Archive for June 8th, 2012

Increasing reach – Jordan expanding internet penetration rates

– Amina Murtada
Tuesday, 06 September 2011

Global Arab Network – Significant progress has been made to meet the goals set out for Jordan’s information and communications technology (ICT) in 2011, with internet penetration rates, foreign direct investment (FDI) and revenues all increasing, even as government spending declines. In light of this, expanded plans for the sector for the 2010-16 period should be finalized by the end of this year, Global Arab Network reports according to Oxford Business Group.

The National ICT Strategy (NIS) 2007-11, created by the Information Technology Association – Jordan (Int@j), set three main goals for the end of the year: increase internet penetration from 11% in 2007 to 50% in 2011; expand the ICT workforce from 16,000 to 35,000 people; and see revenues reach $3bn by the end of the period.

Jordan is well on its way to reaching the first goal: the internet penetration rate at the end of 2010 was 38%, according to Int@j’s “ICT and ITES Industry Statistics and Yearbook 2010”, released in June. The number of internet users stood at 2.32m people in 2010, up from 1.74m in 2009, the report showed.

Though mobile penetration – which was 108% in 2010 – has seen rapid growth in recent years, internet uptake has been slower to rise. Lowering the price of services is key to getting more people online, as is encouraging private operators to increase their promotional efforts.

“The price of the service is a main factor in attracting more users; even though there is competition nowadays among the service providers. What is more important at this stage is for the private and public sectors to seriously engage in efforts to promote the service,” Abed Shamlawi, the CEO of Int@j, told local media in June.

The government’s lowering of the internet services sales tax from 16% to 8% has also encouraged the private sector to expand connections to rural areas. “I think we will achieve the 50% target as we are working hard with non-governmental organizations to penetrate rural areas outside Amman,” Khaled Lahham, the secretary-general of the Ministry of ICT, told OBG.

Also critical to boosting internet use is encouraging more people to purchase the devices that will enable them to do so. “Jordan in Figures”, published by the Department of Statistics in May 2011, reports that the portion of the population using computers for personal use reached 55.7% in 2010, up marginally from 55% in 2009. The same report also showed that the percentage of the population using the internet for personal reasons was 27.2% in 2010, up from 26% a year earlier.

The roll-out of mobile broadband services by Orange in 2010 and Zain in 2011, plus the forthcoming launch of 3G services by Umniah later this year, is expected to boost internet penetration rates further.

Total ICT sector revenue has grown from $1.5bn in 2007 to $2.2bn in 2009, short of the $3bn target but significant progress nonetheless. Although overall ICT revenues have increased, IT revenue alone has fallen, from $962m in 2008 to $895m in 2009 and $732m in 2010. This is due to declining government spending in the sector, Shamlawi told Bloomberg in June. Government spending on IT in 2010 was JD25m ($35m), while in the years up to and including 2009 spending averaged JD150m ($211m), Shamlawi said.

This places growth prospects squarely in the hands of the private sector, and indeed, the NIS 2007-11 explicitly states as much. “The private sector itself must be responsible for increasing the size of the industry. The private sector must work on increasing the day-to-day relevance of ICT among Jordanians and among Jordanian businesses.”

Private investors, for their part, are taking note. Cumulative FDI in the IT sector has risen steadily since 2001, reaching $142.5m in 2010. The Jordan Investment Board notes that ICT is the fastest-growing sector of the economy, expanding by 50% per year. The sector was served by a growing IT workforce of some 22,000 people at the end of 2009.

In 2007 the NIS recognized the challenges facing the sector, which include the high cost of personal computers and technology, and government policies that lack either development or coordination. This is where the 2012-16 ICT strategy is expected to continue the work of the NIS 2007-11. Significant progress has been made in the last five years, and continuing on this trajectory should mean internet penetration growth, increasing FDI levels and a growing skilled workforce should all be features of the next several years.

Source: Global Arab Network.

Security Official Denies Tribunal Charges Against Salafists in Zarqa Violence


By Amal Ghabayen

AMMONNEWS – The Chief of Preventative Security in Zarqa governorate on Monday denied the accusations that the State Security Court (SSC) charged members of the Salafist movement with in the case of the violent clashes that erupted in Zarqa last April.

The special military tribunal had charged Salafist members who took part in the demonstration in Zarqa that left over 80 security personnel injured – according to security statements – with instigating strife and sedition and encouraging terrorist acts.

Musa Abdullat, one of the lawyers representing Islamist movements, said that the Zarqa Preventative Security chief stressed during his testimony in the second session of the trial on Monday that Salafist leader Abu Muhammad Tahawi called on demonstrators during the protest on April 15 to maintain self control and avoid altercations with security forces or counter demonstrators.

“The Preventative Security official explained in his testimony that there were no slogans or speeches by the demonstrators and Salafi current leaders during the protest that encouraged terrorist acts or offended Jordanian sects, tribes, or the national unity,” Abdullat told Ammon News.

Security authorities had carried out mass arrests following the April 15th violent clashes, detaining over 100 individuals over charges of rioting, instigating sedition, and terrorism.

An official investigation by security authorities had claimed that demonstrators attacked security personnel armed with sharp weapons, including swords, axes, daggers, sticks and iron batons, and that they caused damage to public and private property.

Eight other security officers gave their testimonies during Monday’s session regarding the incident.

The military tribunal adjourned on Monday and scheduled the next session on September 29th, 2011.

Source: Ammon News.

Jordanian Threatens to Sue US Billionaire Embroiled in Iraq Contracting Scandal


By Shaherah Khatatbeh and Banan Malkawi

AMMONNEWS -Jordanian Badr al-Masaafa has threatened to sue Mustafa Abu Naba and Harry Sargeant – the American billionaire who owns the company that suppose the Iraqi Army with oil, for his failure to be compensated for his services to the two partners.

An American tribunal condemned Sergeant and Abu Nabaa on a charge of defrauding their third partner Jordanian businessman Muhammad al-Salah, and ordered for him to be paid 28 million USD at the end of last July.

The same tribunal called on 13 people in Jordan, including al-Masaafa, to testify in the case last April in one of the Amman hotels after The Association of Jurors and Interpreters and Scribes attended the tribunal along with the complainants and defendants and their lawyers.

al-Masaafa’s testimony was made after Abu Nabaa sent him a text message saying ‘Hello Badr, if necessary are you ready to talk about what our friend said to you when he called threatened me”,

Another text sent by Abu Nabaa before the testimony said ‘you don’t have any objections to telling me what you heard word for word?’. Al-Salah had sent a threatening verbal message to Abu Nabaa via al-Masaafa after the the two partners argued.

During the trial al-Salah’s lawyer asked al-Masaafa whether Sergaent or Mustafa Abu Nabaa had paid him money to testify. al-Masaafa denied it and said before the Jurors that he had rights to claim from the partners and that he would sue them to obtain compensation that he estimated to be around 150 thousand Jordanian Dinars.

Abu Nabaa and Sergaent lost the case and the American tribunal ruled for millions of dollars to be paid to al-Salah for being cut out of the partnership and as a share of the money and benefits earned by the partners since 2004.

al-Masaafa’s story began early 2006 after he had asked to retire from the Jordanian army in mid 2005 and began working with Mustafa Abu Nabaa – a Jordanian with Danish nationality – after a short period working as a bodyguard without a contract with Harry Sergaent, the American billionaire.

al-Masaafa recounted to ‘Ammon News’ ‘I was working as a driver for a member of the royal family and I met Mustafa Abu Nabaa who was visiting al-Salah, the husband of Princess Alia, and I decided to work with him, so I asked for retirement from the army and began working for him.

al-Masaafa said that during the 2006 war when Israeli warplanes attacked Beirut and other Lebanese towns he was assigned with getting Harry Sergeant’s son out of Beirut. He went by land after the Israeli warplanes bombed Beirut airport, using a taxi, and drove for 20 hours to reach the Royal hotel in Beirut where he met ‘Harry Junior’. After two days of tele-communications and transport breakdown he paid a Syrian taxi driver 3000 Jordanian dinars to return to Amman.

When al-Masaafa and Harry Junior reached Amman they went to one of the Amman hotels meet Sergaent and Majdi al-Bastami, Director General for the State Center for Trading Petrol which had a monopoly for providing oil to the US forces in Iraq via Jordan.

When al-Masaafa handed over Sergaent’s son and asked for the dangerous nature of the task he had undertaken to be taken into account when he was paid, Sergaent agreed to pay him later.

Not long afterwards, after al-Masaafa had signed a contract with the company, Abu Nabaa asked him to bring ‘friends’ from Beirut. He returned a second time to Beirut in 2008 when the country was witnessing murders and bombings.

al-Masaafa affirms that he completed his task. He acted as a bodyguard to the partners and their families and undertook various other tasks such as protocol issues, and was responsible for the safety of Harry Junior while he was traveling through Lebanon and Jordan and Egypt.

His jobs often came out of the blue, and he was required to rapidly travel from one state to another, for example when he was required suddenly to travel to Egypt after Abu Nabaa asked him to accompany Harry Junior.

al-Masaafa was surprised and asked Harry Junior why they were traveling, and was taken by surprise when Harry Junior told him that his father and Abu Nabaa were being threatened by ‘al-Qa’ida’.

al-Masaafa added that Harry Junior was attacked in Khalda area of Amman when unidentified individuals driving two Mercedes cars attacked him, prompting al-Masaafa to intervene to protect him. As a result al-Masaafa’s lips were spilt and his eyelid torn and he had to get 11 stitches in hospital.

al-Masaafa then traveled to Germany for a cosmetic procedure at his own expense. On returning to Amman he asked Mustafa al-Nabaa’s father, Abdul Qadr Abu Nabba to intervene in order for him to be financially compensated. Abdul Qadr spoke with the company’s financial director who refused to pay the amount on the pretext that al-Masaafa worked for Abu Nabaa and Sergaent, which meant that he had to be paid by them privately and not by the company.

al-Masaafa, who is 38 and three children, said that he then tried to call Sergaent to demand the compensation he deserved by being exposed to danger on more than one occasion in the course of work, but Sergaent did not reply to phone calls. Once when al-Masaafa called someone who he thinks is ‘Marty Martin’ who worked previously as a boss in the CIA and was appointed by Sergaent to replace al-Salah to improve relations with the Jordanian government, according to documents from the US tribunal.

The government documents indicate that Sergaent appointed Marty Martin, previously Director of the CIA in the Middle East and appealed to him to strengthen the relationship with the Jordanian government at a time when al-Salah was being estranged and defrauded, according to al-Salah’s lawyer.

Sergaent, a former official in the Republican Party in Florida, was one of the closest business partners to the Pentagon and won billions of dollars worth of oil contracts during the war in Iraq.

A member of the US congress, Henry Waxman, who headed the inquiry, said in a letter to the US Minister of Defense, Robert Gates, that Sergaent had exploited his effective monopoly over supply routes across Jordanian land to inflate the prices of his services ‘scandalously’, and he described this as the worst form of war profiteering and trafficking.

The Pentagon’s audit process last month revealed that the ministry had paid up to 204 million USD too much to Sergaent for fuel contracts thought to be worth around 2.7 billion USD over six years.

The financial audit report added that the Ministry of Defense had agreed to Sergaent’s highly inflated prices because there was no competitive service that could obtain an ‘exclusive’ authorization letter from the Jordanian government.

al-Masaafa asked the person who believes was Marty Martin to deliver a message to Sergaent saying that he was entitled to compensation from him, and ‘Martin’ replied in Arabic that he would tell Sergaent and get back to him, which he never did.

al-Masaafa is threatening to sue the Jordanian partner Abu Nabaa and the American, Sergaent, in Jordanian courts if he is not financially compensated to the value of 150 thousand Jordanian Dinars.

Source: Ammon News.

Current Communications between Jordan and Hamas


* Hamas Leader denied that Syrian government is asking Hamas leadership to leave Syria

AMMONNEWS – A leader of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement , Hamas, reveled that Hamas is having direct communications with Jordanian Authorities.

The source explained that the movement’s communications with Jordanians was not Confidential.

The leader told Ammon News that the movement hopes that the relations between Jordan and the movement would be at the same level of the movement relations with the other Arab countries.

He denied any Syrian pressure on the movement or any attempt to force it to move out from Damascus regardless of Hamas Stand on what is going on in Syria,he stressed that Hamas has never interfered in the internal affairs of Syria or any Arab State.

Source: Ammon News.