Industry partnerships are key to Jordan’s talent development

[24-07-2022 12:18 PM]

BY Mashhoor Al Refai

Like every nation, Jordan is following a national digitalisation strategy, to enable swifter, more secure and more efficient government and private sector transactions, and to maintain global competitive advantage.

Recent figures from the US International Trade Association reveal Jordan’s ICT sector accounts for 3.8 per cent of GDP; with total annual sector revenue exceeding $2.3 billion.

During the recent Second Digital Mashreq Forum, organised by the World Bank Group, Jordan’s Minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Ahmad Al Hanandeh stated: “Digital transformation is no longer an option. It is a necessity for the prosperity of future generations […] If we are not part of digital transformation today, we will be left behind.”

Despite the ongoing global economic challenges, the ICT sector is seen as one of Jordan’s greatest assets, underlined by a 6 per cent growth rate during the pandemic. The Kingdom ranks 49th on the Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEI) and offers more than 25 business incubators, accelerators and creative centres.

Innovation is a top priority for the sector, with the government striving to position itself as a regional digital hub. Jordan’s rapidly developing ICT sector is evidenced by some 900 active companies — 98 per cent of which are SMEs — directly employing around 22,000 people.

Here, we enjoy geopolitical stability, good infrastructure, excellent proximity to key regional markets, a liberalised telecoms sector, and government support. The key pieces of digital development are in place.

While Jordan benefits from an entrepreneurial culture — backed by many supportive initiatives, as well as an attractive pool of talent, that pool is not enough to satisfy ICT sector demand.

What’s needed is a clear pipeline of well-trained ICT talent, and we — as educators — have a responsibility to shore up national development by providing a suitable talent pipeline.

Academia can no longer act as a silo. At Princess Sumaya University for Technology (PSUT), we actively seek industry partnerships to help ensure our youth’s talent is properly nurtured.

Companies such as global ICT provider Huawei have enjoyed a long-standing and successful partnership with PSUT. Together, we are striving to develop students’ research capabilities with the ultimate aim of encouraging innovation, building a sustainable digital economy based on renewable knowledge, and bridging the gap between existing educational curricula and the needs of the labour market.

In late 2020, PSUT and Huawei Jordan inked an agreement to establish an academy on campus. The ICT academy aims to enhance students’ knowledge of cutting-edge digital technologies including cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and cloud computing. The academy will also serve to train administrative staff in security, AI, and data storage technology through specialised training courses and professional exams.

The fruits of these partnership efforts are already evident — for example, a team of PSUT students took first place in an annual, regional Huawei ICT Competition, with a system they had developed to ensure that safe health practices were adhered to inside the university buildings during the worst ravages of COVID-19.

The winning Safety Alerts system provides a real-time video feed captured by a connected camera to monitor people in a given environment. A violation is recognised when two people fail to maintain the required distance, or an individual is found to be not wearing a face mask or wearing it incorrectly. Upon detection, a notification is sent to a webpage with an image of the violation, for the responsible person to take action. Closed places like universities, schools, factories and offices can utilise this real-time solution to ensure people are complying with social distancing regulations.

The PSUT team proudly won first place in the Huawei Middle East Innovation Competition, and successfully published a research paper at the prestigious IEEE conference.

On an academic level, the Department of Data Science at King Hussein School of Computing Sciences has introduced the use of Huawei Atlas 200 DK AI developer kits, a high-performance AI application developer board, to develop systems for various scientific goals. PSUT has also employed a range of Huawei technology to enable live video streaming of lectures — which proved especially useful during the pandemic.

PSUT constantly seeks to help its students hone their practical skills by participating in activities such as the Huawei ICT Competition. Through their participation, students gain a heightened understanding of datacom, security, 5G, cloud computing, data storage and WLAN, for example, all of which are pertinent to the university’s academic disciplines.

Through our industry partnerships, students can gain access to the latest tools, equipment and knowledge. Huawei also offers our students the chance to undertake real-world work experience, and the chance for the most capable students to pursue a lucrative, satisfying career with the company.

Working together with government and industry will ensure Jordan’s bright digital future — one in which we all benefit from well-rounded, highly trained ICT professionals.

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