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French Version

Jordan to kick-start new IT ventures with Malaysia

INFORMATION IS only a mouse-click away, but not all countries enjoy that technological luxury today.

INFORMATION IS only a mouse-click away, but not all countries enjoy that technological luxury today. A recent report by the US-based WorldPaper revealed that Jordan is among the countries striving for an Information Technology (IT) driven future. However, economic and social obstacles stand in the way.

The report divided world countries into four groups: Forerunners, swifters, alerted and unhurried. The first group represents countries that are very advanced in IT industries, the second represents countries working to conform with IT development, the third represents countries that have made large strides in IT but lack the ability to practice it, while the fourth represents countries which have taken the initiative to enhance their IT industry but have yet to implement it. Jordan falls under the fourth group.

“I believe Jordan is doing well in the IT sector, but it still depends a great deal on the social transformation of the ICT (Internet and Communication Technology),” said Dr Othman Yeop Abdallah, executive chairman of Malaysia’s Multimedia Development Corp. (MDC). Abdallah praised the Kingdom’s interest in developing Internet technology, and noted that the expansion of cyber cafés across the Kingdom would raise public awareness about the Internet.

He also spoke on the progress achieved by Malaysia in the realm of IT following the launch of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project in 1996. The project, launched by MDC, revolves around establishing a comprehensive cyber-law framework, launching a world-class telecommunications infrastructure, streamlining governmental procedures and ushering in top-quality urban development. Abdallah told The Star although an IT infrastructure has been established in Jordan, domestic Internet usage is still below requirements. A recent study by several Arab IT experts put Jordan in second place behind the United Arab Emirates with regard to domestic Internet usage. On the institutional level, the study revealed also that subscription in the Kingdom is still restricted to educational and media institutions. “We are looking forward to sharing our expertise and services with Jordan through our joint venture with MEC,” said Abdallah, who was talking on the sidelines of the Malaysian-Jordanian Business Platform conference, inaugurated on Saturday, 21 April, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The two-day conference, held under Royal patronage, aimed to explore opportunities for businesspeople from both countries to set up joint investment and development projects, mainly in the IT sector. More than 20 companies took part in the platform, which was organized in co-operation with the Middle East Communication Corp (MEC) and the Musharaka International Co. Participating companies represented different sectors, including the pharmaceutical, media, educational and trade sectors.

With an investment of $300 million, the MDC is striving towards a cyber-based community. Around 6000 jobs were created in the last five years across ICT occupational groups which were filled mainly by Malaysians. MDC has a plan to create 35,000 employment opportunities by 2005, all based on ICT requirements. Abdallah believes education is one of the vital fields that any government should work on in its bid to raise social awareness about IT. Abdallah noted IT education in any developing country requires new modes of learning that must be pursued on all educational levels.

“There have been problems for universities in Malaysia when trying to recruit tutors that are able to teach students about new modes of IT learning, such as distance learning and the development of digitized knowledge,” he explained. “What we can do in respect to higher education is to create new modes of learning and intensify efforts to accelerate the exposition of skills for the next generations. And this should be fully integrated at the lower level of principal schools and right up to the university level.” Minister of Post and Telecommunications Fawaz Al Zu’bi reiterated Jordan’s determination to establish an efficient and proper IT infrastructure, and facilitate economic and social integration into Internet and computer technologies.

The minister believes the Malaysian-Jordanian Platform is a good opportunity for Jordanian businesspeople to acquire IT know-how in one of the most advanced economies in South East Asia. “The Malaysians’ forward thinking ICT strategies have placed them on par with Western economies,” said Rifad Al Farhan, MEC chief executive officer.
Many Malaysian businessmen and participants at the platform expressed resentment over the way Jordanian investors rushed towards western-driven technology. The MDC hopes to establish Jordan as its main regional center for the Arab world.

Malaysian businessmen have already established trade relations with Jordanian counterparts, and look forward to further ventures and partnerships in the ICT sector. Al Farhan added Malaysia and Jordan share the same religious values and economic interests.

Ghassan Joha
The Star

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