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French Version

Jordan reviews technology strategy, takes a reality check with REACH 3.0 report

Jordan's information technology association, "int@j", unveiled version 3.0 of REACH...

Marking the end of three months of research and public-private sector debate, Jordan's information technology association, "int@j", unveiled version 3.0 of REACH, Jordan's national strategy for information and communications technology (ICT) industry development, at the Jordan ICT Forum 2002.

First formulated in 1999, the five-year REACH strategy originally set far-reaching goals for the creation of jobs, exports and investments through exploiting the potential of information and communication technologies. However, according to int@j chairman Marwan Juma, REACH has had to face new global market realities since the strategy was first developed. "Looking back, the world seemed a lot simpler then. Today, Jordan has completed many of the basic tasks required to underpin the expansion and growth of our national ICT development initiatives. But we have also identified key areas where we need to work harder and faster if we are to meet our goals."

REACH 3.0, with 50 identified strategic actions, proposes fundamental changes in the way that Jordan uses technology in government, education and the private sector. "In Jordan, the IT industry is growing rapidly, telecommunications infrastructure and services have been modernized, the regulatory environment facilitates ICT sector growth, and plans are being implemented to increase the impact of technology on the lives of all Jordanians," says Juma.

The REACH 3.0 report acknowledges that the global downturn in ICT spending has made the original REACH targets more difficult to achieve, with goals of 20,000 IT and 10,000 IT-related jobs in Jordan, $550 million in exports and $150 million in foreign direct investment (FDI) to be attained by the end of 2004.

However, a study conducted by int@j shows the REACH strategy is producing significant results. In 2001, 5,000 Jordanians IT professionals were employed, $38 million in exports were generated, and $60 million in FDI was invested in Jordan's IT industry. Domestic revenue in the IT industry also grew to $138 million in 2001.

The study also showed that 70 percent of Jordan's export revenues from sales of software and IT services are coming from the Arab world. Saudi Arabia is Jordan's largest single ICT export market, with exports to the US representing a close second. While a third of Jordanian IT firms export to the UAE, the Emirates account for a mere 15 percent of all export revenue.

"We see the Arab world, and the Arabian Gulf in particular, as key markets for Jordanian talent and expertise," said Juma. "We're now focusing on exporting value rather than labor to these markets, and therefore creating a regional IT resource. That's why the development of infrastructure, training and facilities for ICT-enabled education is a vitally important component of the forward planning in REACH 3.0. We know talent is a key resource for us, so we're building on that."

The success of the REACH strategy has also inspired a host of new initiatives employing technology to bridge the digital divide. A new Connecting Jordanians initiative will link schools, colleges, and IT community centers through a high-speed broadband network. An e-Learning initiative is creating a dynamic education portal, and has already begun training teachers to use technology-based learning techniques to enrich their curriculum.

A Higher Education initiative is working to improve the IT infrastructure and education provided in universities and colleges. And a national e-Government initiative is coordinating efforts to streamline processes and deliver public sector information and services online. Dramatic reform of the Kingdom's former Ministry of Post and Communications was another major achievement of the original REACH strategy. The creation of a Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has facilitated liberalization of the telecommunications sector and increased competition.

As a result, Jordan now enjoys "one of the most open telecommunications markets in the Arab world", according to McConnell International, a global ICT sector consulting firm. In addition, 15 new and amended pieces of legislation have been adopted to support ICT sector growth, including world-class Intellectual Property Rights legislation and a new Electronic Transactions Law.

The Star

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