Fifth PICTA Academy opening - Qana

Beirut, 12 March, 2007 - Under the auspices of Ms. Najat Rushdie, Project Manager at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP-ICTDAR), the Professional Computer Association of Lebanon (PCA) organized the opening ceremony of the PCA ICT Academy (PICTA), in the Qana Al-Jalil center in Qana, at 4:00 PM, March 9, 2007. The launching of the Fifth PICTA Center in Qana was a result of the ongoing support and collaboration of the PICTA initiative partners, which include: United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Mercy Corps, International Executive Service Corps (IESC) funded by USAID, Intel, CISCO, Microsoft, Computer Associates (CA), Universal Knowledge Solutions (UKS), Booz Allen Hamilton, Union of Arab ICT Association (Ijma3), UNESCO, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL), Ministry of Economy and Trade, Ministry of Telecom, Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Development (OMSAR), American Lebanese Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), Oracle, and Women in IT (WIT).

The launch of this fifth Center of the PICTA Academy project is part of a plan to open ten PICTA centers in order to provide free technology training courses to all segments of the community, and to provide affordable fast access to the Internet. The PICTA centers are located in areas most affected by the recent war on Lebanon. The first four centers had been opened in each of Nabatiyah, Baalbek, Bint Jbeil, and Batroun. The aim of the PICTA Academy is to strengthen the local capacity in the field of information technology and communications, and assist all levels of society to learn and improve their ICT skills, take advantage of new employment opportunities, and increase their opportunities of achieving better living conditions. Additionally, the local community-based NGO’s will participate in the management of this PICTA Academy in Qana while ensuring the continuation of the work methodology and quality of service.

After the national anthem, Eng. Radwan Habli, representative of the Ministry of Economy and Trade, highlighted upon the importance of building the rights of the citizens to coincide with the building of stone to support the steadfastness of the citizens in their towns. He added upon the necessity to train young people on the latest computer techniques, and referred to the importance of training the trainers in order to facilitate the transfer of knowledge to the local community trainers. Further, Mr Habli emphasized the need "to revive many of the villages and areas and create new job opportunities for young people through the development of ICT skills”.

Afterward, Mr. Mohsen Farran, Client Manager at International Executive Service Corps (IESC), explained the objectives of IESC’s AIM-IT project of providing affordable wireless Internet access in rural Lebanese communities. Mr. Farran expanded on the benefits of using the Internet in rural areas to bridge the digital divide, while highlighting the role of IESC in collaborating with CISCO in providing wireless Internet connectivity to the PICTA centers. The Internet connectivity in the centers will help the visitors and participants of the center, through an affordable fast internet connection, to receive online training courses administered by the PICTA Academy. Additionally, he mentioned that the use of the Internet connects people to their relatives living abroad, and connects local businesses to international markets. Additionally, he emphasized how the PICTA training certificates issued to students trained at the PICTA academy help the students and center visitors develop their technological skills, and find more jobs.

Then, Mr. Ziad Haddara from UNDP ICTIDAR offered his thanks to all the participants and the Qana community for hosting the PICTA Academy in Qana. He explained the importance of collaboration between international organizations, Lebanon’s ICT association, local NGOs, and the community leaders in cooperating to successfully launch such a project. He added that the PICTA Academy initiative will strive to provide support for making ICT a positive essential element in the lives of young people in Qana, and in other regions in Lebanon. Mr. Haddara considered that the PICTA Center represents an important development project since it aims to bring about positive changes in the lives of thousands of families from various parts of Lebanon.

In conclusion, Professor Mohamed Attiya thanked all the collaborators, local and international Partners for the launching of the PICTA Center, highlighting upon the importance of this center in the lives of the community in terms of progress, mainly in a town that had lived through, and had to overcome, many distressing and challenging events.