How could we create jobs, improve income, alleviate poverty and erase electronic illiteracy in UN-ESCWA member countries in one project?
The idea is simple. Take a poor village in an Arab country, which most likely has not been introduced to the many benefits of technology so far, and where there are natural agro-food resources (such as coffee or milk). Establish a Multipurpose Technology Community Centre (MTCC), and an Agro-Food Processing Unit (AFPU). In an environmentally sound context, you have a winning equation for developing local natural resources and for opening up a window to the knowledge society through Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
This novel approach in community-wide interactions, otherwise known as the Smart Community Project (SCP), is a UN-ESCWA initiative, for Syria and Yemen. It is a step towards the inclusion of poor and marginalized communities into more productive, active and developed spheres. In addition to being a platform for computer literacy, information technology (IT) and better communication, SCP helps in redressing gender issues, promoting new technologies, addressing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and most importantly, providing an anchor for small and medium enterprises.
The Multipurpose Technology Community Centre is designed to be the focus of ICT-related activities in the village. It aids the needs of the community in education, introduces them to new technology and means of communication, and gives them access to information as a first step in their introduction to the tools of the knowledge society. The MTCC is also equipped with various ICT tools, applications and software, giving the community access to computer training and eventually to a host of e-services including e-commerce.
As for the AFPU, it aims to process and market agro-food products utilizing modern hygienic and quality standards, as well as deliver relevant vocational training and disseminate information on best practices in modern agro-food production and processing. The AFPU thus ensures the introduction of hygienic and healthy production techniques to the villages, encourages personal initiative for the development of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs); introduces new manufacturing and marketing techniques. MTCCs participate in the e-marketing process.
The villages that have so far benefited of the project are Taiz and Hadran in Beni Matar valley near Sana'a, Yemen, and the village of Qusaybeh in the Quneitra governorate, Syria.
The SCP is partially funded through the United Nations Development Account, and implemented by UN-ESCWA. Its partners include: FIRDOS (Syria) Attakaful Association, andAl-Saleh Foundation - National Capacity Building Programme(Yemen).