Syria opens telecenters in rural areas to narrow digital divide
Syria's First Lady Asmaa Al-Assad recently helped launch an information and communications technology (ICT) telecenter in Bosra, south of Damascus, that offers training in word processing, computer graphics, web site design and email.
This and other telecenters that opened stimultaneously in Al-Zabadani, near Damascus, and Dreikish, near Tartous on the Mediterranean coast, are part of an effort to help rural communities close the digital divide and promote progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
The Ministry of Information and Technology plans to open another 11 of these rural telecenters this year, with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). They will use ReefNet, a web portal providing information in Arabic catering to rural needs, including local information and news, food security, employment, laws and legal rights, social services, health and environment.
According to the UNDP Arab Human Development Report 2003, only 0.4 percent of Syrians are Internet subscribers, indicating that the poor have virtually no access. The telecenters are training and service-oriented, focusing on technology as a tool to help people gain information and modern skills to improve their lives and livelihoods.
The telecenters program builds on six broad initiatives to help Syria use ICT as a tool for human development. These include assessing suitable ways of using ICT for human development, setting up a financial mechanism to sustain the telecenters using a franchise model, and developing information content relevant to local and national human development requirements through ReefNet.
The program will also use a pilot mobile Internet unit to reach out to remote areas until ICT becomes more widely available, give policy advice to ensure that the national ICT strategy is in line with human development needs, and offer training in managing Internet service providers. — (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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