Jordan's Digital Future: A Conversation with Jordanian Minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship
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The Middle East program and Science and Technology Program hosted His Excellency Ahmad Hanandeh, Minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship in Jordan, for a discussion on Jordan’s journey to becoming a regional tech leader and path toward digital transformation. This conversation kicked off MEP’s MENA Digital Transformation Series, which brings together experts and practitioners to highlight what countries and businesses are doing to increase digital consumption, promote digitization of businesses and public services, build on digital infrastructure and skills, and close the digital divide.
Jordan has demonstrated that digital transformation is a top priority on the national agenda. The country has made enormous strides in building a digital infrastructure to accelerate its move toward a digital economy. “Our vision is to create a digital environment that supports economic growth, motivates and promotes entrepreneurship, and at the same time plays a major role in political and social stability,” put forth His Excellency Ahmad Hanandeh, Jordan’s Minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship.
Digitization improves outcomes of both the private and public sector. By streamlining business operations, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are enabled to enter the market and access finance and labor talents. Digital transformations also provide the government the ability to distribute services and support to its citizens via digital mediums. In turn, individuals that previously faced barriers in accessing government support will be incorporated into social protection schemes. To achieve this, “Simplicity is the name of the game,” Hanandeh said, “People want [and] respect simplicity,” adding that, “digitization is also how we utilize the data, infrastructure, and services we have to create an impact.”
To implement its ambitious goal of digital transformation, the government in Jordan looks to the private sector and international community for support. The National Digital Transformation Council is comprised mainly of private sector experts who represent different industries. “The Council will secure the strategy and implementation… subcommittees will prepare the reporting side, monitor achievements, and ensure that implementation is within the roadmap,” stated Hanandeh. In addition to integrating the private sector into the transformation plan, this guarantees commitment to a long-term, sustainable plan. While Jordan’s private sector has been generally supportive of the government’s digitization efforts, it fears a change of government will change the strategy. This way, they have a direct stake in ensuring accountability and follow through.
Although, the government cannot only look inward. On the international donor community, His Excellency Hanandehcontended, “Upskilling is one of the main areas where we need support. The support is not necessarily funds, we need experience, knowledge, [and] know-how to come into Jordan.” Garnering the support of countries that have already undergone a digital transformation will accelerate the process in Jordan. These partnerships will also allow Jordanian companies to tap into international markets, expanding the opportunities for growth and innovation. “We need to play the role of bridging between the Jordanian ecosystem and the other ecosystems worldwide.”
His Excellency Hanandeh is optimistic about Jordan’s economic future given its vast reservoir of talent. “[COVID-19] indicated the strength and power of the Jordanian. Jordan did not import any solution. Most of the solutions that we have been so dependent on have been Jordanian.” Hanandeh believes the role of the government is to identify weaknesses in the system and fill in critical gaps. For example, the labor market suffers from a mismatch between the skills of graduates and demands of Jordan’s enterprises. Upskilling programs spearheaded by the government will equip jobseekers with the skills desired by the private sector.
Digitization also provides an avenue to inclusion, a major priority on His Excellency’s agenda. Digital services enable the government to reach out to segments of the population that were excluded from previous eras of service provision. Expansion of the digital economy and digital literacy will create jobs for Jordan’s youth and women, and address its surging unemployment rate.
Jordan’s strategy to augment preexisting skills and infrastructure to advance towards a digital economy will accelerate it ahead of its regional peers. “It’s not that we are falling behind, it is that others are moving faster. We have said many times, ‘Today is not about being the strongest, it is about being the fastest. It is a race against time.’”
Middle East Program
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The MENA Workforce Development Initiative
The Middle East and North Africa Workforce Development Initiative (MENA-WDI) aims to assess both current and projected challenges facing the region in developing the workforce and the implications for peace and stability. Read more