16 - 22 September 1999
Issue No. 447
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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A future with ITBy Nevine Khalil
President Hosni Mubarak inaugurated the first national conference for information technology (IT) on Monday in a ceremony which lasted over two hours. On the sidelines of the two-day conference is an IT exhibition bringing together the top companies in the industry.
In his opening address, Mubarak expressed hope that Egypt would make advances in IT "in order for us to become one of the producers of the latest components and a base of the information industry." The president was speaking to a large gathering of state officials, businessmen and IT experts at the International Conference Centre in Nasr City.
Mubarak said that information plays an essential role in development, describing the national plan to achieve progress in information technology as "Egypt's future." The road to that end will be through "applying modern sciences and pouring greater investments in the information industry."
Mubarak's six-point plan for the coming years includes: fostering a greater national demand for information as a means of increasing the production of information-related products; promoting Egypt in world markets as an exporter of IT products; training cadres in information technology and the introduction of computers in all schools and universities; the speedy development of this industry through joint projects with advanced foreign companies; increased private and public sector investments to build a strong infrastructure for the industry; and finally, reviewing legislation to ensure patent rights and fair competition.
The president urged technology experts, businessmen, government officials and bankers to rally behind this nascent sector, "through joint projects with international companies to activate Egypt's IT industry." He pledged the government's support in "expanding the information base with an eye on foreign markets," saying that the government is "committed to protecting patent rights to encourage the IT industry and provide the infrastructure necessary for it to grow."
Mubarak launching the first national conference for information technology, a field which promises to be Egypt's next national project for generations to come
Mubarak noted that the potential of the younger generations should be tapped to the maximum in the field of IT, "in order to counter economic globalisation which represents a challenge to Egypt's development."
At the opening ceremony, a brief documentary was shown on Mubarak's achievements during his 18-year tenure, the cabinet's Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC), the National ID Number project, economic and industrial projects and the biggest museums and libraries in Egypt using IT.
Mubarak added that "the world today depends on precise and speedy access to information, as well as innovative minds." He continued that "in this day and age, imprecision or delay in accessing information are no longer affordable." He said that "society must be mobilised to make the best use of modern technology in all fields," noting the achievements that have been made so far, namely the launching of Egypt's communications satellite NileSat, the use of the Internet, the establishment of large information centres and the establishment of a thorough information base.
In his speech, Minister of the Public Business Sector Atef Ebeid said the information base covered a number of sectors, such as natural resources, employment, education, population, trade and health. "The information base available has made Egypt capable of attracting researchers and turned it into a centre for innovation," Ebeid said. The minister continued that, as result of the progress that has been made in domestic IT, "there are children in rural areas who can grasp the latest in computer technology and there are college graduates keeping up with the most modern techniques." Ebeid added that Mubarak, nearly 15 years ago, had "underlined the importance of the speedy flow of information and developing human resources."
Computers are now in use in 120,000 schools, universities and training centres. There are 400 Egyptian companies specialised in computer hardware, software and manufacturing computer parts and they are growing at a rate of 82 per cent annually, the second highest rate in the world.
Hisham El-Sherif, former director of the cabinet's IDSC, praised Mubarak's role in promoting interest in IT and using it as an essential tool in serving the nation's economic and social goals. The IDSC was the pioneer government body in developing the software industry in Egypt and provided guidance to several institutions through the labyrinth of modern technologies. "Technology Valley [in Sinai] is a new addition which will serve both Egypt's economic and social development," El-Sherif said.
After officially inaugurating the conference, Mubarak toured the various exhibit pavilions displaying the latest in IT.