Founder and Executive Chairperson of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab (R), prepares to shake hands with Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein, the son of King Abdullah II, during the opening session of the World Economic Forum held in the Dead Sea resort of Shuneh, west of the Jordanian capital, Amman on May 20, 2017. / AFP / afp / Khalil MAZRAAWI
The majority of this World Economic Forum meeting is working parallel to the search for political stability and is concentrating on building the right platforms and relationships that will foster new technology and job creation. Many of the sessions address topics like the future of digital finance, leading businesses into the future, future proofing education, or empowering women with social manufacturing, and almost all have both government officials and private companies looking at how they can bring their different skills to bear on these questions.
But these debates also include examples of what this kind of thinking might lead to, where technology has been used to make a difference, and how such acidity can be scaled up from their modest beginnings to substantial or influential business.
An interesting example of technology innovation is with the Cairo Amman Bank (CAB), which has deployed the world’s first ATMs enabled with iris-recognition technology. “If you are not an IT-driven bank you will soon be obsolete,” General manager at CAB, Kamal Bakri told Gulf News. An unexpected outcome of this innovation was that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, used the CAB ATMs to disburse financial aid to refugees in Jordan, eliminating what had become very prevalent fraud and massively reducing illicit activity in the UNHCR programme.
“It is estimated that 24 per cent of international funding for refugees has been misused, but with iris technology the recipient has to bring their cash-loaded card to the ATM themselves and get their own money. You can’t fake an iris scan,” said Bakri.
Another example of technology making a difference was highlighted in the 2017 edition of the Mena Talent Competitiveness Index published at the Dead Sea meeting by INSEAD and the Centre for Economic Growth, supported by Google. Dubai-based Nabbesh.com is on online platform that allows workers to connect with employers looking for talent or specific services. It was founded in 2012 when it attracted 1,000 users most of whom were in the UAE and Lebanon and 65 per cent of whom were women. Today is has 100,000 users registered across 130 countries and as founder Loulou Khazen says “this is a market place where the 140 million Arabs who are online today can get work, transact in a transparent manner, and be paid on time.”