Interview with Minister of information and communication technology on MENA ICT

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Jordan Minister of Information and Communication Technology - Mr. Marwan Juma, has been an active player in Jordan's Information and Communication Technology sector since 1990. He has extensive experience in both IT and tele-com, as long as in-depth understanding and appreciation of the importance of ICT as an engine for the economy as a whole. This knowledge has compelled him to work towards establishing a world-class telecom infrastructure in Jordan, building our Human Resources capacity, enabling a regulatory and investment environment, and promoting private-public partnership as the true catalyst for further enhancing and accelerating Jordan’s economic development process.

Below is an Invitation to MENA ICT Forum by H.E. Marwan Juma, Jordan MoICT, on the top of Interview Questions and Answers with his His Excellency, where he marks the importance of ICT in MENA Region, its outcomes on society and business opportunities.

Interview Questions and Answers

Q. Where is ICT in the MENA Region?

A. Regional levels of access to modern telecommunications, network capabilities and coverage, as well as investments in the sector, are as diverse as the 22 countries of the MENA Region. According to the latest report by Arab Advisors Group, mobile subscribers in the Arab World reached 241.3 million by the end of September 2009. Also according to the report, the UAE has the highest mobile penetration rate in the Arab World at approximately 193.5%, becoming one of the highest mobile penetrated markets in the world followed by Saudi Arabia at 165.5%. There are an estimated 57.5 million internet users in the Middle East, and between 2000 and 2009, the Region witnessed a notable internet usage growth rate of 1,648.2%. Countries such as Egypt and Tunisia have been recognized for significantly improving and creating policies which are anticipated to propel their economies into the digital information age. Other countries in the Region have witnessed admirable rapid growth, such as Bahrain, whose ICT industry is expected to reach a value of approximately $375 million by the end of the year. We are headed in the right direction in the Region, as can be seen from statistical data, but it is very important that we discuss our sector’s future collectively. The opportunity has presented itself with the upcoming MENA ICT Forum 2010, which will be held in Jordan on October 10-11, 2010 and I very much look forward to dynamic and interesting discussions with key industry players and policymakers.

Q. What is the current situation of ICT in Jordan?

A. Jordan’s ICT industry is valued at almost 1.97 billion dollars, and the Kingdom’s ICT landscape provides a case study of what it takes to succeed in the international market place. International connectivity redundancy has been available in Jordan since 1992, with approximately 1.7 million users as of June 2010. Ours is one of the most advanced and open telecommunications markets in the Middle East and host to a telecommunications sector that is designed and well-built to sustain the growing ICT industry’s requirements and expectations. A.T. Kearney’s global service location, rated Jordan among the top ten worldwide for outsourcing services in 2009. Jordan’s main strengths lie in its fully liberalized telecommunications market, all digital network, bilingual talented and growing labor pool, expanding ICT infrastructure, and intellectual property protection and sound policies. We all have models and success stories to share as the Region’s ICT industry steadily grows and develops. The important thing is for all the Region’s countries to exchange best practices and to learn from each other’s lessons and experiences, and to discuss our visions for the future of our Region’s ICT industry. The MENA ICT Forum I mentioned earlier will provide such a platform for viable and imperative strategic debates.

Q. What is the extent to which governments should encourage firms to use Information Technology if unemployment is a consequence?

A. Information technology has led to many changes in how we work, where we work and even when we work. It has undeniably had a dramatic effect on our working lives. Today, customers expect even the smallest of businesses to have a professional, informative website, and clearly businesses that have failed to embrace the advancement of ICT have put themselves at a disadvantage. If companies do not use ICT, they will become less efficient and will lose trade both locally and regionally in the long-term, simply because ICT helps businesses become more efficient and effective. At the macro level, ICT is an enabler of economic growth and sustainability, and as such, its cumulative effects create employment opportunities.

Q. We live in a media and information society that is becoming increasingly dependent on ICT, which can have both positive and negative implications. Consequently, it has become extremely important to strengthen information security for the public and private sectors. Where do you think we stand in the Region on information security, and are you satisfied with the results thus far?

A. Excellent work has been done to date as relates to improving and strengthening Information Security. ICT is instrumental to the secure exchange and distribution of information through networks, and has provided national security agencies with more comprehensive tools for decision-making. It has enabled rapid and coordinated action, and the appropriate means to respond to various situations. In this context, focusing on Information Security is a priority area for most nations and their national security. The same is applicable for the protection of the flow of information between corporations and institutions. Organizations are becoming more concerned with protecting information to ensure business continuity, reduce business damage and maximize returns on investment and business opportunities. It is our responsibility in the ICT sector to ensure the confidentiality, protect the integrity and control the availability of all critical data, information and resources that concern governments and organizations, and I believe that so far, we have been doing a good job.

Q. Will Communications in the MENA Region continue to grow?

A. Absolutely yes. Think of the importance of improving communications in health and education, as well as the influence of social networking and the way so many businesses operate these days. Communications are at the heart of almost everything we do today. We are fully aware of the direct benefits of ICT investments on national economies, which include increases in productivity, job creation and GDP growth. But the indirect benefits, such as the development of new trade opportunities across the globe; reduction in transaction time; reduction in travel costs; and the promotion of entrepreneurship are also of great consequence, indicating progressiveness and defining a forward-thinking approach. It is extremely important that the Industry’s top movers and shakers meet to discuss accomplishments, share success stories and highlight future opportunities for the Region’s ICT industry. The MENA ICT Forum 2010 has been created specifically for this purpose, so that global experts and key industry players can come together to provide their invaluable insight and perspectives on the Industry’s current situation. Our industry is an essential part of future regional business strategies, opening up new fields and new potential for growth in just about every sector. We will convene in Amman in October to discuss personal journeys, leverage the Industry’s regional accomplishments, and navigate strategies for moving ahead. Countries which have succeeded in effectively employing information and communication technologies are the ones with sustainable economic growth. They are witnessing positive impact in areas such as: access to local/national/international markets, the development of new global trade opportunities, reduction in transaction time, reduction in travel costs (ICT as a substitute for transportation), promotion of entrepreneurship, and increases in social welfare contributions from ICT Operators among others. The world is evolving on a daily basis, and to remain at the forefront, we need to bridge the digital divide between the northern and southern hemispheres, connecting our Region to the world, and ultimately enabling our people and businesses to compete in national and global markets.

 P.S: you can watch the interview on this below link

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