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Promoting new technologies for employment and poverty alleviation in the ESCWA Member Countries

Background:

The need to integrate member country economies within the emerging global knowledge-based economy constitutes an urgent priority in the ESCWA region. The acquisition and dissemination of new technologies with adequate regard to local, social and environmental conditions should lead to direct and indirect benefits for sustainable socio-economic development. New technologies, including information and communications technologies (ICTs), have been shown to enhance enterprise competitiveness/productivity and sustain enterprise and national economic growth, enabling the generation of new employment opportunities and alleviating poverty. Higher productivity and improved competitiveness may be achieved on the basis of new technology inputs through a variety of means, e.g. improved access to information and markets, reduced material inputs and operational costs, as well as improved environmental impact. Traditional industries and family-based production and services activities in rural and urban communities can benefit from new technologies, including ICTs, in many other ways. Thus, ICTs could be inducted in combating illiteracy and in disseminating modern educational and vocational training, leading to enhanced employability and higher earning power for poor and marginalized populations.

Contributions that may be made by other new technologies, reinforcing and complementing the benefits of ICTs include new energy technologies, new materials technologies, new environmentally sound technologies, with regard to water treatment, and modern biotechnologies, particularly those with immediate and tested applications in agricultural production. A Forum on Technology, Employment and Poverty Alleviation, held at ESCWA Headquarters, during 16-18 July 2002 was attended by international economists, technologists and scientists. The Forum considered and adopted a Regional Agenda for Action essentially aimed at the promotion of new technologies in the ESCWA/Arab countries with the specific aim of creating employment and reducing poverty.

Objective:

Increase employment opportunities and alleviate poverty in ESCWA member countries through capacity building in new technologies, including information and communications technologies. This will be achieved through formulation and implementation of national technology-based initiatives and through the establishment of pilot facilities and networking arrangements, dissemination of good practices for employment creation and poverty alleviation

Expected accomplishments:

  • Technology-based initiatives and related implementation strategies, in well-defined national and sectoral contexts, that may readily be adopted by member countries in order to facilitate introduction and dissemination of selected new technologies to enhance enterprise competitiveness and productivity, create skills, generate employment opportunities and alleviate poverty
  • Technology-based pilot facility in a selected member country to serve as a model for the implementation of new technologies in enterprise creation, competitiveness/productivity enhancement and poverty alleviation
  • Incubation schemes and associated facilities/services to provide “proof-of-concept” capabilities as well as an ability for evaluation and promotion of selected new technologies and testing optimal modalities
  • Experience in employment creation and poverty alleviation on the basis of new technology inputs and subsequent ability in the evaluation and refinement of implementation strategies, initiatives, pilot facility and incubation schemes. The initiative will also contribute to the dissemination of best practices and results achieved through relevant techno-economic studies and experiences for the benefit of member countries
  • A regional network of institutions, directly targeting the implementation of new technologies for employment, competitiveness/productivity and poverty alleviation, in order to sustain future research and development, as well as technology assessment activities within the same domain

Implementation status:

In 2006, the implementation of the “Smart Community” project (SCP) entered its final stages. The SCP in Qusaybeh, Syria, is now fully functional and the local community is benefiting from a variety of services and products it offers. In Yemen, the SCP in Taiz is ready to commence its operations, and the works to rehabilitate and equip the SCP in Hadran are underway. Both SCPs in Yemen will be launched during an official ceremony in March 2007. In parallel with establishing these pilot facilities, the question of enterprise support schemes (infrastructure development, financial management and networking) were raised during the workshops held in Sana’a, Yemen, in November 2006 and in Damascus, Syria, in December 2006. The workshop in Damascus was followed by a study tour to knowledge stations in Jordan. Entrepreneurship and communication were among the topics discussed and analysed. The partnerships established in Syria and Yemen with local NGOs and with the local and national government proved to be very helpful in the execution of the project. The partners helped secure smooth implementation of local activities and are committed to ensuring sustainability of the projects’ outcomes. During 2006, one training workshop was conducted at the Agro-Food Processing Unit in Qusaybeh, Syria, (November 2006) where eight operators were prepared for the production phase. Furthermore, fourteen individuals attended the awareness workshop that was held in Yemen (November 2006) as part of the establishment of the SCP in Hadran. The project addressed the issue of women’s empowerment through training and hiring local women in the established facilities. The feedback obtained from the local community was very positive. In addition, a workshop was held in Syria (December 2006) for fourteen individuals from partner NGOs, concerned institutions and managers of Multipurpose Technology Community Centres in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. Feedback showed that participants benefited greatly from the workshop as it was tailored to address their needs.