2006 designated for fighting computer illiteracy [Archives:2006/913/Local News]

January 19 2006

SANA'A, Jan. 18 ) Abdulmalik Al-Mulmi, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, declared that 2006 will be devoted to fighting computer ignorance.

His announcement came at the launch of a campaign to erase computer illiteracy as well as alphabetical illiteracy in Ministry of Communication employees, its authorities and sectors.

Al-Mulmi wondered at current talk about technology because most employees still suffer alphabetical illiteracy. “Ignorance is the main reason behind the spread of violence and illegal actions of those who cannot express their views and opinions. They tend to behave violently, like kidnapping, and such attitudes reflect poorly on Yemen's reputation,” he said. He added that the General Institute of Communication is ready to receive all those desiring to learn and qualify in any trade, management or information technology field.

Ministry statistics show there were 140,000 personal computers in Yemen in 2003, roughly seven computers for every 1,000 people. Approximately 1.54 percent of the population is able to use a computer. This estimate is considered quite small in comparison to Yemen's population of approximately 19 million.

The internet became available in Yemen in 1996. Since then, two Yemeni companies have controlled internet service provision: TeleYemen and the General Institute for Communication. The number of Yemeni internet users in 2004 was estimated to be only 150,000. The total number of subscribers is far less than this number, as every subscription is used by more than one user.

By the end of 2002, there were 248 Yemeni websites on the internet: 51 governmental, 15 news, 24 embassy and organizational, 91 private business, 23 educational, 6 bank and insurance, 7 forums and various internet services.

According to ministry statistics, the main reasons for Yemeni disuse of the internet are lack of material and financial ability, inability to use the internet and no need for it.

A study prepared by Helmi Noman, a technology analyst and freelance consultant and researcher on issues related to the internet in developing countries, revealed that Yemen's internet population is concentrated in five large cities, nearly 60 percent in Sana'a alone. This is not surprising given urban population is only 24.7 percent of total population.

The study revealed that the typical Yemeni internet user is male (86 percent), single (66 percent), young (47 percent are aged 18-24), finished high school (68 percent) and makes between $100 and $200 monthly (43 percent). The low rate among female internet users can be attributed to a number of social and economical factors but the high illiteracy rate among Yemeni adult females (74.8 percent) is probably the main factor.

Noman also pointed out that Yemeni educational institutions have not integrated the internet into the education system. According to the study, the University of Sana'a, which has the country's largest student body, has not incorporated information technology as an educational delivery tool nor does it have an internet-ready computer network. Some private universities, notably the University of Science and Technology, make internet access available to their students as a value-added service. However, connectivity in these schools usually is very slow because they depend on sharing dialup accounts via proxy servers.

Specialized internet training for academic research is virtually absent in most state and private academic institutions.

English, the language of the majority of research materials published on the internet, is not widely spoken in Yemen.

In 2002, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared a project to stimulate computer use among government employees and students by providing computers at suitable cost. It expected to circulate 101,815 computers by 2010.