Prof. Allam Ahmed obtained his MSc/MBA from the Royal Agricultural University, UK and was awarded the RAU Scholarship and Prestigious Book Prize for Best MSc/MBA Dissertation. He completed his PhD in Economics (Technology and Knowledge Transfer for Development) at Edinburgh Napier University, UK. He is a Fellow and Chartered Marketer of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK. Prof. Ahmed is based at the Science Policy Research Unit – SPRU (world leader in research, consultancy and teaching in the field of Science and Technology Policy) University of Sussex, where he established and continues to lead the postgraduate programme MSc International Management. He has an extensive background in academia, public and private sectors, specialising in KM, technology transfer, SD, business process re-engineering, change management and organizational transformation. He is the Founding President of World Association for Sustainable Development and all its journal; Founding Director of Middle Eastern Knowledge Economy Institute; and Founder of Sudan Knowledge. In 2009 Prof. Ahmed led the Government of Abu Dhabi major and first of its kind in the Middle East Knowledge Management Framework (Musharaka).
Prof. Allam Ahmed will be delivering his keynote speech on the topic, “The Role of Technology in a Sustainable Knowledge-based Economy”. This interview aims to provide Youth Global Forum participants with an insight of what they can expect from Prof. Ahmed’s talk, in addition to learning how to best prepare for the event.
Prof. Ahmed, please share with us a short introduction about yourself, your career, and areas of expertise.
I was born and grew up in Sudan and completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Khartoum, Sudan before moving to the UK to complete my postgraduate studies more than 20 years ago. I have travelled and worked in almost all continents of the world gaining substantial experience in Africa, Middle East and Europe. My main areas of research focus on: (a) the role of science, technology and innovation (STI) in achieving sustainable development (SD). This covers topics relating to knowledge and technology transfer and management; productivity gap analysis and modelling; SD; industry and sustainability; achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and marketing and commercialisation of technological products and innovation and second, (b) globalisation and competitiveness which also relates to topics such as marketing; strategic management; entrepreneurship; and government macroeconomic policies. My work is distinctive within the wider academic community as it focuses on the poorest nations. This has led me into various collaborations with different distinguished scholars across the UK and the world and to various invitations to guest-edit journal special issues and to give keynote speeches at international conferences. I have also been fortunate enough to have a wide variety of teaching experiences prior to the University of Sussex at the University of East London, Edinburgh Napier University, University of Edinburgh, University of Leicester as well as international working experience at Regents Business School (London), Schiller International University (London), and Amity Business School (India). In addition to the University of Sussex, I am also a Visiting Professor at the Royal Dock School of Business and Law, University of East London, UK (2016-) and was Visiting Professor at Brighton Business School, University of Brighton, UK (2012-2015). I am the recipient of several international Awards and Medals for my contribution to International scientific research. I was also listed in the WHO’S WHO IN THE WORLD 2009 WHO’S WHO IN FINANCE and BUSINESS 2009/2010 and WHO’S WHO IN AMERICA 2012 published by Marquis Who’s Who, USA.
What is it about the Youth Global Forum that interests you most?
The entire concept of SD is about the future and the future is all about the youth! Youth population is growing rapidly in all regions of the world and the Global Youth Forum is an excellent opportunity to meet and engage with youth from across the world. I am very keen to understand the youth’s perspectives and expectations from their universities and research institutions in their countries to help them be ready to grasp the various opportunities generated in the digital economy. I strongly believe our youth should be the cornerstone of any strategy by all higher education institutions when designing their curriculum and programs. This is crucial in fulfilling their role as major agents in the realisation of the youth’s future. I am also keen to see how we can help our youth with their future employment plans and aspirations.
Would you share with us a brief description of what your presentation on “The Role of Technology in a Sustainable Knowledge-based Economy” is going to be about? Will there be any particular area of focus?
Since the Rio summit in 1992 SD is increasingly becoming a concern for both developed and developing countries (DCs). Yet, translating the principles of SD into effective economic and environmental policies seems to be a major challenge for all countries. Knowledge is a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development. It is evolving into the chief currency and essence of modern age. Knowledge is also considered as a strategic resource and a lifeline for all countries’ SD. Managing technology and improving people’s capability to increase human and social capital, are the success factors that seem to become the most crucial in competition between nations. The World Bank’s recommendation in 1998 for all countries particularly those economies heavily dependent on oil to embark on the diversification of their economic resources such as approaching development from a Knowledge Management perspective is very relevant until this day. This can be done by adapting policies to increase know how and knowledge attributes that can improve people’s lives in a myriad of ways. How can technology contribute and enhance SD? This is the main issue we will address in this talk. Based on the assumption that technology must be widely used and freely accessible to have an impact, knowledge systems and knowledge economy seem to open up new and varied avenues to be explored in the direction of sustainability. The talk aims at showing the difficulty in attaining sustainable development for many countries particularly in the developing world with a weak technological and knowledge base. It deals first with the issue of knowledge systems and knowledge economy and their links with sustainability from a conceptual point of view. It highlights the specific situation of many countries stressing the difficulties they meet in this respect and shows how technological capabilities are highly correlated with levels of sustainability using knowledge and sustainability indexes.
What lessons can participants expect to gain from your presentation and how will they best apply it in future endeavours?
The presentation will lay out the issues of the knowledge divide and demonstrate the need for a new partnership to bridge this gap. In particular, improve development practice by promoting changes in the way the development sector approaches the selection, management and use of technology in the formation and implementation of its policies and programmes. There is overwhelming evidence on the disparity in scientific output between the DCs and developed countries with more than 60% of the total world output relating to S&T produced by only 11 industrially developed countries. The gulf in the levels of STI between the developed countries and the DCs will tend to widen further with the rapid expansion of the Internet in the West and the speedy transition to electronic publishing. This has led to increased brain drain and dependence on foreign aid of a different kind leading to a so-called knowledge imperialism. For many years since the discovery of the Internet, the expectation that the Internet would facilitate scientific information flow does not seem to be realisable, owing to restrictive subscription fees of high-quality sources and the beleaguering digital divide in the access and use of the Internet and other ICT resources.
Is there any advice you can offer in advance to Youth Global Forum participants before attending your key note speech?
It is important that we all appreciate the challenges we are currently facing in our world. Many global problems can only be tackled by working together (developed and developing countries), for example the recent Ebola outbreak; combating the results of climate change, diseases such as malaria, reservation of natural resources, fighting land degradation or limiting the loss of biodiversity. The case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic is a good example of how knowledge sharing can accelerate development in science and benefit people. Another example was when the Human Genome Project data was made available to scientists to turn a collection of individual sequences into an incomparably richer resource. Timeliness, reliability and usability of crucial information not only averts epidemic diseases, but also leads to prevention that improves people’s health. Moreover, knowledge or evidence-based policymaking is indispensable if gaps in living standards are to be narrowed. Therefore, building capacity in DCs is necessary for preventing the global spread of infectious agents as well as other global challenges.
Are there any additional topics or elements you wish to bring to our attention or add to the discussion?
Given the Youth Global Forum is taking place in the Arab region this year, I would like to conclude by stressing the need for all Arab countries to strengthen their STI policy-making and development institutions and maximizing the impact of research knowledge for society. Arab countries also must NOT remain essentially a producer of primary goods for the rest of the world and ensure embedding the culture and concepts of SD in all their developmental strategies. Other topics which will be discussed in my talk will include the importance of adequate human skills and training programs to empower local workers that are critical for building capacity for the knowledge economy; creating an enabling environment for technological learning and innovation; building ICT capacity for bridging the digital divide and encouraging knowledge transfer; building capacity for appropriate technology which is economically and environmentally sound; stress that development does not require exotic sources of capital in order to grow; and finally the important role of regional scientific co-operation among countries.