Digital transformation plan launched, but in need of funding
The strategy’s aims include the development of a scientific workforce for various IT-related fields, support for research and development, the promotion of innovation in partnership with research institutions, and enhancing interaction involving public, private and academic sectors in the fields of digital transformation.
The strategy will establish monitoring and evaluation systems with performance indicators and tracking tools to measure the progress of the digital transformation process, along with conducting assessments of digital readiness and the optimisation of data to make better policy decisions.
The three-year E-NABLE project (2022-25), funded by the European Union with the technical support of Expertise France, will support Libya in its digital transformation strategy that will involve all state institutions, including universities.
The strategy pointed out that some of the obstacles that it will face include limited funding, weak investment in digital technologies and the innovation system, digital illiteracy, and a scarcity of IT experts.
Statistics showed that, out of a Libyan population of about 7.1 million, 6.7 million people or 94.8% of the total population have access to the internet.
In addition, Libya is ranked 164 out of 176 countries when it comes to average internet speed. The country is ranked 30 out of 220 countries with reference to the cost of the internet, but is ranked fourth for cheap internet in Africa.
Action plan for higher education sector
Under the strategy, a digital transformation academy will be established and additional business incubators, innovation centres and start-up companies, or junior enterprises, will be set up in higher education institutions.
The ministry of higher education and scientific research will perform several tasks to roll out the digital transformation strategy, including raising awareness about digital transformation, building confidence in digital systems and e-government services and setting up educational programmes focusing on artificial intelligence, blockchain and big data at higher education institutions to promote digital transformation.
In addition, the ministry will support the Engineering and Information Technology Research Center and the e-Government Excellence Center, promote joint research involving the government, higher education and research institutions and the private sector; and provide funding for research and development as well as for the building of digital laboratories.
The implementation of e-learning projects and the digitalisation of higher education, including management systems, will also be part of the ministry’s tasks.
Within the strategy assessment and evaluation system, the ministry will monitor higher education datasets in the Global Open Data Index, which is a global assessment of open government data publication.
The ministry will also monitor the e-Government Development Index, which assesses e-government development at a national level.
Professor Ahmed Attia, the head of faculty affairs at the faculty of medical technology at the University of Tripoli in Libya, welcomed the launch of the digital transformation strategy.
“This strategy is a step towards offering the needed digital infrastructure for establishing an improved e-learning environment at higher education institutions and initiating the move towards transforming traditional Libyan universities to a university 4.0 model, along with enhancing the university role in developing the necessary IT human resources for sustainable development,” Attia told University World News.
“With the holding of the first Libyan conference on digital agriculture at the University of Tripoli at the beginning of March, the strategy will accelerate universities’ move towards setting up an innovation and research system.
Attia’s views were supported by the 2022 study, ‘Challenges of Applying e-Learning in the Libyan Higher Education System’ which indicated that Libyan universities lack the ICT technological infrastructure and the 2020 study, ‘An assessment of the expertise required of workers, in the context of their capacity to cope with Libya’s Fourth Industrial Revolution’ which indicated that Libya suffers from a skills deficit essential for the 4IR.