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Jordan Starts Blocking ‘Unlicensed Websites’

[First published on Jadaliyya.]

[…] the [Telecommunications Regulatory] Commission directs you to do what is required to block the websites listed in the attached document and prevent your subscribers from accessing them before the end of today, June 2, 2013. Note that the websites that don’t have a URL in the list, you will be provided with later.

What followed was a list of 304 websites.

This is the request sent by the Jordanian Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on 2 June 2013, and published by Jordanian citizen media platform 7iber. The request is in line with legislation enforced back in September 2012––the Press and Publications Law. The Press and Publications Department, a state entity once formally known as thee Censorship Department, is now in charge of applying this law.

Jordan counts nearly 500 online news outlets. According to the current version of the Press and Publications Law, any such website has to register with the Press and Publications Department in order to obtain a license. Registering is reported to cost 1,000 Jordanian dinars (1,400USD). The websites listed in the blocking request are deemed « unlicensed, » meaning having neither obtained a license nor applied to obtain one. Reportedly, 102 websites remain accessible for either having obtained a license or for having applied for such within the official deadlines.

The move caused a deluge of discussions on a wide range of media channels, when Press and Publications Department director denied a fee is required to get registered and after a cement factory website was identified as listed among the websites to be blocked for allegedly manufacturing paper. As no official has offered commentary on these discrepancies, the process through which websites are selected for blocking remains obscure.

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Publié par le 6 juin 2013 dans Digital freedom

 

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Information technologies and education in the Arab World

[First published on Nature Middle East.]

A new UNESCO report looks at how ICT is being used in education across five Arab states.

In spite of a push to incorporate ICT (information and communication technology) in education across the Arab world, several countries still lag behind, according to a new report from UNESCO.

The report is the first to focus on how ICT is being used in the region and focuses on five countries in the Middle East: Egypt, Jordan, Oman, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (data from the West Bank only) and Qatar. It identifies four main indicators of how ICT rates in education: infrastructure, gender, teacher preparedness and policy.

The basic infrastructure indicator looks at student access to technology and access to the Internet. Of the five countries, Egypt is a clear outlier. At primary school level, an average of 120 pupils share one computer, and at the secondary level, the number reduces to 25 students. The average number in the other four countries is between seven and 19 at the primary school level (Qatar and Palestine, respectively). These numbers drop to five students at the secondary school level.

The disparity between Egypt and the others becomes even more striking when looking at access to computers connected to the internet. Every 441 pupils at the primary school level share one such computer, dropping to 94 at the secondary school level.

Fewer than a third of the computers at schools in Egypt and the Occupied Palestinian Territories are connected to the internet, computers for educational and administrative purposes are both counted. In contrast, about two-thirds of computers in schools in Jordan, Oman and Qatar are online.

« Computers are not necessary as a pre-requisite for good thinking; good teachers are. But young learners need to use computers to be competitive in the global marketplace, » says Marina Apaydin, professor of Strategic Management and Innovation at the American University of Beirut. « Not knowing ITC and language makes kids illiterate in the modern world and this is one of the reasons MENA lags behind say China and India in producing competitive and mobile workforce. »

When surveying teacher preparedness to use ICTs in classrooms, according to nationally-defined qualification standards, the report found that only « a minority of teachers are prepared to teach basic computer skills or computing » across the five states in both primary and secondary schools.

The report found that gender did not factor significantly in access to ICT in education. Interestingly, wherever such differences appear, they seem to favour access to and use of ICT by girls. These findings need, however, to be considered cautiously as the authors point out that the data speaks little about the methods of use of ICT by gender.

All five countries have formally developed policies to integrate ICT in education by establishing « regulatory institutions to ensure that ICT-assisted educational reform takes place. » These policies do not translate, however into practice, the report says. Egypt and the Occupied Palestinian Territories also lag behind the three other countries when it comes to permeation of ICT curricula across all grades of primary and secondary education.

« The problem in Egypt is that a very ambitious modernisation campaign was led to equip schools with computers and internet while less attention was given to building human capacities to use them, resulting in a lack of vision for sustainability of such initiatives, » says Karim Kasim, telecentres regional coordinator for the Egypt ICT Trust Fun ¬—, which was jointly established by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

You can download the full report from UNESCO’s website

 
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Publié par le 31 mai 2013 dans Education/Digital literacy

 

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