Driving IT literacy

The International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) is becoming the standard for IT literacy in the GCC region as the Middle East paves way for computer literacy.

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By  Sarah Gain Published  August 23, 2005

|~|ICDLB---PHOTO-1---ICDL-GCC-.jpg|~|Ezzo: The ICDL core certification is the cornerstone for a range of IT training. We aim to promote computer literacy for everyone.|~|With over 13 million tests done to date, the International Computer Driving License (ICDL) is internationally recognised as a global benchmark for IT literacy. Due to the critical role the Gulf region has played in the dissemination of the ICDL programme, the European (E) CDL Foundation has appointed a regional body, the ICDL GCC Foundation, as the sole licensee to administer and oversee the ICDL certification programme in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the UAE.

“ICDL is the international standard for computer skills and is delivered in 140 countries, in 38 languages. It includes seven modules of study and has been endorsed by governments around the world and particularly in this region,” says Jamil Ezzo, director general of the ICDL GCC Foundation.

The concept behind ICDL is to raise the level of IT knowledge and increase competency standards for personal computers and common computer applications globally. The ECDL-F, a non-profit organisation based in Ireland, has prepared a set of standards and quality guidelines that govern the procedures for the concept and ensure it is operated in a consistent fashion in all member countries.

The ICDL GCC Foundation is responsible for the implementation and dissemination of the programme throughout the Gulf and operates with the support of the region’s leading educational institutions and accreditation bodies. “We aim to promote computer literacy for everyone and ensure computer users understand the best practices and advantages of using a PC,” explains Ezzo.

For employers and employees alike, the initiative holds significant value, having been shown to increase the productivity of employees who use computers for their work and enabling better returns from investments in IT. The qualification involves one theoretical test on the basic concepts of IT and six practical exams.

The practical modules include training in using computers and managing files, word processing, spreadsheets, database, presentations and information and communication tools.
According to Ezzo, “The ICDL core certification is the cornerstone of an entire range of IT training. By increasing the level of an individual’s essential IT skills, we boost their confidence in computer use and provide a platform from which to move on to a higher-level IT education. The employees’ improved skills with IT mean greater productivity and better quality of staff output for companies because workers are able to make better use of IT resources.”

Back in May, the ICDL GCC Foundation launched a Certified Training Professional (CTP) programme in an effort to promote best practices and to drive the quality of training throughout its network of 750 accredited training centres across the Gulf region. Until then, the provision of classroom-based training by individual trainers and training organisations had been outside the control of the ECDL/ICDL organisations.

Although stringent policy on the use of approved courseware had ensured quality training material was provided to candidates, the requirement of the CTP programme for all existing accredited training centres and new applicants, offers candidates further assurance.

“Although the overall standard of the ICDL training provided in our region has been high, we [had] concerns about the lack of quality training provided by a few centres. CTP will ensure all centres have competent and effective ICDL trainers,” Ezzo states.||**|||~|ICDLB---PHOTO-2---ICDL-for-.jpg|~|For employers and employees alike, the initiative holds significant value, having been shown to increase the productivity of all employees.|~|The Abu Dhabi Educational Zone (ADEZ) has been particularly effective in furthering IT literacy in the UAE educational sector. Having doubled the number of ICDL certifications among teachers and administrators, ADEZ has been praised for its achievements, which resulted from its "e-Future Project".

ADEZ has an approved ICDL training and testing centre accredited by the GCC Foundation, and for the past three years, ADEZ has been instrumental in raising ICDL awareness among teachers and employees, encouraging them to obtain the certification at affiliated ICDL accredited centres and prominent UAE universities including the Higher Colleges of Technology, Zayed University and the UAE University.

According to Mohammed Salem Al Zhahiri, director of ADEZ, “Implementing the ICDL program is essential to the success of our "e-Future project", which encompasses 32 affiliate schools, requiring teachers to enrich lessons with internet-sourced information and engage students in activities that involve web research. It empowers our teachers and administrators with the required skills to maximise the benefit from this project”.

More recently, the ICDL GCC Foundation announced plans to extend the benefits of the programme to people with disabilities. To further this cause, specific procedures and standards were set for accrediting organisations that provide training and testing to disabled people. “The ECDL Foundation, in partnership with international organisations and experts in the field of learning for the disabled, has identified necessary modifications, to make the ICDL learning and testing more accessible. People with disability have proven their impairment is not a deterrent in achieving their goals,” explains Ezzo.

The Foundation says everyone should be part of the digital society. It plans to empower the physically impaired with essential computer skills to instil confidence and help people with disabilities realise their goals and aspirations. Working closely with selected vendors, the organisation has designed content in both English and Arabic languages.

“The technologies offer special technologies that integrate with ICDL content. Screen readers and Braille-based ICDL textbooks have been developed to meet the international standards of the ICDL programme. Furthermore, the ECDL/ICDL regulations will permit an additional 15 minutes on the test time, as well as allowing assistance during the official test,” Ezzo explains.

The GCC branch of the foundation is currently running a pilot programme at Tamkeen, an initiative of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and the UAE’s Defence Minister, aimed at empowering the visually impaired. The initiative has been instrumental in boosting employment opportunities for the disabled. “We support all projects in the region that further IT literacy among the hearing impaired, visually impaired, people with mobility disabilities and cognitive or learning impediments.”

The Rehabilitation and Employment Centre for Disabled People (RECDP) in Al Ain, a community centre set up by the Abu Dhabi Police, has become the region's first rehabilitation centre for the disabled to endorse the ICDL programme and to become accredited as an ICDL training and testing centre.

The centre, which was established under the directive of the late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, has long been at the forefront of efforts to rehabilitate disabled people in the UAE, offering various programmes designed to enhance the skills of the disabled in areas such as electronic secretarial and management, graphic design and computer maintenance.

The Al Ain initiative will serve the disabled community throughout the UAE and according to Brigadier Mohammed Khamis Salem Al Junaibi, acting director general of the General Directorate of Abu Dhabi Police, "By providing custom-designed training and testing solutions to meet the special needs of the physically challenged, the ICDL programme creates more avenues for growth and development of disabled people, while improving their employment opportunities. The Centre’s standing as a premier provider of training opportunities for the disabled will be considerably enhanced by this move."||**|||~||~||~|In a further scheme, this time intended to boost IT literacy within the Abu Dhabi police force, its affiliate institution, the Administrative Training Institute (ATI), also became an accredited training and testing centre. The move sees the ICDL GCC Foundation working in co-operation with the General Directorate of Abu Dhabi Police on behalf of the ATI and will enable the training institute to offer educational services to officers and staff.

Abu Dhabi Police’s Brigadier General Al Junaibi believes the growth in population and an increasing emphasis on automation and e-governance have made it essential for the police force to acquire the right skills and expertise in order to carry out their duties efficiently.

By offering ICDL training and testing in house and on-demand, he says, the police will ensure the efficiency of its workforce and empower employees with the computer skills needed in their work environment. “Naturally, we will work closely with the Foundation to ensure that our teaching and testing methodologies are in accordance with the international standards and syllabus of the ICDL programme,” he states.

The accreditation of both the RECDP and the ATI follows the directives of H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Interior, and were approved by both Ezzo and Al Junaibi, who expect the selection of the ICDL programme by the Ministries of Education and by government bodies all over the region will, as the ICDL terms it, “create a gateway to the information society”, ensuring that the benefits of IT reach all sections of the community. “We believe this move will inspire other governmental bodies in the region to adopt the ICDL programme," says Al Junaibi.

The majority of the key academic institutions and education ministries in the Gulf region have adopted the ICDL programme as a minimum computer proficiency standard and now, the rapid pace of PC penetration, along with the swift rate at which businesses are getting integrated into global networks of economics and finance, are underlining the need for advanced computer skills.

“Thousands of people in the region who have completed the core programme are looking for an opportunity to move to the next level of computer proficiency that will provide them with new tools to achieve greater success in their professional life,” says Ezzo.

At the beginning of this year, such a course was launched in the Middle East. The Advanced ICDL programme aims to help people realise the richness of different applications and encourage them to achieve the skills that allow them to demonstrate their expertise in creating complex document outputs, equipping students to deal effectively with the increasing demands of the emerging e-society in both private and professional lives.

“The ICDL Advanced programme offers all essential tools for those who want to move beyond the basic computer applications,” enthuses Dr Abdulla Abonamah, director of the Institute for Technological Innovation at Zayed University, which along with the Higher Colleges of Technology’s Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT), has been associated with the Advanced certification programme since it first launched in the region.

From efficiency to profitability, the benefits that stand to be gained from the upsurge of the ICDL as a global standard of IT competency are numerous. The positive impact of IT literacy go much further, however, delivering benefits not just to companies’ bottom lines but to society as a whole by contributing to the development of a highly-skilled work force and unlocking the door to the information age for all the community.

Ezzo concludes succinctly, saying: “The speed with which we in the region, and on a global scale, are heading towards an entirely e-work environment and e-society means the need for IT skills will never diminish. The ICDL allows everyone to be an e-citizen.”||**||

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