Computers. Computers. [Archives:1997/42/Viewpoint]

October 20 1997

Why is it that our society tends to give lip service to things that we know are important and vital? Why is it that we give lip service to the issue of water in Yemen, which is a catastrophic problem looming above our heads and will fall on us in just a few years? Why is that we give lip service to qat, an opium-like addiction which is tearing our social fabric apart? Why is that we give lip service to population growth, which is crippling our chances for development? Why is that we are giving lip service to cleaning our streets, homes, and ourselves? Why is that we are giving lip service to many vital issues facing us in Yemen today and affecting our future?
One issue that is so crucial that I can’t exaggerate its importance is the need to catch up with the world in computers. I know it looks stupid to call for computer training and education when half the population is illiterate. But, we can’t wait to become fully literate to start looking into computers. We can actually embark on multiple parallel efforts. I bring up the issue of computers because I see them as a very important human invention – almost as important as the invention of writing, in the beginning of times. I also think that we can do something about it. Let me give my reasons: ý
1. The other day I visited one of the clubs which offers video games to children. What those Yemeni children, almost illiterate, were doing with those machines was amazing. They were in full control, just as any kids are, worldwide. In other words, our children can handle computers if they are given the chance and guidance. ý
2. Worldwide, there are many computers that are discarded by advanced societies. In fact, hundreds of thousands of computers are junked every year in the USA, Europe, Japan, etc. As companies, universities, government offices, and even individuals move to more powerful machines, the old ones are junked. Now, it is a good idea for our Ministry of Education to be on the alert to collect these machines. Our children do not need to have the most advanced gadgets. The old ones would do.
3. Different sectors in the Republic of Yemen are already on board regarding computer use. The media, banks, oil sector, private companies, and even some government offices have computers in their work. Therefore, demand is growing.
4. One can notice in Yemeni cities, especially in Sanaa, the many computer training schools and institutes. According to one estimate, there are roughly 130 institutes and offices that offer courses on computers. In fact, there are even some schools which have computer labs. Unfortunately, the universities are oblivious to this important development. But in general, there is some movement in the right direction.
What I am saying is clear, at least in my mind. Our society needs to push hard in introducing computers. I urge the Ministry of Education to establish a department responsible for promoting computers and computer training. It can link up with the private sector and the donor community in this effort.
The first step, however, is to accept the importance of computers for our future. It is not a laughing matter, neither is it far-fetched, even as underdeveloped and poor as we are. Think about it!
By: Pro. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf Editor-in-Chief and Publisher