|ICT is a 'ticket' to economic prosperity
|This best describes the atmosphere and spirit of the country's most successful information and communication technology event, the Jordan ICT Forum, held from 30 September to 1 October.
Attended by His Majesty King Abdallah II, the forum received his personal support and attention as part of his continuous efforts to lead Jordan into the information age.
His Majesty spoke in the ICT Forum's opening session saying that, "ICT is an engine of growth. We are extremely serious about it. Despite the regional and global events, ICT will enhance our economy as a whole."
The Forum boasted an impressive list of speakers, including the likes of Dr Craig Barret, Intel CEO, George Vranderburg, Strategic Advisor, America Online and John Cage, chief researcher and director of the Science Office, Sun Microsystems.
The 'master of ceremony,' Scott Shuster of Business Week, did exceptionally well in both chairing the many panels of topics and presenting speakers in a way that truly captured the spirit of this meeting.
Dr Craig Barret delivered the opening keynote address. He outlined Intel's view of successful, knowledge-based economies saying that they focused on three things; educating the people, developing the infrastructure for everyone to benefit from and an active e-Government. He said that Jordan is active in all three.
He went on to say that Jordan compares well to other service based economies in terms of Gross Domestic Product per capita that is service related. In Jordan, such GDP is 70 percent, which is on par with the percentage, per capita, in emerging economies like China and Australia.
On another note, he highlighted fields were Jordan needs to do more, citing an International Data Corporation (IDC) study that showed that Jordan had 33 PCs per 1000 people, and 29 Internet users per 1000 people. This does not compare to favorably to countries like the United Arab Emirates where there are 150 PCs and 310 Internet users per 1000 people.
Still, he praised Jordan's unique e-leadership initiatives and demonstrated Intel's commitment to the country. Dr Barret announced that Intel would launch its program "Teach the Future" in Jordan, which will focus on computing in the classroom, he said that two Intel Computer Clubhouses would open in Jordan, in cooperation with the Welfare Association. He also said that Intel has been providing e-consulting for the Jordanian Government and will continue to do so.
Dr Barret concluded by saying, "I am extremely excited about the future of Jordan. The attitude is wonderful and the progress made is excellent." Later on in the day, the specialized panels started. The first panel at the Forum covered the topic of "Developing Jordan's IT Industry," focusing on access to capital and finance in developing information technology projects. Speakers included Raed Bilbessi, CEO of the Information Technology Association of Jordan (int@j), Nashat Masri, Partner in Foursan Group, Mr Thomas Gibson, President of the Institute for SME Finance; followed by a case study on Jordan provided by Estarta Solutions.
That evening, as part of a gala dinner at the Dead Sea for Forum participants, George Vranderburg, Strategic Advisor, America Online made a special address on ICT development.
The next morning, the second panel began and covered the topic of 'Providing the Enabling Environment for Jordan's ICT Development", introduced by Bashar Arafeh, Data Group director at FastLink; followed by case studies on Jordan. The first was the 'Connecting Jordanians' initiative, presented by Emile Cubeisy, director of ICT Promotions, MoICT, and Doug Hull, senior director, Public Access/Learning Networks at CANARIE Inc.
The other case study was on the topic of "Jordan Information Technology Community Centers," presented by Ms Hala Bseiso Latouf, secretary general of the Ministry of Planning.
Panel three covered the topic of "Human Resources Development," in which speakers included Randa Ayoubi, CEO of Rubicon, Jean Abi Nader, managing director of IdeaComm, Inc, Deema Bibi, ICT Program manager, at the UNIFEM Regional Office and Mr Basim Nasir, from Intel Corporation.
Finally, Panel 4 discussed the topic of "Government Support of ICT Indutsry Development," given by Humam Al Mufti, General Manager of Specialized Technical Servies (STS), Vatche Dakessian, CEO of Dakessian Consulting, Steve Rynecki, ICT Policy Conusltant, and the two members of the Jordan e-Government team, Mahmoud Khasawneh, CIO at the MoICT and Dima Anani, Director of ICT Policy at the ministry.
One of the most impressive reports was presented on Jordan's "e-Readiness" was by Ms Roslyn Docktor, Vice President of McConnel International.
It detailed the factors of connectivity, e-leadership, Internet security, human capital and e-business climate as the drivers of e-Readiness. Her firm, which conducts such studies for many other countries across the world, conducted the Jordan study in June and July of this year.
Jordan scored low on e-business climate, low to medium on connectivity and Internet security, medium on human capital and medium to high on e-leadership.
Ms Docktor emphasized that "Assessments are just a slice in time," adding that Jordan's rankings could dramatically change within months if the current initiatives bear fruits. An example she gave was that when the study was conducted, only 43 schools in the country were online. Today, three months later, 400 are online! That, on it's own, would considerably change some of the findings.
McConnel International believes that "Jordan will not remain in the middle position of e-Readiness for long....Jordan will become a model country for ICT development."
Facts and figures stated by Intel and McConnel were welcomed by His Majesty, who said, "I'd like to thank the international companies for telling us how far we've gone. Critique is good."
The closing keynote address was given by Mr John Gage, Chief Researcher and Director of the Science Office, Sun Microsystems.
He provided an engaging presentation that highlighted the immense possibilities of information technology, and demonstrated Sun commitment to Jordan.
In his closing address to the Forum, His Majesty the King thanked all participants, and said, "We want to offer all Jordanians the chance to excel."
His Majesty also took the opportunity to announce his vision for an Arab platform for such ICT initiatives saying that "we need to work with our Arab neighbors to compliment one another. There is enough work to go round."
The Ministry of ICT, int@j and the AMIR Program are to be congratulated on such a well organized event. The degree of professionalism was there for everyone to see. It was another demonstration of Jordan's human capital. Obviously, there's more where that came from.
The Forum showed that Jordan is on the right track that leads to ICT development, and to a more general betterment of the economy. The next Forum will, undoubtedly, bring more good news.