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December 07, 2003

Egyptian Perspectives - President Hosni Mubarak heads the Egyptian delegation to WSIS along with several delegations from the Middle East and North Africa. Cairo has gone a long way in ICT during the past decade but several problems still exist and some are saying it is not about money.

"WSIS comes at a crucial time as the development of international relations depends on abolishing barriers between nations that help communities to better understand each other", says Nabil Ahmed Helmi Dean of the law school, Zagazig University in Egypt.

Helmi stressed to dailysummit that abolishing these barriers resulted in a considerable flow of information despite efforts by certain governments to restrict it. He views WSIS as an "important step towards coordinating the flow of information and finding best ways to use ICT especially in developing countries and Arab ones. "

Helmi argues that the spread of information and communications technologies in the developing countries and the Middle East is closely linked to the question of money.

He explains that larger poor populations can not gain much from ICT unless there are real efforts to enhance the economic conditions in their respective countries. He cites the Egyptian initiative (pc for every student) as an example of governmental procedures designed to spread the use of computers.

Dr. Saad El-Din Ibrahim, founding director of Ibn Khaldun center for social and development studies and the controversial Egyptian human rights activist sees the initiative similarly but says that the Egyptian society is gaining from ICT through 15% of its population.

Ibrahim explains that this percentage owns satellite dishes or have direct contact with the internet and he calls it the "strategic minority". In an interview with dailysummit, Ibrahim acknowledged that the Egyptian society has a long way to go to benefit from ICT.

For him, "85% of the adult Egyptian population is deprived from information". Ibrahim notes that official newspapers in Egypt sell around 5 million copies and claims "that around 10 million adult Egyptians are reading newspapers which means there are large sectors of the society out of the information business altogether".

Accordingly, they do not have an exact opinion on certain issues and do not have a medium to even express their ideas. His words are possibly right but there are certain pages in Egyptian newspapers that are allocated to information and communications technology but it seems that the larger sector of the country is not reading because simply it cant afford or do not have the tools for buying a computer and knowing what it offers.

The Egyptian government has initiated a number of programs to enhance the awareness of young students regarding computers and embarked on an ambitious project to provide PCs to large number of schools.

But Dr. Kamal Mougheeth, a researcher in the Center for Educational Research, says "there should a be a system and a scientific measurable method to assess the accessibility of these students to ICT." He says that computers are installed in a limited number of schools but the major obstacle is that lack of information on everything. Mougheeth stresses the need for numbers on "how many computers are there in schools and homes".

As for the students, he says they are "willing to embrace ICT but they do not have time because of the hardships imposed by the educational system in Egypt." He concludes that even the" Ministry of Education seems to miss the ideology behind the information revolution and tend to view the computer only as a machine not as a world filled with opportunities."

He is right and people will not experience the endless bless of information and communications technology unless they are free to acquire information and taught in schools what is the importance of this information.

Ahmed Reda @ December 7, 2003 03:07 PM | TrackBack

Comments (2)
Perhaps the problem is that there's a lack of coordination of government services; many ministries/departments are adversarial over funding and as such, don't work very well together at times. I think that this is possibly one aspect of the problem.
Taran @ December 7, 2003 04:27 PM
Yes indeed the problem is that there's a lack of coordination of government services + a total absense of customer service culture , hopefully all this will be considered when planning and implementing the e-Government projects , or they will become e-Bureaucracies!
Amr @ January 5, 2004 01:28 PM

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