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The dawning of the e-Age
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 11 - 02 - 2010

Nader Habib makes his annual pilgrimage to the Cairo ICT Exhibition and Conference
In its 14th round, Cairo ICT, the leading international telecom, IT, media trade fair and forum for the Middle East and Africa, came out in full force. Upon entering the 19,000 square metre exhibition hall, it's as if one has been transported to an alternative universe worthy of the best sci-fi Hollywood production.
This year's exhibition was outstanding, not only because of the showcased products, but also the many novel ideas on display, such as innovative software, applications, communication tools and advanced information technologies. For example, after last year's success with the e-Home, TE Data -- which operates 70 per cent of Internet traffic in Egypt -- presented a formidable TE-City.
The four-day event (7-10 February) was held under the title "Destination Egypt", and sponsored by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA). Participants from 400 companies, representing more than 30 countries, came to show their products and sample the latest technologies from around the world. Attendees showcased an entire year of progress in technology, demonstrating the most important techniques, programmes and modern technology tools. ICT 2010 was attended by several prominent figures in the field, including ministers, officials and businessmen. Many official trade delegations also participated in the event, including those from the UK, China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia and UAE. They were joined by the US which was ICT 2010's guest of honour.
At past exhibitions, Cairo ICT served as a platform for introducing new business, merging technologies, opportunities, launching initiatives, and the meeting point of all ICT players in the region. As the leading business technology event covering the Middle East and North Africa, this year's Cairo ICT presented new business opportunities for Africa, where emerging markets are still opening up. Indicators show that despite the international economic slump, Egypt's CIT sector has grown by more than 14 per cent.
In his inaugural speech on Sunday, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Tareq Kamel announced that his ministry is calling for bids on the Arabic domain "dot Misr" at a public auction for specialised IT companies. Each licensee, acting as a registrar, will pay a one-time upfront fee of LE0.5 million, with three per cent as revenue sharing to the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA), which will act as a registry.
TE Data's e-City was created in cooperation with the Telecom Egypt and modelled as a comprehensive city, including a school, shop, bank, house and café. Each location used a modern application, such as remote teaching and virtual classes at the school; IP Surveillance at a jewellery store; WiFi at the café; and Hosted Call Centre, IP Telephony and Business Connect at the bank.
At another exhibit, MCIT cooperated with the Centre for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (CULTRAMA) to display a project in panoramic view, comprising nine screens using cutting edge technology. The project, which showcases Egypt's civilisation as an integral part of humanity's heritage, will go online soon. MCIT also exhibited smart village projects, including investment and financial opportunities in the CIT sector and job prospects for young graduates.
Other projects included those undertaken by the Technology Development Fund, such as Sustainable Development through IT, IT for Small and Medium Enterprises, and Connecting Society through CIT. IT Clubs were another prominent feature of MCIT's exhibit, a project it is implementing in cooperation with NGOs, youth centres, Egyptian universities, cultural centres, and others, to promote IT throughout society. So far, more than 1,970 clubs were established around the country, equipped with the tools needed to disperse IT especially in areas with high population density but are difficult to access.
At the same time, MCIT documented its experience in issuing ICDL which enables licensees to offer top level computer skills and qualifies them for specialised jobs. There are more than 220,000 ICDL holders in Egypt who have benefited from an MCIT grant. The ministry hopes to increase this figure to 500,000 annually, with the help of the Ministry of Education to train teachers and administrators; the Ministry of Higher Education to train students, faculty and staff at state universities; and the State Ministry for Administrative Development to train civil servants, new graduates, and others in the private sector.
At another exhibit, Egypt's Post Authority demonstrated the postal and financial services it offers to the public using the latest in CIT, to promote postal services to the business community -- especially small and medium enterprises. Egypt Post offers several advanced services and comprehensive solutions to the business sector, including local and overseas express mail, postal tracking, electronic payment, packaging, courier service, and e-archiving.
As always, the Cairo ICT Exhibition and Conference Forum provided a platform for heated debate on several issues, such as using green IT and communications to protect the environment. A protocol of cooperation was signed between the MCIT and the Ministry of Environment for a number of projects which raise public awareness and promote environment- friendly ITC projects.
These include managing electronic waste for companies working in the field of communication systems and IT; drafting legislation on the proper disposal of electronic waste; ITC solutions for a more sustainable future; and assisting the Ministry of Environment create a database on atmospheric changes. Other joint projects include a prototype for applying green and smart ICT systems in buildings at MCIT's technology zones. A study will also be conducted to evaluate the implementation of the green building code at the Smart Village.
ICT 2010 also deliberated over issues related to the communications and information industry in Egypt and the region, such as broadband Internet and how to expand that market, and GPS applications in various development and service sectors in Egypt.

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