Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, accompanied by the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Yasser ElKady, has inaugurated, this morning, the Fifth Annual International Conference on Communications and Information Technology for People with Disabilities under the theme “Inclusion, Empowerment and Participation”, held under the auspices of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, at the Smart Village Convention Center, Cairo on May 9- 10.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by Giza Governor General Kamal Daly, the Honorary President of Egyptian Sports Federation for Disabled Vice Admiral Mohab Mamish, the Secretary General of the National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA) Ashraf Marei, EU Ambassador to Egypt James Moran. The inauguration was also attended by the Regional Director of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies, representatives of the League of Arab States (LAS), UNESCO and a number of international and regional experts in the field of People with Disabilities (PwDs) empowerment through ICTs.
The Premier has delivered a speech, expressing his pride of Egypt’s sons of PwDs, who have managed to transcend all obstacles and barriers, not only to achieve personal successes but also to contribute to building the future of Egypt and realizing the hopes of its great people.
Ismail directed his speech to PwDs participating in the ceremony saying that Egypt was inspired by their will and perseverance to set policies that aim to achieve social justice for about 15 million Egyptian citizens, by enabling and integrating them into society.
The efforts brought about a number of projects, including “Takaful and Karama” project. He added that an article was added to the current constitution obliging the state to guarantee the rights of PwDs, provide job opportunities for them and adapt public facilities and environment surrounding them to help integrate them into society, pursuant to the principles of equality, justice and equal opportunities, thus ensuring their exercise of all political rights. Egypt was also proud to have a parliament witnessing an honorable representation of PwDs, he added.
Ismail referred to the great attention given by the President to PwDs and his permanent directions to make life easier for them, and ensure their rights guaranteed by the Constitution. On behalf of Mr President, Ismail launched the presidential initiative of integrating and empowering PwDs which aims to realize social justice.
The Prime Minister stated that this initiative aimed at adapting the ICT sector in order to facilitate providing education and health services to PwDs, and contributing to increasing their capabilities to enter the labor market and get proper jobs by providing appropriate training and qualification.
This is in addition to equipping government buildings to be able to receive and provide them with appropriate services. The initiative aims also to make Egypt a regional center for Arabic assistive technology industry to serve and empower PwDs.
The Prime Minister said that the initiative included several programs, the most important of which was the program of technology availability at PwDs schools—including 3,000 schools—and the program of training 20 thousand special education teachers to use assistive technology in education.
This is in addition to the remote treatment program for PwDs, including the provision of 100 remote treatment units, as well as contributing to improving PwDs abilities to enter the labor market and acquire proper jobs through the training and rehabilitation grant.
The initiative also entails equipping 200 ICT youth centers with assistive technologies for supporting access to knowledge and information, capacity building and technology availability at government agencies, including 300 government entities. This will make Egypt a regional center for ICT industry through Tamkeen program to stimulate innovators and startups for developing assistive technology in Arabic.
During his speech, he also stated that the government launched a program under the theme "Yes we can", which will be realized through concerted efforts. The government seeks to create an appropriate environment for PwDs to ensure their active participation in the development process, and the state strives to raise awareness and change the prevailing culture towards PwDs.
He said that current developments guarantee changing this culture. He added that the road was still long with accumulated obstacles, but the country was working hard to confront these obstacles and maintain efforts.
Ismail expressed his delight that this conference was held for the fifth year, and conveyed his gratitude to the ICT Minister for convening this historic conference, showing MCIT keenness on supporting PwDs. He called on MCIT staff to continue and intensify their efforts, highlighting that the government strives to provide the support needed to transfer the largest number possible of youth centers, universities and schools into learning places for PwDs.
Ismael concluded his speech saying he wished to convey a message to all sons and brothers with disabilities that they were partners in the homeland and development process, and all people should work together to build the future of Egypt.
The ICT Minister delivered a speech saying that the conference highlighted the Egyptian government’s keenness on applying social justice and safeguarding the rights of its citizens with disabilities, within the framework of respecting the provisions of the Constitution, and principles of human rights and international agreements signed in this area. He referred to Egypt's leading role in the field of supporting and empowering PwDs through using ICTs, underlining that the Egyptian government, represented by MCIT, managed to make great achievements in this area and received recognition from many international organizations.
ElKady ascertained that this year's conference is witnessing the launch of the President’s initiative to integrate and empower PwDs through ICTs, which benefits about 15 million of PwDs in Egypt, as well as their families, who reached about 60 million people.
The initiative contributes to benefit from capabilities and skills of PwDs in the economic and social development, aiming to adapt ICT tools to provide many educational and health services easily to PwDs, and contribute to increase their access to the labor market and get suitable jobs by providing appropriate training and rehabilitation. It also aims to facilitate their lives through equipping government buildings to be able to receive them and provide their services. The initiative will make Egypt a regional center for Arabic assistive technology industry to serve and empower PwDs.
During the opening session, Mamish gave a speech in his capacity as the Honorary President of the Egyptian Sports Federation for Disabled, where he ascertained that the conference reflects the state's interest to help PwDs under the President’s supervision, calling for the need to assist and enable them to participate effectively in the process of construction and development through programs and plans of the institutions and ministries.
The EU ambassador to Egypt, also, delivered a speech through which he highlighted the EU interest in disability issues and his appreciation for the role played by Egypt in this area.
He pointed to the EU keenness on supporting several projects in this area, offering a grant that contributes to educating PwDs and that serves school children, which number is six thousand children.
Marei also gave another speech in which he conveyed his thanks to the state for organizing this conference and its concern for PwDs issues to provide the necessary support and empowerment, highlighting that the rate of disability in Egypt ranges from 10% to 15%.
During the opening session, Ismail also witnessed the signing ceremony of an agreement supporting integrated inclusive community centers that serve Giza citizens. The agreement was signed between MCIT and Giza Governorate, to develop 20 community centers, providing training and rehabilitation services through major international companies.
The agreement aims to develop human resources and keep pace with the evolution of the labor market through raising youth technological abilities. The agreement also supports five remote treatment units to facilitate procedures for citizens with disabilities who suffer from moving to another governorate to receive treatment services.
The conference is due to witness the signing of another number of agreements to implement programs of qualifying 20,000 teachers over three years, especially teachers dealing with deaf, hard of hearing, blind and intellectual education schools students, and training them on the use of assistive technology tools to raise the educational process efficiency. The agreement provides also the needs of 3,000 PwDs schools within three years, including hardware and specialized software needed to support the educational process at special education schools.
It aims also to integrate students with simple disabilities in general education schools and higher education institutions. The agreements entail a grant of training 2,000 PwDs within three years on the use of computers professionally, and granting them internationally accredited certificates.
This is in addition to providing training on specialized programs such as e-marketing, data entry, computer maintenance, which will qualify them for the labor market.
Considering health services on top of PwDs priorities, as many of them face extreme difficulties in moving to other places to receive those services, the first phase of remote treatment projects is due to be launched during the conference. The project provides 12 units to serve three governorates within a year, up to 100 remote treatment units in 20 governorates within three years, by linking health units in those areas, with university hospitals and major ones; diagnosis is made by specialized doctors. The first phase is to be evaluated to expand the project that is a great achievement in providing health services nationwide.
The Prime Minister honored the graduates of the “Training and Rehabilitating PwDs for Better Job Opportunities" project: Mohammed Desouqy Qenawy (deaf), and Silvia Ihab Hosni Gad Allah (blind), Ibtisam Omar Hamada Gomaa (blind), Bilal Zayed Ghadrawi Zayed (blind), Mohammed Abdel-Radi Ahmed Hamed (blind), Ahmed Youssef Mohamed Ahmed (blind), Abanob Nashaat Rezk Hanna (blind), Marie Sahry Labib Hanna (blind), Moataz Bellah Abdel Nabi Ahmed (blind), Islam Shaaban (blind), Farid Abdel Aal (blind), Mohammed Mossad Mohammed (blind), and Mohammad Karam Allah AlAmir Abdel Moneim (blind) and Islam Abbas (blind). He also honored the students with hearing disabilities who received international awards in the ICT field: Fatima Bilal Abdellah, Israa Mohammed Ibrahim, Youssef Mohamed Noshi Hafez, Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim, Khaled Abu Zaid Ibrahim and Mohamed Hisham Soleiman.
Following the opening session, the Prime Minister inspected assistive technologies exhibition, in which more than 25 companies and civil society organizations are exhibiting the latest developments in the field of assistive technologies for PwDs, developed in the Arabic language to suit PwDs in Egypt and Arab countries. Among those companies are a number of winners in Tamkeen Competition for software and mobile phones applications, launched by MCIT annually for innovators, startups and small and medium-sized enterprises.
Six sessions will be held during the conference, in addition to the opening session, where the sessions tackle technological availability policies, successful experiences in the field of supporting and empowering PwDs in the Arab countries, the role of digital media in raising awareness on PwDs issues, the ICT role in the Egyptian society to reach an inclusive society, assistive technology tools and equal educational opportunities for PwDs.