Jerusalem24 – The Arab American University is hosting the First International Digital Transformation Conference in Palestine on 20 June at its Ramallah campus.
Dr. Islam Amr, Dean of the Faculty of Modern Sciences at the Arab American University and Rapporteur of the Preparatory Commission at the conference, shares with Jerusalem24 details about the upcoming conference—and where he thinks the current digital trends are taking Palestine.
Dr Amr, digital transformation is a broad term: what topics will the conference be addressing specifically?
The key pillars addressed by the conference will be digital transformation, digital divide, and digital inclusion, in addition to digital security and privacy. Then we’ll move to the rule of government in driving digital transformation, and end with the role of universities and the future of employment in the digital era.
What do you hope will come of this conference?
We work on focusing the outputs of digital transformation on several levels. The first level will be generating policy papers serving specific domains in Palestine, namely the education, banking and health sectors, and how to implement national strategies in digital transformation.
We hope to create a national entity that will be a flagship for the digital transformation process, as a university that is among the leading higher education organizations in digitizing education, with more than 15 different programs in the university introducing digital disciplines – like digital marketing, digital health, digital management, digital media, in addition to digital diplomacy, at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
So we hope to generate several policy documents; to follow up the implementation of these policies in several domains; and provide support to the national agencies and civil society in introducing digital transformation in their work.
What role do you think academia has to play in advancing digital transformation?
There are several tracks of changes that have been caused by digital transformation. First we have to introduce a discipline that takes computerization into consideration, marking the big difference between transformation and digitization at the same time. So some of the existing disciplines have to be rewritten and reconsidered in terms of both transformation and digitization.
The second track is thinking about the new trends in technology, the new knowledge that is imposed by digital transformation – namely new products, new businesses, new lifestyles, new entertainment styles. This needs to be supported by professionals, by academics.
The third track is the new, emerging sciences that come with the digital transformation, namely artificial intelligence and its applications and implications (in academia, in research, in medicine) as well as sciences like virtual reality, augmented reality and the metaverse, and how these emerging sciences will impact our reality in the new future.
Academia has to be prepared, has to be equipped with the right people with the right qualifications, and with the right infrastructures in order to serve this huge purpose. You have to also take into consideration that the working market is becoming more broad, more international – so when you teach someone in Palestine you should equip him to work in the Gulf area, in Europe…
The challenges and responsibilities are big – and the opportunities are huge as well.
And what about the government’s role?
The government plays a pivotal role in issuing laws that facilitate transformation, give legal dimensions for electronic transactions and finances, in addition to protecting the privacy of the citizens, and defining strategies for digital transformation in all sectors eligible to be subjected to digital transformation, such as education, health, in civil and municipal services… This will inform good governance and increase transparency.
Does digital transformation have the potential address some longstanding societal issues, to be a “digital revolution”?
The social dimensions of the digital transformation are deeply profound and achieved over time. That’s why no one can give good projections and predictions of where it’s going to go.
But at the Arab American University we have started a new discipline that discusses media and culture and technology: how would you craft, capture, guide the process, how you would study the implications and the consequences of such changes.
I would like to remind everybody of the emergence of social media almost 15 years ago, how social media was almost something from another universe. Some people held great expectations and others underestimated it. At the end of these 15 years we see that social media has changed so many life patterns, social structures, and even political structures.
The level of change can be very dramatic, very deep, and cannot be explained until it happens. We have projections, we have ideas, that’s true. But still, we should wait to see what is going to happen and build on our previous experiences.
Why will this level of change be very dramatic and very deep? Because digital transformation is directed directly toward key aspects of our lives: we’re talking about education, health, commerce, banking, entertainment… The digitalization of these key aspects will definitely generate something new – which is why we need to be aware, make projections, and maybe think of countermeasures as well.
This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
To find out more about the conference and register, click here. Listen to the full interview on Vibes below.