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French Version

Future looks bright for Arab world's ICT sector

New association seeks to boost region's independence, create jobs

A promising future awaits the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector in the Arab world, said members of the union of Arab ICT Associations (Ijmaa) during a conference in Beirut.

Held on the sidelines of ICT Lebanon 2004, the conference, "Countries, Initiatives and Market Opportunities," addressed the importance of regional coordination in the ICT sector, with participants being told that such a move will help end the region's reliance on foreign services, creating more job opportunities for Arab youth.

"Our aim is to promote coordination between various Arab ICT associations in a way that gives Arab youth the chance to participate in developing this sector," said Walid Moneimne, senior vice president of Nokia Networks and chairman of the conference. "This is why the concept of Ijmaa emerged."

Ijmaa, the Arabic word for "gather," was established almost a year ago; it brings together ICT associations from seven different countries: Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Morocco and, recently, Iraq. Its aim is to create an Arab Information society, with a federation of all Arab information and telecommunications associations.

"To achieve this aim,," said Moneimne, "member countries agreed on a number of steps, such as organizing and participating in seminars and workshops, exchanging scientific and technical experience, and information on the private sectors in member state."

Speakers representing IT associations in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt participated in the conference, which saw the signing of a cooperation memorandum between Lebanon and Iraq in the field of ICT, allowing Iraq to join Ijmaa.

"We hope that the signing ... will help us benefit from the Lebanese experience in the ICT sector, to activate and enhance the ICT sector in Iraq," said Akram Othman, president of Iraq's Computer Society.

Regarding the growing importance of technology in our everyday life, Othman said the ability to obtain information and transfer it into services is one of the basic pillars of a strong economy.

"Information and communication technology is a must in today's global market, and for building national economies," he said.

Othman said the impact of technology on our societies is an equally important issue that should be addressed.

"The social, cultural and educational impact of technology on our societies should not be ignored; it should be addressed to attain the maximum benefit from this technology," he said.

"The ICT sector is growing worldwide at an enormous rate," said Ijmaa head Jalal Fawaz, who also heads the Lebanese Professional Computer Association.

"Fortunately, Lebanon and the region are experiencing a huge transformation and the ICT sector's growth is considered to be one of the highest," he said.

Fawaz explained that the idea of creating a union for ICT associations in the Arab world came about as no one country could form the region's hub in ICT on its own.

"Together, we will stand stronger and be able to rely on our own expertise and, hopefully, technology," Fawaz said. "Maybe creating a firm base for a profitable ICT sector in the Arab world will help decrease the migration of our educated youth and convince them to invest their intellect in their own countries."

Beirut 04-10-2004
Majdoline Hatoum
The Daily Star

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