DEAD SEA -- Jordan on Wednesday launched the country's 2013 ICT strategy that includes plans to increase Internet penetration in the Kingdom from the current 63 per cent to 85 per cent by the end of 2017.
The strategy entails promoting the ICT sector in Jordan to increase investments in the field from $250 million currently to $450 million by the end of 2017, Abed Shamlawi, CEO of the ICT Association of Jordan (int@j), said during the opening of the MENA ICT Forum 2013, which attracted more than 1,000 experts and CEOs in the field from across the globe.
The strategy, which will be implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, includes increasing the sector's annual revenues from around $2.5 billion currently to some $3.15 billion by the end of 2017, Shamlawi told The Jordan Times during the two-day forum.
Under the strategy, employment in the sector will increase from around 16,000 currently to around 20,000 by the end of 2017, he added.
Addressing the forum, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Hatem Halawani said: "The remarkable impact of ICT on the macro and micro levels of the economy has been exponentially growing since the early 90s in the country."
Citing recent studies on emerging and developing economies, the minister said that every 10 per cent increase in Internet penetration correlates with an incremental gross domestic product increase of 1-2 per cent.
"Other studies have indicated that raising broadband penetration in emerging markets to the levels in Western Europe could add $300 to $400 billion in gross domestic product and create 10 to 14 million new jobs," said the minister at the event, which witnessed the launch of an initiative to boost much-needed Arabic content on the web.
Internet subscriptions in Jordan stood at 14 per cent with about 874,832 subscribers by the end of September 2012, according to latest available figures released by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission. Of the total, there were 556,557 mobile broadband subscribers, 198,003 ADSL and 106,843 Wi-Max users.
According to a recent report by Cisco Systems, Inc, mobile broadband network users in Jordan enjoy download and upload speeds that surpass the average in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries.
During the forum, participants called for institutionalised efforts to support entrepreneurs in the region, stressing that the fast-paced developments in the Arab world during the so-called Arab Spring have made it crucial to support the self-employment of the youth.
"With about 50 per cent of the region's population being less than 30 years, there is a need for focusing on enhancing the ICT skills of the youth.... There are not enough jobs in the region to absorb the demand for jobs by the youth, therefore, it is important to nurture entrepreneurs and secure funding for launching project in the sector, which enjoys a huge potential for growth," Rashid Al Ballaa, founder and CEO of the National Technology Group in Saudi Arabia, said during the forum.
Usama Fayyad, CEO of Oasis500, said that in the Middle East, consumerism is the main focus of the region rather than investment and entrepreneurship, calling for more support of entrepreneurs.
The participants also called for the integration of ICT in the fields of education, health, energy and commerce to boost economic growth in the country.
"ICT is not well integrated in education so far," Hasan Al Bitar, business development manager at Intel Corporation in the Levant, said during a session on ICT trends in education.
"In a very short time, we will have a full Internet penetration, even fast broadband like 4G. The issue we have to focus on is the coverage, as we need to reach every student, even in the rural areas, so that they can benefit from the new technology too," he said during the forum.
The forum, which concludes Thursday, will involve discussions on employment and human resources in the Arab world, investments in the sector, games industry, outsourcing in the region, cyber technology, women in technology and Internet freedom, among other subjects.
© Jordan Times 2013