The Iraqi government opened the first Internet cafe in the country on Tuesday, as an attempt to provide its people with a glimpse of what is happening in the outside world, reported The Associated Press.
Customers of the Internet cafe in Baghdad will be allowed to browse almost any Web site – provided it does not violate “the precepts of Islamic religion” or offend “morals and ethics,” Transport and Communications Minister, Ahmed Khalil, said
According to the AP, the sites will be screened before being relayed to users.
But no matter how restricted, added the agency, the cafe is a bold step in a country where satellite dishes and modems are banned and special permission is needed to install a fax. The sole provider of Internet services in Iraq is the Ministry of Culture and Information. Access until now had been restricted to government use.
Khalil said similar cafes will be opened in Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities, and he vowed to do everything possible to help Iraq catch up in Internet technology, the AP noted.
Meanwhile, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has ordered a university be set up to deal exclusively with computer technology so Iraqis will be kept abreast of advances, said the agency.
Private entrepreneurs are not allowed to set up Internet cafes and citizens with home computers still cannot have a direct link. But via terminals at the cafe, Iraqis can now set up their own private e-mails.
The bright, air-conditioned cafe charges 2,000 dinars ($1) for each hour of computer use. The sum is substantial in Iraq where the monthly salary of a school teacher is about 6,000 dinars ($3), added the AP.
“It is our first outpost of information technology. I hope the authorities will not stop here,” said Husam Kareem, who runs a computer shop in Baghdad.
Baghdad blames UN sanctions imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait for the delay in allowing the Internet and an inability to set up a cellular phone network in the country, according to the agency – Albawaba.com
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