By A Staff Reporter — MUSCAT — The World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) 2012 was celebrated yesterday with an event held at the InterContinental Hotel Muscat. Organised in co-operation with the Information Technology Authority (ITA), Ministry of Transportation & Communications, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), and Ministry of Education, the celebration was held under the patronage of Her Highness Sayyida Dr Muna bint Fahd al Said. Dr Salim al Ruzaiqi, CEO of ITA; Dr Hamad bin Salim al Rawahi, CEO of the TRA; and other top government officials also attended the day’s celebrations.
Celebrated annually, the purpose of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) is to help raise awareness of the possibilities that the use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) can bring to societies and economies, as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide. Women are the bedrock of our societies. They are the pillars of strength in every family and community. Yet gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched the world over. Gender equality is a basic human right enshrined in the UN Charter, and it is one of the main objectives of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
ICTs are tools that can help accelerate progress towards achieving this target and provide new digital opportunities to end discrimination and empower women and girls to achieve their rightful place as equals in the world. The theme of this year’s WTISD, Women and Girls in ICT, aims to ensure that this significant, female half of the world’s population will march forward as equals.
Acknowledging the celebration of the WTISD 2012, Maha Mohammed al Balushi, Senior Project Specialist at ITA, spoke about the equal opportunities for women and men already in the Sultanate. She said, “Women have the same opportunities and rights granted to men in harvesting the fruits of the Blessed Renaissance; they enjoy their own special positions and to stand shoulder to shoulder with their fellow citizens.
“This turn of attention to women was very evident in His Majesty’s direction to appoint the first Omani woman as Director General at the Ministry of Higher Education in 1970. From that day on, women have become the centre of attention of His Majesty; doors were opened for them to education, to employment and to other areas and activities as well.
They started to occupy the highest positions in the Government including the Council of Ministers, the Council of the State, various consultative councils and the public and private organisations — even better they have become the owners and managers of their own private businesses.”
Al Balushi continued, “The development of human resources is one of the main pillars of the e.oman Strategy, based on the fact that the provision of modern technology primarily targets the society and its various segments, thereby simplifying the lives of individuals. That is how the National IT Training and Awareness Initiative, sponsored by the Information Technology Authority, came to light. Under this Initiative, a program was developed with a view to train members of the society, be they male or female, through 19 Community Knowledge Centres spread across the various Governorates of the Sultanate, in the basics of computer, enabling them to browse the Internet and to expand their knowledge about different aspects of life.
“As we know, Omani women have been able to enjoy a bigger share of this Initiative than men since not only can they avail themselves of the training courses organised at 10 Community Knowledge Centres allocated to both genders, but they can also undergo training through another 9 Community Knowledge Centres, exclusively intended for women within several Omani Women’s Associations. Contracts with these Associations will soon be renewed so that the Associations will continue to accommodate these Centres for another year. Moreover, statistics show that out of the 30,000 male and female citizens who underwent training through these Centres, 16,666 were females,” she added.
The existence of 287,691 students registered in the Ministry of Education also contributes to facilitate the task of stakeholders in the ICT field and targets this equal opportunity issue across programs and courses from various pre-university classes.
Additionally, the equal opportunities provided to both genders in terms of their access to education, gives Omani women a bigger chance to study in Omani university-level institutions, most of which offer IT or computer programmes, in addition to the existence of two colleges specialised in technology in Oman; namely the Middle East College of Information and Technology and the new German University of Technology. There are also 15 higher education institutes that offer ICT programs.
Regarding the role that women play in the telecommunications sector in the Sultanate, Rosalyn Bashir al Balushi a representative of the (TRA) had this to say, “Following direction to ensure Omani women occupy the highest positions in the telecommunications and information technology sector, we are proud to say that women account for almost 25 per cent of the employees and workers in the TRA and the telecommunications sector in the Sultanate, which has seen remarkable growth during the last ten years. Women now occupy important administrative and leadership positions in the telecommunications sector across the Sultanate.
After the speeches were delivered, Omantel offered a short presentation, emphasising Omantel’s focus and support of employing women in the telecommunications industry.
Following which there was a film screened entitled Women and Girls in ICT. The film recently debuted at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) 2012 event that took place last week in Geneva, Switzerland.
Next, three local Omani women took to the stage, each recounting their personal stories of their participation in the Women CKCs. Interestingly, because each woman has been involved in a different capacity at one of the WCKCs, she was able to share a different perspective.
Majida Sheikhan al Mamari, representing the Omani Women’s Association (OWA) in Seeb, spoke about the benefits of having the WCKC located at the OWA. She highlighted the efforts of the ITA in cooperation with sponsors to provide the place and the right environment for women and girls to receive training courses in computer field.
As a Trainer in the Rustaq WCKC location, Mariam Salim al Harassi shared her experiences interacting with the women who participate in the WCKC training session on how to use a computer. She has been pleasantly surprised with the large volume of women wanting to join the WCKC.
Rounding out the personal anecdotes, Zakia Saif al Balushi, who is a trainee at one of the WCKCs, conveyed her excitement and gratitude to the WCKC for having the opportunity to participate in the unique training offered by the centre.
Lastly, speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Education, an Omani graduate of the Government IT Training and Certification (GITTC) spoke about her experiences using technology in education and how having undergone ICT training has positively impacted her teaching and by extension, her students.
The efforts of the Ministry of Education in overcoming the difficulties expected from the change from a traditional education system to a system based on modern technology, along with the provision of software and customised curriculum and the provision of equipment and computers has resulted in a positive result for all. The 2012 World Telecommunication and Information Society Day’s activities came to an end following presentation of the appreciation gifts to Omantel and Nawras, and to the distinguished guest of honour.