Feb 21, 2006 (02:02 PM EST)
Gaza IT Center Prepares To Break Ground

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

Intel and American Near East Refugee Aid plan to break ground on a Gaza Intel Information Technology Center of Excellence within two months.

Representatives of both organizations confirmed plans for the groundbreaking during interviews Tuesday. The center, planned for the Islamic University of Gaza, will be the fourth of its kind in the Middle East and is part of broader and separate Intel and ANERA Middle East initiatives.

ANERA formed 37 years ago to provide job, health, education and emergency war relief opportunities in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon. The nonprofit group partnered with Intel to open a similar center at Al Quds University in Jerusalem in 2004. Since then, more than 1,000 men and women have trained there.

The latest center will be the first of its kind in Gaza and should be completed by next year, according to representatives from ANERA and Intel. A Gaza pilot program, established in 1999 raised the number of residents trained in Java, Oracle and Microsoft from seven to 66. Now, several of those who completed the pilot program are teaching others.

The push to train Gaza residents in everything from computer use to managing networks aims to alleviate a 33 percent unemployment rate among the 1.3 million people living in Gaza, ANERA's Director of Communications Adrian Loucks said during an interview Tuesday.

Loucks said that most of the trainees were unemployed and 50 percent of those without jobs acquired them after the training. Most cited their certification under the pilot program as the reason for their success, according to ANERA. The center will be staffed by Palestinians.

"It's going to create jobs internally, whereas a lot of employment previously, a lot of the laborers, had relied on Israel," Loucks said.

For Intel's part, the $1 million center is a portion of a larger strategy. Intel's Digital Transformation Initiative for the Middle East has set aside $50 million in capital funds, established scholarships and backed training in countries throughout the region. The semiconductor company's program reaches Turkey, Egypt, North Africa, Jordan and beyond. The main goals are to encourage entrepreneurship, education, digital accessibility and technical competencies.

Spokesman Chuck Mulloy said the company is trying to gain leverage through new and existing programs, while facilitating dialogue and coordination between different groups.