ICT for Development in Arab Region
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Introduction
Objectives
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Introduction

 ICTARB aims at using information and communication technology to help visually impaired individuals acquire new skills that will offer them more chances to get jobs and will enable them to better integrate into their communities and lead their lives as independent and productive members of society.

In developing and under-developed societies where social and economic challenges abound, the rights of and opportunities for people with special needs usually suffer the most, as limited resources are channeled towards what are perceived as more urgent priorities. They often get left behind, and become for the most part totally dependent on others for their livelihoods. Even if the will to help them exists, ignorance of the possibilities available coupled with non-existent resources severely limits any action that is taken.

The visually-impaired make up a large percentage of the people with special needs in the Arab region- 7 Million according to an estimate by the WHO. Most of them lack any reasonable access to education or vocational training, as there are very few facilities that offer them any services. This large gap in providing basic rights for such a large portion of the Arab society is the main driver behind ICTARB, and the gap is evidenced by the many civil and state organizations that have expressed interest in participation when technical and financial support are provided.. The initiative uses technology to address the needs of the visually impaired; it provides specialized tools made available through community access centers, allowing them to have access to training, knowledge, and services. In addition, Training of Trainers as well as management training are also provided. Using a community access center or similar setup as a basic unit and developing a business model around it ensures easy replication of the pilot centers across the various countries.

 
Relevance to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Reducing poverty and illiteracy are part of the MDGs set for the 166 UN member states to achieve by 2015. ICTARB contributes to these goals by empowering the visually impaired through access to knowledge and training, and consequently providing them with an opportunity for to get employed. ICTARB also contributes to goals related to youth and women, since these two segments are also served.

 
Objectives

The objectives of ICTARB are to provide the visually-impaired with tools that will enable them to be independent and self-reliant, and to ultimately achieve a better quality of life than that which is currently available to them. These objectives will be achieved through:

  • Illiteracy reduction through training on basic skills in the use of ICT and establishment of a Braille/Audio library that would allow access to knowledge on various topics.
  • Poverty reduction through improved job opportunities as a result of newly developed skills.
  • Social integration through building of self esteem and self reliance.
 
Implementation strategy

Keeping in mind the need to replicate pilot projects across the region as efficiently and quickly as possible, ICTDAR has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sakhr Software, as part of its strategic partnerships with the private sector. Sakhr has pioneered research in Arabic Linguistic computing, and has developed Ibsar, an Arabic software for the visually impaired enabling them to read printed text, browse, search the Internet, read e-mails and participate in on-line discussions. This MOU allows all ICTARB related initiatives/projects in the Arab Region to benefit from Sakhr’s know how, technical support, and training. In addition, Sakhr donates 50% of the total number of software made available for any ICTARB centers.

The implementation strategy also takes into consideration two levels of capacity building: the capacity building of the individual end-user, the ultimate beneficiary of the initiative, but also the institutional capacity building which ensures long-term sustainability and replication of the project.

In many cases ICTARB is coupled with other ICTDAR activities, in particular AjialCom the youth empowerment initiative. In cases where this is doable, the two initiatives benefit from mutual synergies and combined activities that bolster their sustainability.

The following activities are undertaken:

  • A search for the right implementing partners from NGOs and the civil society for local management, as well as an analysis of the proper location for the centers in terms of favorable environment, access to the targeted end-users, and any existing facilities that may be built on such as an existing community access centers.
  • Equipping the location(s) with specialized hardware and software, including Braille printers.
  • Providing a Braille and Audio library on various topics.
  • Capacity building to the managing team on running the centers in a sustainable manner.
  • Providing a ToT on using the equipment and delivering the services.
  • Promotional and marketing activities.
 
Management Arrangements

ICTDAR retains overall management and coordination responsibility both on a regional as well as on a country level throughout the lifetime of the project. However, a steering committee with representative from all partners is formed for each country, to provide general guidance, oversight, and facilitation. In addition, ICTDAR ensures that best practices are shared across steering committees in the various countries of implementation.

 
Partners

ICTDAR partners with ministries and local government agencies, the private sector, and NGOs among others as needed to execute its initiatives.

In the case of ICTARB, the government typically provides the technical infrastructure and in certain cases some of the hardware and software; NGOs typically provide the locations, management, operational costs, and volunteers for the centers; the private sector typically provides hardware and software; and ICTDAR typically provides the specialized software and Braille and Audio library, as well ToT and management training and the overall coordination of the project.

Partners who have collaborated with ICTDAR on ICTARB include:

 
Country Implementation

ICTARB is already underway in Egypt and Syria. Four centers have been established in Egypt, providing access to hundreds of beneficiaries- in Giza alone, more than 150 people have already taken the training. In Syria, the center already implemented is within easy reach of over 700 target users, and anew one is currently being implemented.

ICTARB is also being implemented in Tunisia, Morocco, and Yemen.

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