Studies Show That Only 18% Of Jordanians Are Reading This Right Now

An interesting study by the Department of Statistics was released, stating that 54% of Jordanians own computers and only 18% of them are actually connected the Internet. According to a Ministry of ICT spokesperson, 30 to 31% of Jordanians “use the Internet”, but I have no idea what that means. Do they mean penetration rates, access or simply usage?

But here’s the interesting part:

“half of Jordanian families that do not have computers indicated that they cannot afford them, while more than 40 per cent said they do not need them. The study, e-mailed to The Jordan Times, found that 40 per cent of Jordanians do not have computers as they do not know how to use them” [source]

I’m not a fan of studies that attempt to gauge Internet usage through a “representative” sample, especially in a developing nation like Jordan where Internet is still relatively expensive for the average Jordanian, who will tend to access the Internet from work, school, cafes, universities, etc. Again, there is a difference between penetration rates assessed by the number of subscribers, surveys, which are based on sampling, and access, which is difficult to gauge.

Regardless, the opening up of the telecommunication market to aggressive competition, the likes of which is fairly absent throughout the entire Arab world – has helped provide options, greater services, and an overall increase in the number of people who are using the Internet in Jordan over the past decade. Overall, the progress is encouraging and I think the government may be successful in achieving the National Strategy goal of getting Internet penetration up to 50% by the end of 2011. This will depend largely on it finding a way to balance regulation. The government’s tendency to over-regulate a market, such as the tourism sector, is often detrimental. The more balanced the regulation, and the more hands off the government is, the more these sectors tend to experience growth.

But all that aside, it may be high time that both the private sector and civil society play a more active role in arming the average Jordanian with computers and Internet access. The government subsidized computers at one point, allowing for citizens to purchase a laptop through payments spread out over a lengthy period of time. I don’t know if this program is still active, and I’m not sure if it was even met with any degree of success. Regardless, it might be a model for the private sector and civil society to take on and develop at higher levels – funding Internet access. While on the surface it may not appear as sexy as funding water projects, cultural events, or even education and medical programs – both access to computers and the Internet are becoming an integral part of the system of things. Access to the Internet is quickly becoming a universal human right, and as well it should be.

The One Laptop Per Child initiative has been an interesting endeavor to watch, and at this point in history, Chinese netbooks sell for as little as $200. What would it take for the biggest companies and NGOs in the country to take on a project to arm every student in Jordan with a laptop, and complement that with a proper educational course. What would it cost? Even if half the country is in school, that’s about 3 million students. If half of those are at the appropriate age level for computer literacy, then you have 1.5 laptops to distribute. That’s $300 million, or, JD213 million. Stretch that budget over a few years…

Between the government, the private sector, NGOs, the King’s political capital and the Queen’s star power – what would it take to raise that money?

Contrast whatever figure you get with how much is spent on e-government services people are under-utilizing, with what is gained from expanding the market of potential Internet consumers. What’s the externality? The social benefits? Creating global citizens, creating a tech-empowered community, computer literate, etc?

What would it take?


  • U knw Nasim, let`s talk another look @ the abu-mahjoob`s caricature, shall we!
    Mind sets need to be … <— u fill it in 🙂


  • @haitham: i agree, but that’s what so great about the mahjoob cartoon: the contrast! we can’t change mindsets without arming people with the tools and complementing that with education. if we have a limited number of both, the mindset will remain the same.

    btw, this cartoon dates back to 1999. so it’s been 11 years. some things have changed, some things have not. a look at the number of web ventures and startups, as well as varied usage is encouraging but that’s largely due to people who have access to begin with.

  • What is the annual budget of Jordan? Do you think outfiltting every study with a computer is necessary when students go to school hungry or ill equiped otherwise. Do all students have paper and pencils? What is the state of the schools they are taught in? Clean, heat/air conditioning? I think while your proposal is a good one, there are other more pressing things that need to be addressed. Universities are filled to the brim with computers, but has that helped any? Are graduates able to reason and think for themselves? Are they conducting their own research projects and interacting with scholars across the globe? Or are they submitting the same tired program/project that was sold to them by the previous students who took that course? Are the unvesity professors engaged and up to date on developments within their scope of expertise? I think not…they are presenting topics that are sorely outdated.

    If students were loaned computers…do you think they would care for them in the same way as if their parents are spending 20JD per month for 2 years paying for (I would reasonably guess even 20JD is a chunk of a families monthly income))? Here’s a business opportunity for the amibitious ones, form a company to finance these computers to everyone or the ministry of education should buy a batch of computers and travel from school to school and hold training classes for the students maybe 1x per week at each school. I remember in 3rd grade, were talking 1980’s there were two computers for our entire school…still that’s better than 0. We only played games on them, but still we learned to use them…learned to load games, learned simple 10 line programs. We’ve got to start small…maybe not one laptop for each student, but one laptop per school perhaps?

    I think the real reason is to keep them ignorant, as it’s easier to control them when they know nothing.

    Sorry for getting off topic……18% seems a bit low to me. But I think with the internet cafes and them being pretty affordable, people are using them for the wrong reasons….as the cartoon shows. What if those same people researched, learned something, or even taught others how to use them. I only Jordanians cared about education/computers as much as they do about music videos on satellite TV or mobile phones.

  • @anonduetoignorance: well first of all, i didn’t say this would come out of the government budget. as i mentioned, im looking more at an initiative lead by the private sector and the NGO sector, staggered over several years. secondly, universities are not filled to the brim. quite the opposite. i think if we did a per capita analysis the figure would be quite low when it comes to the number of students per computer.

    third, a tech-empowered student body transforms mindsets much quicker than anything else. this is why i suggested that access is the first step but it has to be complemented with education.

    lastly, be careful with the generalizations. expecting that every single student will utilize a computer by doing research and learning is far fetched. it doesn’t happen anywhere in the world and that’s simply because we’re all human. but generally, all of them, even by playing games, will learn computer literacy (and you’d be surprised how low it is in jordan), and a small percentage will go on to do great things. equipping each student with a computer increases that pool of greatness.

    and for the private sector…these are the people they will be hiring. making a $200 investment today help yield a healthier crop of students 10 years from now.

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  • Nas . For us to talk about education and access to computer and internet , we must really be honest about our sad state of economic and political affairs , there is no way we discuss this important matter without discussing and debating our sad economic and political affair that has really gone long enough with any public debates.

    Let us face the facts and the ugly realty that we are facing, we couldn’t talk about access to computers and internet while the majority of us are living on less than two dinars a day,, it is in my opinion , an out right hypocrisy, there is no way you can drive your car while your engine is broken and your tires are flat, we can’t solve our problems without looking at the roots of our problems, we could not talk or subscribe to cure by looking at the symptoms , we must find and locate the problem first, before we could even think about solutions, let alone offering some .

  • fuuny, real story

    i was talking with my 2 friends who do not use the internet coz they have bad english and coz they are in their 30 s ,thats what they told me any way one friend (man)coz like this; i just got an internet connection at home for my kids to use the and i have been playing farmville ( face book)since then i have came a loooooong way i think iam an excellent internet user i dont even spend time wth my wife and kids we all have our own farmville.
    my other friend(woman) looks at me with a shy face and asks;why does he spend all that time on that thing (she means the farmvlile)do we get paid if we play it ,coz if soo i wanna play to???????????
    1- this really happened
    2- yes they are still my friends .
    3- and yes i gave them a lecture

  • Nas,
    While computer literacy would help the children of Jordan in the future, I think a re-vamp of the entire educational system in Jordan would be more important and significant towards a brighter future for these students. As the system stands now, many are lost and never graduate. Those who strive to graduate, fail and never are able to make it into the university system. Not all children are built to memorize every piece of information they have ever been taught. Regurgitating this information does not make a bright student necessarily–It makes a great memorizer. We need a future generation of students who can UNDERSTAND information and use it to grow and develop. Jordan will never prosper without true education. This is my wish for Jordan.

  • Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

    what you are looking for to equip students with a how to knowledge and spark a motivation to search for answers leading to thinking independently. what the internet does is provide “a link” to wide range of resources, where in old school, we were taught that whats is in the book is correct and quite enough, well, it could and could not be true, plus knowing something doesn’t mean you understand it, you just know it. this is what is necessary today, to teach them where to go to find information, how to verify to understand (on their own) and afterwards put it in use

    will computers accomplish this? certainly its an approach but teachers are as important! I really think we lack good teachers

  • “Between the government, the private sector, NGOs, the King’s political capital and the Queen’s star power – what would it take to raise that money?”

    I wonder what would it take for people like us to raise that amount of money somehow, or get other people to donate old laptops for example. Sorry if I sound like i’ve never dealt with money before in my life but nothing is impossible!

  • Well, it’s not about granting each students a netbook/notebook only, it’s about having a complete e-learning system that transforms all courses into software and programs, each student will bring his netbook with him while walking into the school instead of bringing a very heavy bag of 4-8 books! It’s not a fact but I remember that I read this plan somewhere in one of the daily newspaper, it’s one of the government future initiatives!

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