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Author: 
Molouk Y. Ba-Isa, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Tue, 2005-11-15 03:00

AMMAN, 15 November 2005 — Last Wednesday, American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) and the Intel Corporation announced an agreement to build the Intel Information Technology Center of Excellence at the Islamic University of Gaza in the Gaza Strip. This agreement with ANERA expands Intel’s comprehensive, multiyear “Digital Transformation Initiative for the Middle East.”

The Center is scheduled to begin construction in February 2006. The Intel IT Center of Excellence, the first of its kind in Gaza, will expand educational and employment opportunities, provide critical IT support for local businesses and organizations and help stimulate the IT market in Gaza.

Speaking about Intel’s new IT Center of Excellence, Dr. Peter Gubser, ANERA’s president said: “ANERA is proud to be working with Intel — a technology leader and the first major US corporation to take a positive step toward Gaza’s educational and economic development. The opportunities created by the Intel IT Center of Excellence will benefit the local Palestinian economy as well as the broader Middle East IT industry by producing thousands of new IT professionals and stimulating job creation. The relationship between ANERA, Intel and the Islamic University of Gaza is a clear demonstration that the international community is prepared to make a significant investment in the future of Palestinian society.”

ANERA’s first IT Center of Excellence opened at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem in March 2004. The activities at the state-of-the-art center led to a nearly three-fold increase in trained IT professionals in the area. To date, approximately 1,000 men and women have been trained at the center, and the majority have found jobs or are still students. This month, two more centers will open — at the Arab American University of Jenin and the Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron.

In Gaza, where the World Bank estimates the poverty rate to be approximately 60 percent, it is hoped that the training to be offered at the Intel IT Center of Excellence will help spark economic growth and provide jobs to support needy families.

“Intel is thrilled to be working with ANERA on this important new educational project in Gaza. ANERA has a remarkable track record in meeting the needs of communities in the Middle East by both expanding the local universe of IT professionals and providing them with the skills they need to find good jobs,” remarked Aysegul Ildeniz, Intel regional director for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa. “The services and training offered at the Intel IT Center of Excellence will help provide critical building blocks in advancing the adoption of technology in the Palestinian territories. In addition, this new center will offer new opportunities for Palestinian women and help bridge the IT gender divide. The investment in the center underscores Intel’s long-term commitment to accelerate the development and adoption of technology, contribute to the improvement of the regional economy and improve the lives of those living in the region.”

Intel’s investment in the new center will be approximately $1 million. The center will consist of six fully-equipped classrooms with approximately 16 workstations per classroom. Intel does not expect any profit or commercial return from the center, although the company does hope that the benefit to the earning power of the Palestinian community, four million strong, in the West Bank and Gaza will be substantial. Students will pay a nominal fee to take classes at the center. The university administration stated that this is necessary so that they cover the costs associated with the center and that the students feel that they are investing in their future.

“One of our abiding goals at the Islamic University of Gaza is to provide our students with the professional skills they need to compete in a challenging economic environment. With the launch of the Intel IT Center for Excellence we’ll be able to do just that, providing our students with marketable skills, advanced IT training and job opportunities,” said Munther Zmeili, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic University of Gaza.

Benefits of Intel’s IT

Center for Excellence

As is the case with ANERA’s other IT centers, there will be numerous benefits for Gaza residents from the Intel IT Center for Excellence:

• Broader training in software programming such as Java, Oracle, Cisco, and MCSD, as well as web development and networking solutions.

• Support for local businesses with IT services and continuing education classes.

• New local and regional business opportunities for students who are finishing their degrees or certificates.

• Structured professional training that is necessary to develop and expand the capabilities and talents needed to become highly-trained IT professionals.

• Bridging the gender gap in the IT sector by providing training and skills for women.

Founded in 1978, the Islamic University of Gaza is the first higher education institution to be established in Gaza. The Islamic University of Gaza has about 18,000 students enrolled in eight faculties in a variety of disciplines. About 50 percent of its students are women. According to Mohammed Abu Awwad, director, Islamic University of Gaza, the university is well aware of the difficulties that face its students.

“The best way to sustain peace in the region is by giving people a sense of hope in the future, which means offering dignity, freedom and an opportunity to improve one’s life,” he said. “This center is fulfilling those needs with professional IT jobs in the difficult Gaza environment. It signals progress and fosters hope.”

When asked if the university had any qualms about taking funding from a company that is the largest foreign investor in Israel, Abu Awwad replied: “At the Islamic University of Gaza we find it acceptable to accept any help from anybody, as long as it is unconditional. It is very nice that Intel wants to help our people learn and the funding for the center is highly appreciated.”

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