Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
25 Nov. - 1 Dec. 1999
Issue No. 457
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

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Smarter technology

By Salama Ahmed Salama

Salama Ahmed Salama Statements that the government has accorded technological development programmes its highest priority have elicited a variety of reactions from scientists, which deserve some consideration. Convening a conference could be very useful. Experts could study the issue seriously, and perhaps draw up a comprehensive, forward-looking plan, which would go beyond excessively zealous statements about the transfer of technology, and would consider ways of indigenising technology methodically.

In this respect, Mohamed Nagi El-Youssefi, an expert at the International Telecommunications Union, remarked recently that the electronic data and communications technology industry is in a process of rapid and constant change. If we decide to enter the electronics industry as a provider of simple electronic components, therefore, it will be necessary to acquire a solid basis in research and development allowing us to keep track of technological developments, stay abreast of global market conditions, and realistically assess what we can produce and sell.

Unfortunately, the idea being discussed at present is the manufacturing of computer components or programmes. The broader plan here is to enter the domain of the applications of this technology. Such applications serve various development purposes: medicine, education, the protection of the environment, early warning systems that could alert us to imminent natural disasters, electronic commerce, improving industrial production... The list is almost endless. To make use of these applications, an information system is required that can support a nationwide database, communications networks and personal computers.

A developed national communications network is needed before digital electronic exchanges can be generalised in all the cities and villages of Egypt. There was word in the press that such developments would be reality by the end of 2001. It must be noted, however, that telephone density in Egypt is estimated at 10 per cent today, which is far less than adjacent countries. Without adequate telephone coverage, how will we be able to access the Internet?

We also need to generalise the Integrated System of Digital Numbers (ISDN), which provides telephone, fax, and picture transmission services. Its introduction to Egypt is long overdue. There are still relatively few subscribers, which means that the current information network needs reinforcement, and a new system must be established using more advanced technology to give substance to claims of a breakthrough in information technology in Egypt.

Ahmed Bahaa Khairi, of Alexandria University, agrees with this view. He believes that the technology industry must not be limited to satisfying society's basic needs and achieving comparative advantages for Egyptian industry. More importantly, it must contribute to the development of all service activities, which constitute some 60 per cent of total economic activity in the developed countries.

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