Jordan’s Golden Opportunity in ICT: Does it Exist? And Who are the Three Winning Parties?

2022-07-28 01:57

By Eng. Nidal Bitar*

 

As the world undergoes a massive digital transformation, countries are continuously striving to utilize state-of-the-art technology and telecommunications to improve economic outcomes, private sector performance, and overall quality of life for their citizens. In pursuance of this goal, countries are adopting a holistic approach which includes the development of existing infrastructures, systems, modern technological-based solutions, and innovations. This has shed light on the shortage of qualified human resources who constitute the cornerstone of digital transformation. Hampering countries’ ability to realize their ambitions of countries in seizing high ranks in global indexes related to their technological readiness.

 

Despite global economic and social setbacks such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and rising levels of inflation, budgets allocated to digital transformation remain consistent and significant. Budgets are distributed in the public sector or the private sector’s various branches i.e., healthcare, finance, agriculture, education, industry, energy, and smart cities, amongst others.

 

According to a 2020 IDC study, the lack of qualified human resources specialized in technology leads to an estimated loss of $390 billion worldwide. The study also found that 82% of organizations across multiple sectors find it difficult to attract and retain talents. Additionally, 52% of technology leaders perceive the gap in qualifications as a key problem.[1]

 

The global IT market size is estimated at $2 trillion, while the global IT & business process outsourcing (IT/BPO) market size is estimated to reach around $900 billion in 2025. Market share is focused in several countries and regions, such as India, China, Brazil, and East European countries, among others. These outsourced services range from software development, technical support, call centres, quality assurance, hosting, to many other services.

 

According to international sources, the total number of IT specialists needed by various countries across the world is approximately 3 million. An example of the presence of a significant skills gap is the US, where nearly 1 million experts are needed. This gap is present in a multitude of countries as well, where 200,000 experts are needed in Canada, 124,000 in Germany, 70,000 in Sweden, 37,000 in the Netherlands, 40,000 in the UK, 60,000 in Australia, 15,000 in Finland, in addition to approximately 170,000 in France, and 12,000 in Ireland.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

 

According to a preliminary study released by the Information and Communications Technology Association of Jordan (int@j) in December last year, the number of graduates from technology-related faculties exceeds 7,000 students annually. Of these graduates, only 3,000 were registered as employees at the Social Security Corporation in 2020. As per data issued by the Jordanian Ministry of Higher Education, the total number of workers in Jordan’s ICT sector stands at approximately 26,000 employees.[8]

 

This indicates that a large number of graduates have educational attainment enabling them to work but do not have the opportunity to do so for various reasons.  According to a survey of tech-company owners and managers in Jordan, the most notable causes of this include unsatisfactory English-language skills, lack of practical skills and inadequate life skills (e.g. communication, teamwork, and a desire for self-actualization, etc.). These skills, however, can be mastered through practical training and internships, whether at companies that hire graduates or at specialized boot camps. There is no shortage in supply of such bootcamps, as many are supported by the Youth, Technology, & Jobs (YTJ) Program of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship through the Digital Skills Association (DigiSkills) and various other donors.

 

On the other hand, there are some major social and economic challenges that hamper Jordan’s ability to develop in both aspects. Most notable is youth unemployment rates standing at a staggering 50%, as per World Bank estimations. Furthermore, low female participation in the labour market is also highly concerning, despite the percentage of female graduates from IT majors amounts to around 51%.[9]

 

Therein lies the solution to this issue, as leveraging the capabilities of the ICT sector would limit the rise of the unemployment rate, particularly across governorates. This is due to the great potential within the sector to provide sufficient job opportunities amid the rapid changes influencing markets during the ongoing information revolution. Additionally, Jordan has been proven to have satisfactory infrastructure and internet access rates across governorates during the pandemic. This gives the Kingdom a competitive edge relative to other countries throughout the region and the world th

 

Based on the aforementioned, linking technology companies suffering severe deficits in specialized human resources to Jordanian university graduates seeking employment may prove beneficial for both. In order to ensure success in filling this gap, the intervention of a key third party is essential. This party consists of large, medium, and small-sized Jordanian IT companies, which require exceptional support – to be detailed later – that is no less than the support donors provide to training and upskilling/re-skilling programs to graduates.

 

Therefore, close and well-thought-out cooperation between the three parties, holds a promising opportunity to fulfil their interests based on a win-win-win concept.

 

This entails providing companies around the world with qualified human resources through Jordanian SMEs that recruit university graduates after aligning their skills with the needs of the labour market. In the long run, this will increase export revenues and prompt the growth of these enterprises, thereby increasing the taxes paid to the State’s Treasury, and boosting Jordan’s economy.

 

To ensure the effectiveness of this cooperation, it is necessary to identify and assess the competencies, tools, processes, and promotional materials that Jordanian companies possess, then develop their capabilities accordingly. Moreover, the human capital needs of global companies should be identified in order to recruit Jordanian graduates.

 

I believe this process requires collaborative efforts among all entities in the Kingdom across the public, private, and academic sectors, and donor agencies, as well as specialized training centres.

 

Based on the above, int@j is currently preparing for the establishment of a specialized unit, “The Business Development and Readiness Unit (BDRU)”, to act as a facilitator of a tangible partnership with all entities seeking to achieve specific and measurable objectives. This unit’s key mandate will be to assess the readiness of Jordanian companies, develop their internal capabilities, and qualify them to compete globally, making them appealing to international companies for contracting purposes. Furthermore, the unit will work to identify international companies that require human resources. Through this, connecting employers with equipped and qualified Jordanian companies will be made possible, enhancing their exports and contributing to their growth in the long run. This, in turn, will contribute to the achievement of His Majesty King Abdullah II’s vision of making Jordan a distinguished regional hub in the field of ICT and the digital economy.

 

Moreover, int@j, in partnership with the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, and under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II, will hold the MENA ICT Forum 2022 on the 16-17 of November 2022 under the title of “Fusing Technologies, Digitizing & Bridging Borders: Reshaping the Generations of the Future”. The Forum seeks to highlight Jordan’s optimal position in the sector and the achievements accomplished by Jordanian companies operating in the ICT and entrepreneurship sector by bringing together key business leaders, decision-makers, and major ICT companies and enterprises from across the region and the world.

 

A large number of expert speakers from across the globe will take part in the Forum to exchange knowledge and expertise about the latest advancements in IT and telecommunications. Exhibition booths will also be hosted for companies to promote their services and solutions, along with holding meetings with prospective partners, clients , and investors. This will present a major opportunity to focus on moving forward with this initiative and setting a timeframe for its achievement.

*The writer is the CEO of the Information and Communications Technology Association of Jordan (int@j).

[1]“Name of study”, IDC, 2020.

[2] “Name of study”, Codeinstitute, 2019.

[3] “The IT Competence Shortage”, Swedish and Telecom Industries, 2020.

[4] “Name of report/study”, NL Alumni Network, YEAR.

[5] “Name of report/study”, Australian Computer Society, YEAR.

[6] “Name of report/study”, Finnish Information Processing Association (TIVIA), YEAR.

[7] “Name of report/study”, The French Digital Skills & Jobs Coalition, YEAR.

[8] “Name of Study”, int@j, 2021.

[9] “Jordan Overview”, World Bank, 2022.