Islamic states plan research and education network

A pan-Islamic research and education network spanning the 57 countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to enhance cooperation among research and education communities is being planned, alongside a range of ambitious ICT projects approved at the International Telecommunication Union Connect Arab Summit.

The network was presented at a first meeting in Rabat, Morocco, of the coordinators of the National Research and Education Networks of Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sudan and Turkey from 19-20 March.

According to the project document, fewer than half of the Islamic countries in the world possess research and education networks.

The aim is to link the technological and communication infrastructures of Islamic countries and to connect research and education officials in the Islamic world. The initiative will establish research and education connectivity between every Islamic country by forming a consortium of national networks.

Hassanuddeen Abd Aziz, dean of the centre for postgraduate studies at the International Islamic University Malaysia, said: “A pan-Islamic research and education network will provide a helping hand in quickly translating the initiative for an Islamic space for higher education into a regional e-infrastructure dedicated to e-science and education across the Islamic world.”

In another development promoting the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to enhance e-education access and stimulate innovation by 2015, Arab states approved a number of projects including technological networks, educational centres, an online university and a virtual academy.

“The energy in this region testifies to the Arab world’s transformation into a major technology hub and a pre-eminent force in the global ICT industry,” Hamadoun Touré, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union, told ITU’s Connect Arab Summit in Doha, Qatar, on 7 March.

“A growing number of the world’s most exciting new ICT companies are now based here, and I confidently predict that within the next 10 years, the ICT sector could become our single biggest employer of young talent,” he said.

Among the endorsed projects are an online university for postgraduate studies in sustainable development and ICT, an ICT training academy, a pan-Arab telemedicine network, an Arab innovation exchange network, an Arab innovation labs network, an Arab science and technology portal, and Arab e-science resources management.

Mohammed Kuchari, associate professor of microbiology at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, told University World News: “These initiatives, if correctly implemented, will provide cost-effective technological tools for enhancing e-access to higher education and facilitate knowledge exchange and technology transfer across the Arab region.”