Health challenges represent one of the long-standing issues in the Arab region that hinder its ability to develop. Prevalence of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, liver cirrhosis and cancer among many others has contributed to the deteriorated health status across the region leading to lower life expectancy compared to other regions. For instance, the average life expectancy in the Arab world is approximately 70 years, which is at least 10 years lower than most high-income countries.2 Among many directions of healthcare development across the region, biomedical computing research represents one main arm of tackling health challenges. Advances in computational technologies have enabled the emergence of biomedical computing as one of the most influential research areas worldwide.
The Arab region consists of many teaching-intensive universities that are intrinsically committed to holistic educational excellence. According to a recent UNESCO report,5 the higher education sector in the Arab region is undergoing a need for massive expansion given exponentially growing populations, record-breaking youth cohorts, coupled with a strong recognition of the economic and social value of higher education. Such an enormous need for growth poses a significant challenge for publicly funded universities yet offers many opportunities for private universities to meet the ever-increasing demands of advanced education.2 As is the case with many similar universities worldwide, not being dedicated research institutions often results in limited availability of research funds, resources, and hence innovation throughput. The examples given in this paper are those of universities in the region that were initially focused on consolidating their teaching, except for one which started first as research-intensive. However, it was not long before a shift in policy included research excellence in undergraduate education by harnessing the most valuable resource of any university: the aspiring students themselves.
From Hammurabi's stone tablets to papyrus rolls and leather-bound books, the Arab region has a rich history of recordkeeping and transactional systems that closely matches the evolution of data storage mediums. Even modern-day data management concepts like data provenance and lineage have historic roots in the Arab world; generations of scribes meticulously tracked Islamic prophetic narrations from one narrator to the next, forming lineage chains that originated from central Arabia. Database systems research has been part of the academic culture in the Arab world since the 1970s. High-quality computer science and database education was always available at several universities within the Arab region, such as Alexandria University in Egypt. Many students who went through these programs were drawn to database systems research and became globally prominent, such as Ramez Elmasri (professor at University of Texas, Arlington), Amr El Abbadi (professor at University of California, Santa Barbara), and Walid Aref (professor at Purdue University).
The world is facing enormous challenges, ranging from climate change to extreme poverty. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)a were adopted by United Nations Member States in 2015 as an operational framework to address these challenges. The SDGs include No Poverty, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, among others, as well as a meta goal on Partnerships for the Goals. Despite limitations,7 the SDGs form a rare global consensus of all 193 UN member states on where we should collectively be heading. Goals are meaningless without a way to track their progress. Data on the SDGs and the associated indicatorsb are often outdated or unavailable, hindering progress during the Decade of Action leading up to 2030.c
The Arab region, composed of 22 countries spanning Asia and Africa, opens ample room for communications and networking innovations and services and contributes to the critical mass of the global networking innovation. While the Arab world is considered an emerging market for communications and networking services, the rate of adoption is outpacing the global average. In fact, as of 2019, the mobile Internet penetration stands at 67.2% in the Arab world, as opposed to a global average of 56.5%.12 Furthermore, multiple countries in the region are either building new infrastructure or developing existing infrastructure at an unprecedented pace. Examples include, Neom city in Saudi Arabia, the new administrative capital in Egypt, as well as the Smart Dubai 2021 project in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), among others. This provides a unique opportunity to fuse multiple advanced networking technologies as an integral part of the infrastructure design phase and not just as an afterthought.
Traffic accidents are a major unsolved problem worldwide. Yearly, it causes around 1.35 million deaths and 10 million people sustain nonfatal injuries9 in addition to having substantial negative economic and social effects. With approximately 90% of accidents being due to human errors, autonomous driving (AD) will play a vital role in saving human lives and substantial property damage. Moreover, it promises far greater mobility, energy saving, and less air pollution. Despite the recent advances to achieve such promising vision, enabling autonomous vehicles in complex environments is still decades away.6