December 18, 2006 By News Report
In a small city near the Nile River where cars compete with cattle and modern conveniences are scarce, Intel Corporation is using computers and wireless technology to help Oseem's 200,000 residents tap into vast "knowledge resources" on the Internet in hopes of bettering their lives.
"Technology has expanded what is possible for the people of Oseem," said Intel Chairman Craig Barrett. "Intel is committed to support Egypt's leaders in accelerating access to technology so its people can get better health care, education and work skills."
Working with Egypt's government, business and education leaders, Intel installed a state-of-the-art WiMAX network to connect two public schools, a health care center on wheels, a municipal building and an e-government services kiosk. Intel also donated and installed computers in the mobile health center and PC labs at the two schools where students and teachers can regularly connect to the outside world for the first time.
"The next billion Internet users will be from rural areas like Oseem," said Barrett, who toured the village to explore how similar programs could be replicated in other regions. This issue has led Barrett, who also chairs the United Nation's Global Alliance for ICT and Development, to 10 developing countries from the Amazon to Africa in the past 100 days.
In each country Barrett visited Intel unveiled efforts -- through its World Ahead Program -- to create economic opportunities and improve quality of life. The new programs focused on improving education and accelerating access to computers and the Internet.
"The Internet is a great technological advancement because it helps us learn and advance," said Khaled Mohamed Ragab, a 14-year-old student at Oseem's BORTOS School. "We can also talk to the rest of the world and meet new friends on the Internet."
To improve health care in Oseem, Intel enabled the use of electronic medical records and audio and video interaction between patients and specialists hundreds of kilometers away.
"In remote areas we cannot diagnose most cases, so we have to transfer or refer cases to the central location," said Dr. Osama El Gameel, house officer for Kasr El Aini Hospital. "To transfer a whole family to Cairo or Giza is a problem for most families. This way we can easily diagnose their condition without any complaints from the family. A junior doctor in these areas also does not have enough experience. With telemedicine they can gain experience through video conferences and by e-mail."
The WiMAX wireless infrastructure in Oseem has an extended transmitting range of up to 30 kilometers. WiMAX is designed to be a less costly and more efficient way to deliver Internet connectivity to cities and remote areas.
Intel's Platform Development Center in Cairo contributed to the development of the computers in the e-government kiosks and schools. The PCs were designed to operate in hot climates such as Upper Egypt. The Community PCs used in the kiosks can connect to car batteries for power and have dust filters that are easily removed for cleaning. The full-feature, energy-efficient PCs used in the schools are designed for first-time computer users and are equipped with Arabic software.
Barrett's visit and meetings with government officials culminates a year-long effort to use technology to help communities in the Middle East and Turkey. It is called the Digital Transformation Initiative.
To extend the reach of technology to benefit students, Intel pledged to donate 8,000 PCs to Egypt's schools. The PCs will be equipped with educational software supported by the Ministry of Education and Microsoft XP Professional Edition, Microsoft Office 2003 Small Business Edition and Learning Essentials software donated by Microsoft Corporation. Intel also plans to train 650,000 teachers in Egypt by 2010 on how to apply technology to enhance classroom learning with 54,000 teachers trained to date. For the first time in the world, the Intel Teach Essentials training program is being offered online in Egypt. Intel aims to extend the training's reach to a larger number of Egyptian educators, in cooperation with the Ministry of Communications and Technology.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.