The world is evolving and progress continues at an unprecedented speed, whilst simultaneously generating a continuous flow of knowledge. The term ‘knowledge society’ refers to this current phase in the evolution of human progress, where knowledge has become a prerequisite for development.
Inspired by a shared vision of promoting knowledge for sustainable development in the Arab region through the establishment of a knowledge society, UNDP and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) held the third edition of the Knowledge Summit in Dubai from 5-7 December 2016, under the title “Knowledge… Present and Future”. The event, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, brought together more than 1,000 knowledge-related experts, ministers, and academics from around the world to shed light on the latest developments and methodologies in acquiring and disseminating knowledge in the Arab region.
The Summit showcased the results of the long-standing partnership between UNDP and MBRF and two distinct but related fruits of this partnership were presented. First, the 2016 Arab Knowledge Index, an updated and revised version of the 2015 edition to better capture the state of knowledge systems in the Arab region. Second, the Arab Reading Index, a new initiative which assesses the practice of reading in the lives of people across the region and emphasizing the role of reading as an indispensable tool which empowers individuals, improves skills and capacities, and supports innovation and creativity.
The Reading Index is a pioneering initiative in the Arab Region, based on a survey of more than 145,000 participants from all 22 Arab countries. Its findings strongly differ from the figures published on the Arab region so far and show a remarkable level of interest in reading among Arab people. The average number of reading hours per year varied between 7.78 hours in Somalia to 63.85 hours in Egypt, with an Arab average of 35.24 hours per year. The average number of books read per year varied between 1.74 and 28.67, with an Arab average of 16.08 books per year.
The release of these reports comes as the Arab Knowledge Project enters its 10th year investigating the complementarity between knowledge and development. Sophie De Caen, UNDP deputy assistant administrator and acting regional director at UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS), expressed appreciation for the support and partnership that the UAE has provided to UNDP noting that “For nearly a decade, the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States has enjoyed a strong partnership with the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation in support of knowledge”.
HE Jamal bin Huwaireb, managing director of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, noted that knowledge is embedded in all key sectors of society and is crucial to advance the path towards sustainable development. This is why the UAE has invested in the partnership with UNDP to obtain reliable data on the status of knowledge that would allow for evidence-based development policies not only in the UAE, but across the entire Arab region.
More and more of the global online interaction occurs on mobile devices. With this in mind, the Arab Knowledge Project developed the “Knowledge4All” mobile application which features a wealth of resources on knowledge and development, and showcases data through an advanced visualization tool , country profiles and infographics module. This app, available for Android  and iOS  both in Arabic and English, is one of the most technologically advanced mobile applications in UNDP and one of the four produced by the RBAS Regional Programme.