RIYADH, 9 July 2005 — One million PCs are to be sold to middle class Saudi families at competitive prices under an ambitious plan unveiled at a press conference here on Wednesday night.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Suwaiyel, governor of the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC), said the CITC under its Saudi Home Computing Initiative (SHCI) will promote computer literacy among Saudi middle class families. The initiative is the result of a multi-sectoral partnership covering the banking, STC and the IT sectors.
The CITC governor signed a number of MOUs with companies participating in the home computing initiative. They were: The National Commercial Bank (for funding); STC (invoicing); Microsoft Arabia (provider of operating systems and desktop applications); Zai of Alfaisaliah Group (PC manufacturer); HP (PC manufacturer); Alkhaleej-New Horizon (training provider); AwalNet (ISP); Nesma (ISP); Harf (provider of free Arabic and Islamic software applications).
Besides Dr. Al-Suwaiyel, Dr. Ahmed Sindhi, vice governor for IT at the CITC, was among those present. Dr. Al-Suwaiyel presented the first two locally manufactured PCs to two Saudi families in line with the “government’s policy to improve and enhance the reach of technology and communication services, improve the knowledge of IT among Saudis of all ages and genders, and to encourage young Saudis in particular to use computers and advanced technology to help them gain the required skills and qualification.”
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Ahmed Sindhi said that the sale of PCs would begin from tomorrow (July 10) under a phased program at designated sale points in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar. Later, the sales network would be extended to other major cities of the Kingdom. Details can be obtained through the toll free number 800 116 8888 or through the website www.tawasul.com.sa.
Dr. Sindhi said that in order to be eligible under SHCI, the beneficiary must be a Saudi, since the initiative envisions equipping every Saudi family with a PC. Preference would be given in the first stage to those who are married and have a large family. Availability of a land line is the minimum requirement to go online through dial-up services, which would be provided free by the initiative.
An essential requirement of the hire/purchase facility for computer ownership is that the applicant should be cleared by the Saudi Credit Bureau (Seemah) owned by all the commercial banks. This is to minimize the bank’s risk in terms of repayment defaults on the part of those buying PCs under the instalment plan.
Akram Ilyas, general manager of Zai Computers, said the applicants could choose from two options — either full payment at a competitive price or a bank loan with a two-year repayment period. Other incentives on offer include discounted Internet subscription, training program at a special price, and technical support with one-year warranty offered by the manufacturer. To a question from Arab News, Dr. Sindhi said the package on offer was much cheaper than the prevailing rates in some neighboring states. He said another objective of the initiative was to equip Saudi women with home PCs, so that they could either engage in e-learning or put their computing skills to commercial use as telecommuters.
“The CITC has licensed two additional Internet Service Providers for women. With this, DSL lines would be made available to women at their homes,” Dr. Sindhi observed.