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University of Bahrain Hosts ICT Talent Cultivation Forum

Senior academic and industry organizations speakers shed light on the importance of building the ICT talent ecosystem through public-private partnerships across the region.

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Middle East, December 22, 2023 – On the sidelines of the Huawei ICT Competition 2023-2024 regional final awards ceremony, the University of Bahrain hosted an exclusive forum on ICT talent cultivation featuring senior speakers from the ICT industry organizations and renowned regional universities. The University of Bahrain is a partner for the Huawei ICT Competition 2023-2024 regional final and hosted the official closing and awards ceremony for the program this year. 

The forum panel discussion featured Dr. Jassim Haji, President, International Group of Artificial Intelligence; Dr. Hessa Jassim Al-Junaid, Dean of the College of Information Technology, University of Bahrain; Dr. Tilda Karkour Akiki, Associate Dean of the School of Engineering, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK); and Amr Hashem, Policy Director, GSMA MENA. The discussion was moderated by Ammar Tobba, VP, Public Affairs and Communications, Huawei Middle East and Central Asia Region.

The esteemed speakers discussed challenges and future opportunities in building the ICT talent ecosystem and the value of Public-Private partnerships in nurturing ICT talent innovations, supporting the university curriculum with practical skills and training, and driving the socio-economic growth of countries in the region. The panelists also shared their thoughts on driving digital transformation, building a sustainable knowledge-based digital economy in the region, and raising national competitiveness in line with the governments’ national plans and visions. Gender equality in technology was also highlighted as a pressing need during the discussion. The forum was attended by university students and tutors, government partners, ICT professionals, academia, and media representatives from 11 Middle East and Central Asia participating countries.

Dr. Hessa Jassim Al-Junaid, Dean of the College of Information Technology, University of Bahrain, underlined the importance of an open collaboration between universities and the public and private sectors to develop curriculum and upskilling students on the latest technologies, such as 5G and Cyber Security. She stated, “The Huawei ICT Talent initiative offers students practical skill development opportunities through hands-on challenges and real-world scenarios facilitated by Huawei professionals and experts. It fosters critical thinking and confidence-building among participants. Winning or receiving recognition in the competition can serve as a valuable addition to a student’s academic portfolio, highlighting their accomplishments.” 

“Annually, the Huawei ICT Talent competition attracts a growing number of registered students, indicating its increasing popularity. The College of IT students who have taken part in the Huawei ICT Talent competition have demonstrated high employability due to the competition’s provision of relevant skills, industry knowledge, problem-solving abilities, teamwork experience, and industry recognition. Additionally, the competition encourages students to pursue Huawei professional certifications that hold international recognition,” Dr. Hessa added.

A recent study by PwC estimated that AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. Speaking at the forum, Dr. Jassim Haji, President, International Group of Artificial Intelligence and Executive Advisor to Nasser AI R&D Centre, explained how the technology will impact undergraduate engineers. He explained, “AI tools are poised to transform the way talented students learn and create, offering a wealth of benefits such as guidelines to the job market, the course selection, and curriculum advisory. Furthermore, generative AI creates tests tailored to each student’s learning preferences, interactive activities, or even life-like simulations.”

Dr. Tilda Karkour Akiki, Associate Dean of the School of Engineering, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), shared her thoughts on how ICT students can contribute to today’s industrial digital transformation and the urgent need to narrow the ICT talent gap, especially to encourage more participation from women. She elaborated, “Empowering women in ICT is not just about diversity; it’s a strategic imperative for sustainable innovation. It secures a more inclusive and resilient future where diverse perspectives in digital solutions shape our world and where innovation has no limit. With both determination and empathy, women leading the way will transform challenges into opportunities and will promote collaborative environments where every voice is heard.”

The GSMA is a global organization unifying the mobile ecosystem to discover, develop, and deliver innovation that is foundational to positive business environments and societal change. Its vision is to unlock the full power of connectivity so that people, industry, and society thrive. Amr Hashem, Policy Director, GSMA MENA, shared his remarks on cultivating young talent for the telecommunications industry, especially in light of the accelerated deployment of 5G. He said, “At the GSMA, we believe that investing in the development of ICT talent is crucial for the future success of the telecommunications industry. The rapid deployment of 5G technology requires a skilled workforce capable of driving innovation and meeting the evolving demands of the digital era. By fostering collaboration between academia and industry through initiatives like the Huawei ICT Competition, we can empower the next generation of professionals and ensure a sustainable and thriving future for the ICT sector in the Middle East and Central Asia.”

Ammar Tobba, VP, Public Affairs and Communications, Huawei ME&CA Region, shared, “ICT talent development programs like the Huawei ICT Competition contribute towards bridging the digital divide and narrowing the digital skills gap, nurturing young industry talents and strengthening the ICT talent ecosystem across the region. As a global technology leader, Huawei is committed to supporting the national plans and vision of regional governments to build a robust knowledge-based digital economy driven by local talents.”

Since its launch in 2017, Huawei’s ICT Competition has become the largest and most influential initiative in the region, a powerful program for cultivating ICT talent and improving countries’ national competitiveness with ICT future leaders. The competition has received support and endorsements from UNESCO and more than 20 regional ministries, operators, and industry partners.

This year, more than 27,500 students from over 600 universities across 21 Middle Eastern & Central Asian countries participated in the Middle East & Central Asia Huawei ICT Competition – marking the highest level of participation in the seven-year competition history. Twenty-two teams consisting of 66 national winners from 11 Middle Eastern & Central Asian countries, including Bahrain, Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, and Oman, participated in the regional finals held in the Kingdom of Bahrain from December 19-21, 2023.

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