ICT, start-ups get boost in Jordan
The Jordanian Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has begun the process of updating the country's strategy for ICT. The new strategy will set out the country's goals for the coming five years and will focus on how to raise internet penetration from a current 30% to 50% by the end of 2011.
The Ministry has not been slow to encourage internet usage and established the country's National Broadband Network in 2003 with the aim of increasing the number of internet users outside the capital and in remote areas. That network, approximately 30% of which has been completed, plans to link the country's schools through a fibre optic network to be used to provide internet services to communities at low and competitive prices. To date 800 schools in the northern and central regions of the country have been connected and the Ministry has said that, under the plan, internet access prices will be 50% lower than current market offers.
The new strategy will also seek to support an increase in employment in the ICT sector. The ministry wants to see jobs increase from 22,000 today to 35,000 by the end of 2011. The strategy will also address plans to raise ICT revenues generated in the country to $3bn. The sector generated US$2.2bn in 2009.
In an unrelated move set to help achieve those goals, availability of investment support for innovative ICT start-ups has been announced by the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD). The Fund is to launch a fund to seed start-ups in the country in the next two months. Called Oasis 500, the fund aims to provide an initial capital of between $50,000 (Dh183,500) and US$100,000 to 500 start-ups. The seed investors include three major, undisclosed technology companies.
KAFD was established by a Royal Decree in 2001 as a non-governmental organisation to provide all segments of the Jordanian community, particularly the underprivileged, with loans.
Abdelmajeed Shamlawi, CEO at Information Technology Association Jordan (Int@j), said; "It is still not decided if the fund will be made accessible to companies outside Jordan. This is under discussion by the fund committee. The fund is also planning to go public to raise capital attracting investors."