upgrade people, systems and institution from within, thus ensuring a sustainable Innovation Nation.
Beneath it all is Technology: an underlying common denominator for national advancement.
We are responsible for the Lebanon of tomorrow. The people of Lebanon are ready for change. They are sufficiently digitally –oriented to move forward. It is our public services that need to catch up. Beyond studies and strategies, the ball of implementation is in our court. Let us move forward, together.”