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    MCIT 2006: A Year of Success

    Date published: 22 January 2007

    2006 was a busy year for the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) – a year in which its successes and accomplishments were perhaps more than any other.

    MCIT’s most notable achievement for 2006 was its closing of the agreement for a third mobile operator license, which was granted to a consortium led by Etisalat of the UAE in a deal worth an astounding LE 16.7 billion. Etisalat, whose interest in Egypt became clear with its participation in the Cairo ICT Exhibition and its establishment of an office in the Smart Village, will provide 3G technology and the latest mobile applications and services to the Egyptian market starting February 2007.

    Educational reform, one of the Egyptian government’s top priorities, is also a major concern of MCIT. In May, the government, working with local IT companies, set up the Egyptian Education Initiative, a public-private partnership with the World Economic Forum’s IT members. The initiative, endorsed by Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, supports Egypt’s overall education reform efforts, focusing on four key tracks: pre-university education, higher education, lifelong learning and ICT industry development. Some 65,000 teachers were trained as part of this program, devised to provide 2,000 schools in 27 governorates with Internet access over a six-month period. In September, the first wireless Internet school was inaugurated in Alexandria.
    For MCIT, IT education is of paramount importance. In January, the ministry announced an initiative to offer low-priced computers for those of limited resources. Prices range from LE 1,500 to LE 1,800, payable in installments over 30 months. In addition, Microsoft signed a deal with the ministries of education and higher education to provide each student, teacher and professor with their own e-mail account.

    MCIT was also one of the partners behind the establishment of Nile University, a not-for-profit, privately-owned and autonomously-managed institution of higher learning dedicated to excellence in technology-related fields with focus on business development and applied research. Located in Sheikh Zayed City, the university was founded by presidential decree on 15 July 2006 as the first in Egypt focusing on graduate education and research. Nile University has forged partnerships with Egyptian industry and business associations as well as international universities and research institutes in order to enrich its academic programs and allow its staff and students to benefit from and contribute to the global information society. The university comprises five faculties – School of Communication and Information Technology, Graduate School of Management of Technology, School of Business Administration, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and School of Petroleum Engineering and Mining – as well as centers for R&D, Entrepreneurship and Incubation, and Innovation and Intellectual Property.

    MCIT was a hive of activity throughout the year with delegates from the ministry assigned numerous missions abroad to sign protocols, discuss means of attracting ICT investments and develop a market for Egyptian ICT worldwide.

    The government sent a high-profile ministerial delegation to the CeBIT exhibition in Hanover, Germany, where 16 Egyptian companies showcased their products. Encouraged by the success of this event and the interest it aroused in Egyptian ICT, 36 Egyptian companies participated in the Gitex exhibition in Dubai, where Syria opted for Egyptian expertise to establish e-government services.

    Another overseas mission resulted in MCIT signing a memorandum of understanding with its Indian counterpart to boost mutual cooperation in ICT research and development, training, Internet security, postal services and telecom regulations and policy formation.

    In China, MCIT signed a cooperation agreement with the Chinese Ministry for Information Industry and two other agreements with Chinese companies ZTA and Huawei on Wi-Max research and development. An agreement was also reached with Patricia Ross, the new CEO of Alcatel and Lucent, on expanding Wi-Fi penetration in Egyptian schools and increasing the company’s investments in the technical support centers that export their services abroad as well as making use of Egyptian human resources in these centers. In Hong Kong, a ministerial delegation participated in ITU Telecom World 2006, during which Dr. Tarek Kamel, minister of communications and information technology, was a keynote speaker at the inauguration of the Youth Forum.

    A mission to the US aimed at exploring potential collaboration and investment opportunities in the ICT industry in Egypt resulted in the signing of three cooperation agreements between the World Bank, the National Postal Authority (NPA), the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) and MCIT.

    In line with the government policy of strengthening ties with the European Union, an official MCIT delegation, headed by Dr. Kamel, went to Belgium where the minister held a key meeting with Mrs. Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for information society and media. The two discussed means of Egypt’s participation in FP7, the EU’s Seventh Framework Program for Research and Technological Development, particularly its Information Society Technologies (IST) priority; coordinating regulatory and policy issues related to the information society; Egypt’s potential role in various EU programs; and activation of the EuroMed forum for ICT.

    Thanks to the availability of specialized technical skills and know-how in Egypt, the country was chosen to host a new call center by Vodafone at its headquarters in Sixth of October City. The center, established to serve Vodafone-Australia clients, is sure to attract greater interest and investment in Egypt.

    In cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, MCIT initiated a three-year, LE 12 million project to digitize selected cultural heritage works from the National Library and Archives of Egypt (Dar Al Kutub). Another protocol was signed to digitize the cultural property of the Egyptian Theater Organization at a cost of LE 2 million.

    Another highlight for Egypt’s ICT sector came in August, when MCIT was presented the Special Achievement in Geographic Information Systems 2006 Award at the ESRI International User Conference in the US for its Egyptian Geography Network (EGN) project. The EGN is a national network of geographic information users and providers that utilizes Internet infrastructure to deliver geographic content to browsers and desktops. It is a collaborative, multi-participant system that provides the framework for publishing, sharing and using geographic information on the Internet available to private, public and commercial users, including data publishers and service providers.

    As part of its ongoing efforts to transform Egypt into an information-based society, MCIT launched a new website that caters to the information and knowledge needs of the Egyptian and global communities. The site offers regular updates on MCIT activities, press releases, news, coverage of events and a photo gallery, and provides researchers with access to an extensive archive of publications, reports and statistical data.

    Among MCIT’s impressive series of conferences in 2006 was one on the convergence of ICT and the broadcasting industry, organized jointly with the Ministry of Information, to explore the opportunities available in the Middle East for convergence in the areas of infrastructure, technology and service provision. Participants discussed the potential and applicability of utilizing converged media – video programming, interactive entertainment, and voice and data services – in the development and enhancement of social and developmental services including health, education and communication.

    Another noteworthy event was Egypt’s hosting of the first African Union CIT Ministerial Committee meeting. One of various follow-up mechanisms created at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunisia in November 2005, the committee is a permanent organization under the African Union umbrella, headed by Egypt for two years. The meeting aimed at developing executive and follow-up tools on the work plan for an African regional information economy in addition to encouraging dialogue on mobilizing resources and developing the skills necessary to execute the WSIS work plan.

    As part of its plan to guarantee universal access to ICT for all Egyptians, MCIT announced a reduction in landline installation fees by 50 percent nationwide. Monthly DSL charges were also reduced by 40 percent, from LE 150 to LE 95 for 256 Kbps, while some 350,000 SDMA lines were installed in Cairo and Alexandria.

    These achievements are only a part of what MCIT accomplished in 2006. From plans to provide each and every citizen with a computer and spread IT knowledge across the country, to playing a key role in the national reform agenda and establishing Egypt as a strong player in the international ICT market, MCIT has set itself a tough record to beat in 2007. However, given the determination and hard work that led to these successes, there should be little doubt that MCIT will do just that.

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