Jordan unveils region’s first Gigabit public network

The Hashemite Kingdom is looking to link 3200 schools, 23 community colleges, 70 community access centres and 75 knowledge stations by 2006 as part of its e-government plans thereby creating the region’s first Gigabit public network .

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By  Maddy Reddy Published  October 2, 2004

|~|Jordanbroadbandnetwork123in.jpg|~|(L to R) Inta@j’s Marwan Juma, the MICT’s Dr. Fawaz Zu’bi and Cisco CEO John Chambers at the network’s launch. |~|Jordan’s Ministry of Information & Communications Technology (MICT) has unveiled the region’s first Gigabit public network as a part of its education initiative. The network will link 1.5 million students from the Kingdom’s various educational institutions by the year 2006. Jordan’s education initiative was announced at the World Economic Forum in 2003 and was supported by 34 information and communications technology (ICT) and various non-governmental organisations. With government funding of US$2.1 million, the project kicked off earlier this year. “We want Jordan’s students and professors to work [together] in order to take full advantage of this network. This is an important step and we hope to see all universities connected to this network,” says HM King Abdullah II of Jordan. Unico, which is a non-profitable organisation set up by the Kingdom’s eight universities, will facilitate the management of the network. Unico will also develop a broadband utilisation strategy to manage the network efficiently. The university’s infrastructure is linked to nine sites via dedicated optical fibre from the National Electricity Power Company’s backbone to minimise expenditure. A total of 920 km of optical fiber and broadband equipment has been installed across 15 locations to facilitate the network. Academics, students and faculties across Jordan’s universities can now use the high-speed broadband network for teaching, e-learning, video-conferencing, streaming content, virtual reality video on-demand, consultation of e-libraries, online course authoring and distributed computing. The government is also working with Unico to link up 3000 European universities through Eumedconnect and Geant initiatives. “3000 educational institutions in Europe will be linked to the network and Arab educational institutions are also welcome to take part,” says HE Jordanian Minister of ICT, Dr. Fawaz H. Zu’bi. “We believe this network is a move forward in enhancing university-to-university interaction, research and development, catalysing innovation and advancing learning for all of our university students.” The Kingdom of Jordan has ambitious plans for its latest e-learning initiatives. It wants to link 3200 schools, 23 community colleges, 70 community access centres and 75 knowledge stations over the next two years. Furthermore, the Kingdom is also building a secure government-wide network (SGN) as a part of its e-government initiative to link various government departments. By year 2006, the Kingdom’s universities, schools and government networks will be integrated. Also, in order to facilitate education for ordinary Jordanians who are unable to attend schools or universities, the government has launched Lifelong Learning and an ICT Industry Development programme for businesses. The government hopes the initiative will provide a boost to the country’s 373 plus ICT companies. However, despite Jordan’s ICT initiatives the Kingdom’s use of internet and phones remain low. The country of over five million people has just 7% of its population using internet with household phone line penetration of 53%. This is low by GCC and global standards. In order to push the Kingdom into the age of technology, the Ministry of ICT, Jordan Telecom, Intel and the Jordanian Technology Association (Int@j) have teamed up to provide Jordanians with bundled technology. The bundled package will include a PC and an ADSL connection with unlimited access. Jordanians can purchase a networked computer and pay for them by adding a small monthly payment to their telephone bills over a period of 36 months. Dr. Zu’bi says the move will drive technology penetration beyond the universities to all citizens of Jordan. “This initiative aims to increase the penetration of PCs. We are hoping this brings computer ownership within reach of people across the country for the first time,” he says. ||**||

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