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Egypt Tomorrow: A call to action towards e-democracy

Intel held a session yesterday at El Sawy Cultural Wheel in Cairo that aimed at providing an open discussion on how ICT can shape democracy.
In continuation to Intel’s “Egypt Tomorrow - IT vision for a brighter future” initiative that has been running for several months now, Intel held a session yesterday at El Sawy Cultural Wheel in Cairo that aimed at providing an open discussion and a number of solutions to how ICT can be the first stepping-stone in shaping free and democratic Egyptian elections in the future. The session discussed how ICT can pave the way for the democratic process because it relies on the integrity of data available through an e- platform.
The speakers provided insight into the definition of a democracy, and how technology can play a crucial role in achieving it; the challenges and the solutions of deploying the infrastructure and training the required resources for this to work; and finally, how technology is a reliable tool for monitoring the election process.
“E-voting is not a dream,” said guest speaker Mr. Gamal Gheitas, Editor -in –Chief of Loghat Al Asr Magazine and IT Editor at Al Ahram. “We need to build the right foundation first by centralizing voters’ information in order to ensure that the elections are conducted fairly and without manipulation. By synchronizing information from all involved parties such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Interior, we should be able to create a database of legitimate voters, which could easily be linked to and found in the Egyptian National ID database.”
Mr. Gheitas explained in detail the 19 steps of the election process, right from the establishment of election committees all the way to announcing results. He talked about what technology can do for each of those steps and how it can be implemented.
Moderated by Eng. Hicham Arafa, Intel Egypt Business Development Manager, the session saw an insightful discussion between guest speakers on how best ICT can help in facilitating parliamentary and presidential elections in the future and how it can help in the development of e-government and e-democracy.
“Elections are a crucial instrument in achieving democracy,” said Dr. Sherif Hashem, Executive Vice President of the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA). “E-voting is a vital step in achieving e-democracy. Our role is to try and assist in building the right infrastructure to accommodate the new technology in the years to come.”
One of the main topics of discussion was the illiteracy rates as a hindrance to implementing e-voting and people’s acceptance to the technology. Dr. Hashem said the Egyptian people showed the world how to use the new technology tools available today to build a cause and come together like never before. “We have the technology, but we need to develop a system that can utilize those technologies for the future generations.”
“When I hear or read the word “e-democracy” I think about other issues in addition to e-voting,” commented Honorary Chairman for E-Learning and Business Solutions Union, Eng. Alaa El Din Al-Agamawi. “I think of the people‘s ability to access and disseminate information more effectively which will result better awareness and interaction between all society members. I dream of a day in which ICT will enable everybody to participate directly in setting our country’s policies and directions.”
Intel’s “Egypt Tomorrow - IT vision for a brighter future” initiative has been running for several months now and aims at tackling how ICT can help in the development of a country in different sectors to include e- services, e- health, and e- education.
“The 25th Jan revolution is testament to the power of technology,” said Eng. Arafa. “We kicked off this initiative after the revolution to get an overview of how the people foresee the future of Egypt using technology and the benefits it could bring to the country. Everything starts with education. In order for the people to have a ‘voice’ to ‘voice’ there needs to be a pure and undivided focus on educating them on their rights and to facilitate the learning process through technology.”
Mr. Arafa said that this was the first in a series of sessions Intel will be organizing in the future to discuss the role of ICT in developing a number of sectors including education and innovation and entrepreneurship.