Why open access to knowledge makes a difference for development – Ft. Ruhiya Seward


“Development is about the knowledge commerce, [about] not having information, data, resources behind paywalls that people can’t access.” In this #BusinessForward exclusive, Ruhiya Seward, senior program officer at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC/CRDI), explains why she so eagerly promotes open access to knowledge and information.

Shot on the sidelines of the AUC Business Forum – hosted by AUC School of Business from
February 9 to 11.

In your opinion, what are the main issues in the MENA region with regards to Artificial Intelligence, the 4th Industrial Revolution, and data? And how can they be overcome?

In terms of artificial intelligence in the MENA region today, there is a range of critical issues to look at. One of them is around technology, information and data. Another is around human capacity and resources, and the another is around policy ecosystems and research. And really within each of those areas there is a range of challenges that are critical for the Middle East and Egypt to be engaging with. We have to grapple with digital inequality in terms of people’s ability to leverage their literacy around digital tools, but also around their access to the internet. As I mentioned in the Forum, 4 billion people don’t have internet access; in Egypt we think it is about 40%. We need human resources in order to be able to deliver better education. We also need policy and research that’s interdisciplinary to bring together thinkers who are not just technologists and engineers but also social scientists and practitioners on the ground. We need to bring all these voices together to have a vibrant society. We also need civil society.

How can open access to data, information, knowledge, and resources facilitate development in MENA countries?

To me development is about the knowledge commerce. Knowledge commerce is about the collective human inheritance and our future. And so access to it is so important so as not to have information, knowledge, data and resources behind a pay wall that people can’t access. In order to develop and to grow we actually need knowledge, and knowledge is the key to our future, so I really believe in open access.

What role does business education have to play in this?

Certainly business education has an important role because businesses and entrepreneurship can drive a lot of innovation. But not only that, business schools need to grapple with looking beyond the individuals that lead a company but rather have the ecosystem around those individuals support innovation and growth. So I feel business schools are really important because they’re educating a lot of people on the tools and skills they need in order to innovate, but we really need to look at other skills and tools in terms of collaboration, in terms of working together, and that is really what produces change and growth. We need business schools to teach that.

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