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Tuesday, October 15, 2002

ICT conference - Amman

Queen Rania opens the "'E'-quality in the IT sector" conference.

(The Jordan Times, By Sahar Alul - Amman) Although the digital divide has been addressed in terms of access to Information Communications Technology (ICT) equipment, interested parties gathered to discuss bridging the ICT gender gap.

“We can use this time of change to change more than our access to computers, we can use it to help change ideas, attitudes and even dreams,” said Minister of Education Khalid Touqan in his keynote address at the “`E'-quality in the IT sector” conference.

The opening ceremony, patronised by Her Majesty Queen Rania, also featured an opening speech by UNIFEM Regional Programme Director Haifa Abu Ghazaleh and an overview of the UNIFEM-Cisco partnership by Cisco's Tae Yoo.

This partnership intends to enhance women's knowledge and ICT skills through the establishment of gender focused Networking Academy Programmes (CNAPs) offering quality training to both men and women. “Internet and education are the two equalisers bridging the digital divide,” Yoo told the audience, stressing the ever increasing importance of IT network training as a tool for attracting international investment.

“Jordan was an ideal country for us to begin these pilot gender networking academies,” Yoo told The Jordan Times.

“We found a strong local partner in UNIFEM capable of handling this initiative.” The two-year programme is the first of its kind in the region, offering a model for mainstreaming and empowering women in ICT through the ten CNAPs established thus far in cooperation with local academic institutions.

Comprising four major components the programme ensures: Capacity building for women, equal opportunity in the IT job market, policy making and awareness raising and building an information base on gender-sensitive issues.

Some 600 students were enrolled at the 280-hour comprehensive networking programme, 380 of whom were women, said UNIFEM ICT Programme Manager Dima Bibi who unveiled the results from the “Jordanian Women in the ICT Space” research.

The research, conducted under the UNIFEM-Cisco initiative, assesses and evaluates the ICT sector in Jordan from a gender perspective.

Results indicated females currently constitute 48 per cent of the country's 5.2 million population with some 41 per cent of those over the age of 15 considered economically active and 20.3 per cent unemployed.

In addition, 32 per cent of computer science BSc degree holders are women in comparison to the 15 per cent of the ICT engineering specialisation graduates.

Today's sessions are to include gender and ICT related policy discussions, education and Cisco networking academy programmes, job placement as well as a closing recommendations session.

The forum is expected to formulate future actions and guidelines that will ensure equal opportunities in the ICT job market as well as gender-equitable and locally relevant ICT policies.