Latest Event Updates

1. Official Opening of the 36th WGET Forum

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Presenter: His Excellency Abdulla Abdul Rahman Al Shaibani, Secretary General of the Executive Council of Dubai and Board Member, International Humanitarian City

Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 09:00-09:10

01_Al Shaibani_screenshot2His Excellency Abdulla Abdul Rahman Al Shaibani officially opened the 36th WGET – ICT Humanitarian Innovation Forum and welcomed participants to Dubai.

Underscoring the commitment of the United Arab Emirates to humanitarian action, including through official development assistance and the work of the International Humanitarian City (IHC), H.E. Mr. Al Shaibani shared the UAE Vision 2021 and the National Innovation Strategy announced as part of the UAE 2015 “Year of Innovation”. As he acknowledged the key role that advances in information and communication technologies and innovation can play in overcoming humanitarian response challenges, he encouraged WGET participants to innovate for humanity and to work together to find sustainable solutions to help those affected by crises around the world.

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International Humanitarian City

2. Serving Humanity through Space Development

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Presenter: Dr. Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General, UAE Space Agency

Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 09:10-09:20

The space sector provides critical support to humanitarian operations through tools that are affordable, scalable and fast to deploy. The UAE is one of the world’s largest contributors to humanitarian response, and the UAE Space Agency works to put space at the service of humanity through using space technologies for the benefit and future of all humankind.

01b_Al Ahbabi_screenshot1The United Nations considers information and connectivity as a basic need. Dr. Ahbabi explained how the UAE space sector provides connectivity to many of the world’s crisis-affected areas, plays a significant role in supporting aid organizations to plan and deliver the basic necessities of life, among which food, water, shelter and healthcare, and offers opportunities for collaboration and innovation.


Dr. Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General, UAE Space Agency
01b_Serving Humanity through Space Development_photo_Dr Mohd Alahbabi

Dr. Mohamed Nasser Al Ahbabi is the Director General of the UAE Space Agency, which he designed and created, and leads a team of 50 who manage the UAE’s space sector. He is responsible for realizing the Agency’s goals of growing the sector and recommends the National Space Strategy, and related laws, policies, and regulations to the government.

Dr. Ahbabi has contributed and led numerous strategic projects in the ICT domain for UAE government as well as having led a UAE Armed Forces Think Tank Project within the Centre of Excellence, advising Military and Government at the strategic level on emerging concepts and technologies in the area of Smart Defense, Cyber Warfare and Space developments. He was the head of YAHSAT MilSatCom and other space projects. He has an active role in ITU-R, UN Space working groups and ICT professional associations. Dr. Ahbabi is also a key speaker in a number of international conferences in the area of smart defense, mil-Space, cybersecurity, and smart governments. He is a board member of YahSat Company and of the UAE ICT fund.

Dr. Ahbabi obtained his first degree in the USA, and his MSc and PhD in the United Kingdom in the Information and Communication Technologies domain, where he has published more than 20 scientific papers.

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UAE Space Agency

3. Digital Aid: Game-Changing Humanitarian Transformation

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Presenter: Ms. Gwi-Yeop Son, Director, Corporate Programmes Division, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 09:20-09:40

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has almost doubled over the past ten years, and is expected to keep rising. The global humanitarian system is at a crossroads and only through partnership and innovation is it possible to meet these unprecedented humanitarian needs.

Providing information and two-way communication are now an integral part of humanitarian response. The network age is re-shaping humanitarian response and the communications revolution continues to have a profound impact on the way people survive and respond to emergencies.

UN OCHA works to ensure humanitarian response is as coordinated and effective as possible, to find a consensus on the problem, the priorities, and what needs to be done to ensure people who are affected receive the aid they need. Gwi called on WGET participants to work together to develop game-changing approaches to enable digital aid and harness technology to build resilience and to provide assistance more effectively.

Gwi could not attend the  36th WGET Forum owing to the response requirements of the earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April. WGET Chair Patrick Gordon delivered her remarks.

Link to remarks

Ms. Gwi-Yeop Son, Director, Corporate Programmes Division, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)02_Digital Aid Game-changing humanitarian transformation_Photo_Gwi-Yeop Son

Ms. Gwi-Yeop Son began her career in Haiti, assisting HIV/AIDS patients with a non-governmental organisation called the Death and Dying Institute.  She then worked with the Country Women’s Association of Nigeria, focusing on micro-finance schemes, before taking up a position as Assistant to the Managing Director of Lehman Brothers.

In 1994, Ms. Son joined UNDP and had a number of positions including in Somalia as a Programme Officer in 1994, Assistant Resident Representative of the Governance and Environmental Management Division in Lao PDR in 1996, Special Assistant to the Assistant Administrator with UNDP’s Bureau of Management in 1998, Deputy UNDP Representative in East Timor in 2000, Programme Advisor on Afghanistan in 2002, Country Director of UNDP Indonesia in 2003, and United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Thailand in 2007.

In May 2011, Ms. Son took up the post of Director of Corporate Programmes of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In this role Ms. Son holds direct oversight over OCHA’s work on communication, information management and policy development, as well as the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Country Based Pooled Funds including Emergency Response Fund (ERF) and Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF). Ms. Son also has ultimate responsibility for OCHA’s administrative functions and oversees the World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat which will help organize the first ever Humanitarian Summit in 2016.

Links to related material:

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
World Humanitarian Summit

4. ETC 2020: Today’s Partnerships for Tomorrow’s Live-Saving Digital Solutions

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Presenter: Mr. Jakob Kern, CIO & Chair of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), UN World Food Programme (WFP)

Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 09:40-10:00

03_Jakob Kern_MG_0134By 2020, the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) network of aid, government and private sector organisations will create an emergency response environment that provides humanitarians, disaster-affected communities and governments with a seamless, resilient and principled communications experience.

The ETC 2020 strategy is formed around 6 core themes: Continue to deliver on the existing mandate to provide common ICT services to the humanitarian community; Facilitation and/ or delivery of essential life-saving communications services to affected populations; Working with governments to build resilience enabling quicker restoration of essential communications channels after a disaster; Significantly improve energy provision and mainstream connectivity services to enhance connectivity and enable delivery of digital aid; Leveraging capacities and synergies available through the ETC network to ensure response readiness, enabling ETC responders to provide predictable and effective international and local response within 24 hours of a crisis; New models for partnerships that will enable the ETC network to effectively channel joint efforts, by providing scale, scope, and new efficiencies.

In order to achieve Vision 2020, the involvement of the WGET community will be crucial.

Mr. Jakob Kern, CIO & Chair of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), UN World Food Programme (WFP)

13_Digital Aid Biometric Identity Management and Cash_photo_Jakob KernJakob Kern is the Chief Information Officer and Director of Information Technologies at the United Nations World Food Programme. He is responsible for the overall IT strategy, operations, processes and more than 425 IT staff of the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger globally. He has further responsibility for supporting the organisation’s Change Process within the development of the strategic framework and priorities of the Division, and is advising the Executive Director on all IT related matters.

Jakob is currently the Chair of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster of the United Nations (ETC) and the Management Committee of the United Nations International Computing Center (ICC), the common data centre of 30 UN Agencies based in Geneva.

Jakob joined WFP in 1998 in Monrovia, Liberia as Head of one of the largest Special Operation projects consisting of 200 km of emergency road repairs in a post war environment to facilitate food distribution to refugees. He then moved on as Emergency Coordinator and Programme Advisor in Asmara, Eritrea where he was responsible for two large-scale emergency operations. He was WFP Deputy Country Director in North Korea and prior to becoming CIO in February 2012, was the Deputy Chief Information Officer at WFP since 2006, where he managed all seven branches of the Division and provided leadership to the development of global IT innovative strategies and programmes to enhance efficiency through IT applications.

Before joining the World Food Programme, Jakob worked as a consultant and project manager for several companies, where he was responsible for global engineering projects throughout Africa and Asia.

Jakob received a Masters in Civil Engineering from ETH Zurich, Switzerland. He is married and has two young boys.

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Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC)
ETC 2020
About ETC 2020

5. Satellite and the Transformation of the Humanitarian System

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Presenter: Mr. Samer Halawi, CEO, Thuraya

Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 10:00-10:1004_Samer Halawi_IMG_0205

In this keynote, the CEO of Thuraya looked at how the satellite industry will help transform the humanitarian system within the digital economy and how Thuraya envisions the future technological landscape for communications.

The digital transformation in relief work is dependent on safe, secure and reliable connectivity in order for relief workers to conduct their critical transactional activities and to save lives. Communities and citizens affected by crisis have a need to communicate externally with their families, their governments and the global community that is supporting them. To relief workers, establishing communication links is essential for first responders to assess the scale of the disaster or organize an evacuation, as well as for ongoing coordination and the set-up of relief operations such as hospitals or vaccination clinics.

Satellite technology remains an integral part of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure, enabling first responders and relief workers to establish vital communication links when it matters most.

Mr. Samer Halawi, CEO, Thuraya

04_Satellite and the Transformation of the Humanitarian System_photo_Samer HalawiSamer Halawi has served as Thuraya’s Chief Executive Officer since January 2011. Drawing upon his extensive experience in ICT and the global satellite communications industry, Samer is responsible for leading Thuraya’s strategic positioning and driving its growth as a prominent global Mobile Satellite Services operator.

Throughout his career, Samer has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to connecting the disconnected via satellite. He has supported a number of non-profit organizations including the ITU, SOS Children’s Villages, NetHope, the Rory Peck Trust and the International News Safety Institute with free airtime and satellite equipment enabling rural and remote communications. Samer has been responsible for leading the close collaboration between the Company’s Service Partners, NGOs and government organizations to provide satellite communications during times of emergencies in China, Japan, the Philippines and Sierra Leone. Thuraya’s services have resulted in countless lives being saved when terrestrial networks were damaged or destroyed.

Before joining Thuraya, Samer played a leading role in starting-up and growing a new venture involved in the digital space that focused on mobile content, IPTV, mobile advertising and web management. Prior to that, Samer was part of Inmarsat’s global strategy team where he was responsible for running operations for the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific. Samer’s other telecommunications experience relates to his roles at Flag Telecom and ICO Global Communications. His role at ICO followed a private placement for the shares of the company that he led during a three-year period he spent in investment banking in the Middle East.

Samer started his career in the automotive industry where he was part of the Chrysler Corporation and Ford Motor Company. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Lawrence Technological University and an MBA with a concentration in Finance from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in the U.S.

Link to related material:

Thuraya

6. Satellite, Critical Infrastructure for First Response

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Presenter: Mr. Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, CEO, Yahsat05_Masood Mahmood_IMG_0009

Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 10:10-10:20

Satellite is impacting people’s lives around the world, providing connectivity that helps promote social well-being.

The CEO of Yahsat spoke about the critical role that satellite plays in emergency response, in particular highlighting three trends that promise to drastically change the way the humanitarian community connects in the field: improvements in the ability to deploy satellite connectivity equipment; the broadening areas satellites cover; and the increasing bandwidth readily available through satellite connections.


Mr. Masood M. Sharif Mahmood
, CEO, Yahsat

05_Satellite Critical Infrastructure for First Response_presentation 05_Satellite Critical Infrastructure for First Response_Photo_Masood M. Sharif MahmoodMasood Mahmood is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Al Yah Satellite Communications Company, Yahsat, the UAE based satellite communications company. He is also a Board Member of DU Telecommunications company and a member of both DU’s Investment and Nomination & Remuneration committees.

As CEO, Masood is responsible for the overall management and full deployment of Yashat’s operational capabilities, on both government and commercial fronts, expanding the business’s global footprint to provide first-class satellite communication solutions. Since joining, Masood has carried on the business’s trajectory extending the growth of the company into new markets, which will include Latin America in 2016, as well as leading its aspirations on being the region’s best-in-class multipurpose satellite operator. The company continues its key role to support the UAE Government, as well as furthering its commercial reach with its various services from YahClick satellite broadband, YahLink IP Trunking & backhaul, as well as Yahlive TV broadcasting (Yahlive is a joint venture with SES).

Appointed as CEO in June 2013, Masood brings with him a wealth of experience, having served on the board of several other companies from financial, industrial and manufacturing industries as well as real-estate. This in addition to having served as Deputy CEO at Yahsat prior to being appointed as CEO, as well as having worked with Mubadala, as Vice President of their Information and Communications Technology (ICT) unit, where he was in charge of corporate strategy and asset management of the ICT unit’s portfolio. This included companies such as DU, EMTS, Injazat, as well as Yahsat.

Masood also has significant experience in investment management and business development, having served for more than a decade at a number of high profile government and semi-government entities in the UAE, such as Dubai Holding and the Executive Office of HH Sheikh Mohamad bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Masood holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Systems Engineering from Boston University, Massachusetts and holds an MBA in Finance from McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

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Yahsat