Dana Winner, MSc, Cybersecurity Policy, is a Certified Knowledge Manager, Certified Information Systems Security Professional. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
By Dana Winner
I have recently volunteered with INJAZ-Kuwait, helping them conduct the Entrepreneurial Master Class and the Innovation Camp in Kuwait high schools. The students are bright, creative and articulate. By the end of each one-day workshop the student teams deliver a three-minute presentation of a start-up business that meets a need or solves a problem in Kuwait. These have been some of the most inspiring one day efforts I have ever been privileged to be part of. I see that the young people of Kuwait are the wealth of Kuwait.
However, during each workshop I cannot stop thinking about the challenges of doing business and being innovative in Kuwait. Those students are developing the entrepreneurial and innovation know-how. They are the emerging Kuwait Knowledge Economy. However, I wonder if they will find a fertile environment in which to use that knowledge to diversify and build the Kuwait Knowledge Economy?
The question may be answered soon. On February 1-2, a Kuwait Knowledge Economy Conference will be conducted at the Regency Hotel, under the patronage of His Highness, the Amir of Kuwait. The conference will be conducted under the supervision of the General Secretariat of the Kuwait Supreme Council for Planning and Development with strategic partners, the World Bank and Arab Planning Institute. The list of speakers is tremendously impressive. The theme of the conference is “Contemporary Roles of Governments in the Knowledge Economy Era”. Despite the focus on the government role, this is an important learning opportunity for both government and business leaders in Kuwait.
This is not the first knowledge economy conference conducted in Kuwait. In the past decade, the knowledge economy has been a regular theme in Kuwait conferences, training courses and programs. That theme was promulgated by the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. His son, Sheikh Dr Meshaal Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Director of the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority, has continued his father’s vision by addressing the greatest challenge to Kuwait’s knowledge economy development. In his doctoral thesis, “The Curse of Natural Resources and curtailing it through creativity and innovation- the case of the State of Kuwait”, Dr Meshaal’s thesis confronts the “resource curse” frankly. He concludes that “from an economic perspective, Kuwait should inevitably switch from dependence upon natural resources to the development of sectors based on knowledge, skills, capital and technology”. Will the leaders and people of Kuwait commit to this vision? Do the oil prices provide the needed motivation? What about the burgeoning workforce of Kuwaiti youth? Where will they work?
As quoted in the Arab Times, businessman Abdullah AlKandari suggests that, “the private sector is capable of solving the issue of unemployment in the country, but it first needs to get rid of obstacles that slow down its progress.” Then he highlights the problem by explaining that the “state cannot ask private sector to solve the issue of unemployment and at the same time ignore [private sector] demands.” Dr Meshaal Al-Sabah supports Al Kandari’s position when he writes that “Kuwait must create incentives for the efficient use of existing and new knowledge to ensure that entrepreneurship flourishes“. Human capital is the primary resource.
The Knowledge Economy is not a luxury; it is a necessity for solving current problems, as well as for creating the future Kuwait economy. This may seem quite theoretical, so let us overview a practical example of the need for current problems solving and future economy development. Kuwait healthcare expenditure and quality challenges pose a severe short-term challenge to the Kuwait economy and long-term opportunity for Knowledge Economy development. Specifically, the Kuwait government is spending more than KD400 million for medical tourism, i.e. sending people outside of Kuwait for medical care. This is being done because the standard of medical treatment available in Kuwait is insufficient to meet the need.
The need for this medical tourism expenditure can be nearly eliminated by ensuring that the healthcare knowledge and quality of care is extant in Kuwait. If Kuwait were to make high quality medical competencies a top priority knowledge economy asset, Kuwait could be a medical tourism magnet, especially for Iraqis. Patients will recover their health more quickly when they receive care close to home, family and friends. Investment in healthcare education and support systems will fill the gap in the Healthcare Knowledge Economy to solve the current problem. Healthcare Professional licensing standards and enforcement must be applied to ensure sustainability of healthcare knowledge.
Ironically, the Kuwait government has already established institutions that could be expanded to meet this need. Kuwait University can be supported to provide the high quality medical competencies that the nation requires. Kuwait Investment Authority has established National Technology Enterprise Company for the purpose of developing the private sector. One of the NTEC spin-off companies is Kuwait Life Sciences Academy which is entirely dedicated to healthcare professional development and certification. However, Kuwait policy regarding healthcare, especially regarding professional qualifications and licensing standards must be more rigorously defined to include Continuing Medical Education requirements. Most important the policies and standards for CME must be enforced to ensure compliance.
The healthcare challenge in Kuwait is only one of many problems that can be solved by developing in-country knowledge and competencies. Solving short-term knowledge problems and long-term development challenges is the mandate of the Kuwait Knowledge Economy. As I attend the Kuwait Knowledge Economy conference on February 1-2, I am hoping to experience the birth of the Kuwait Knowledge Economy. As I look at the young people of Kuwait I see that they are the true wealth of the Kuwait Knowledge Economy. Set them free to innovate and grow the Knowledge Economy!