The huge growth in the ICT sector in Qatar and the heavy investment in technology and infrastructure is indeed bearing fruit and making a positive impact in many ways. The increased use of ICT tools is helping Qatar’s communities are developing new skills, and improving their knowledge and expertise.
Earlier this year Digital Qatar featured a blog about bridging the digital divide to enhance ICT access for Qatar’s transient workers – who help Qatar in its economic growth and social development and who account for almost 25% of Qatar’s population. These workers have been identified as being at high risk of digital exclusion, with little or no access to ICT tools.
Many of these workers reside in one of the 16,000 labor camps across Qatar. Recent research revealed that 67% of these transient workers did not have access to ICT tools which significantly hindered their awareness of the benefits of ICT access and skills. These workers are also being held back by a lack of language skills and living conditions that were not conducive to learning.
Qatar’s National Broadband Plan specifically talks about ensuring that ICT access and ICT-based training is available to all segments of society – especially those members who are involved in contributing to the development of our nation. In fact one of key targets within the National Broadband Plan is to ensure that all labor camp accommodation have broadband speeds of 8 Mbps by 2016 to help ensure that transient workers have access to the ICT-based training and government e-services that will help them in their everyday lives.
The Ministry of Information & Communications Technology (ictQATAR) took yet another concrete step towards this step by launching the “Better Connections Program” at the sidelines of QITCOM exhibition earlier today. The Better Connections Program is a key initiative established to create a framework towards realization of digital inclusion across the transient labor force in Qatar with increased access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools.
The Program is an employer’s step-by-step framework to implementing ICT access within transient labor accommodation. The Program has been designed to help the employers to:
- Create a room or designated area dedicated to computer access and ICT training at workers’ accommodation.
- Source low-cost computers and software to keep any outgoings to a minimum.
- Provide connectivity – a fixed or wireless solution for Internet connection.
- Appropriate content and training – helping you deliver ICT-based training to meet the needs of transient labor force.
The Better Connections Program is result of a pilot program undertaken by ictQATAR in 2013 with two well-known companies – Al Tala General Contracting Est. (ACTE) and Qatar National Facility Services (QNFS) – to address the issue of transient workers’ digital exclusion. The interactions with the transient workers involved in the pilot and information about their needs, wants and barriers to accessing and using technology, also helped in shaping the Program.
The pilot resulted in the Better Connections Program, a low-cost, sustainable framework, which helps employers to work towards Qatar’s National Vision 2030 and improve employees’ basic ICT skills. And this really does make connections better.
Thoughts or comments?