The United Nations Development Programme has released its 2009 Arab Knowledge Report (link to the complete report) on the development of a “knowledge society” in the Arab world. “The report maintains that political, institutional, cultural and intellectual reforms, as well as reform of the media and information technologies are vital if Arab societies are to bridge the knowledge gap.” The report emphasises four key issues in building Arab knowledge: the connection between freedom and knowledge, the need to meet global education standards, the persistent digital divide, and the need to develop an authentic Arab perspective on knowledge. The report concludes with an action plan towards integrating the Arab region into the global knowledge society.
Reporting on the UNDP project, The Daily Star quotes Adel Abdellatif as saying, “The security sector is taking a lot of resources. If you put the same amount of money into education, you get a better society.” The story also provides a few nuggets from the report, including the facts that nine million children of elementary school age are not attending school, the correlation between education and economic growth in the Arab world is weak, and illiteracy is a big obstacle in the Arab world, where around a third of adults, 60 million people, are unable to read or write.