Posted on January 14, 2015
Towards bridging the digital gap and raising Information and Communication Technology (ICT) awareness among migrant workers with little or no ICT skills, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQatar) signed a number of memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with major Qatari institutions, entities and companies under its Better Connections Program. As per the MoUs, low-skilled migrant workers will have access to ICT tools and Internet at their compounds.
On this occasion, Reem Al-Mansoori, Digital Society Department Executive Director at ictQatar said, "We are delighted to see a lot of enthusiasm from a growing number of public and private organizations in Qatar joining the Better Connections program, broaden its scope and increase the number of migrant workers who will benefit. Today's MoUs show the commitment from all of us to achieving digital inclusion across our migrant labor force through improving their ICT skills and their lives as a whole." "I'm confident these efforts will bear amazing fruits in the years to come and we are looking forward to broadening the scope of the program taking the number of ICT facilities dedicated to migrant workers at their compounds to a hundred," she added.
As per the first three MoUs signed between ictQatar and the Sheikh Thani bin Abdullah Al-Thani Humanitarian Services (RAF), the Reach Out to Asia (ROTA) and Microsoft Qatar, ictQatar will coordinate between all stakeholders, provide information to migrant workers and their employers through the Better Connections Program, and provide e-learning content to support basic ICT skills training of migrant workers. Content is available in migrant workers' native languages such as Hindi, Nepali and Bengali. RAF will source, prepare and donate computers to be installed at dedicated ICT facilities in workers' compounds.
The implementation of the Better Connections Program learning components will be ROTA's responsibility through the coordination, e-training of volunteers who will train migrant workers to become the digital champions, while overseeing training of 'Digital Inclusion Champions' at workers' compounds. At each compound, a certain number of migrant workers will be selected and trained to become 'Digital Inclusion Champions', who, later, will be cascading that knowledge to their colleagues. Microsoft Qatar's contribution will be in the form of software donation, where we will donate 1000 free Windows OS and Office licenses to RAF non-profit under the Microsoft Software Donation Program.
"Microsoft Qatar is honored to be here today alongside the Ministry of ICT to take part in the Better Connections Program. Our contribution will be in the form of free licenses as part of the work we do under the Software Donations Program. We are fully committed to this important initiative and to providing all the necessary support to ensure its success, and we look forward to working closely with the Ministry of ICT and the rest of stakeholders to make an impact on our local community," said Naim Yazbeck General Manager, Microsoft Qatar.
Essa Al Mannai, ROTA's Executive Director said: "ROTA congratulates ictQatar on this amazing initiative and we are proud to be a partner in its success. Hand-in-hand, we will continue to support low-income workers in our community, helping them grow digital skills and stay connected to our community and to their families. "It is the passion of ROTA's volunteers that truly drives this initiative. It is an excellent and empowering opportunity for these young leaders to set an example for other young people in Qatar and give back to their community," he added.
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"We are delighted to cooperate with the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology in this important initiative that will enable us to play a significant role in bridging the digital gap and provide migrant workers in their compounds with access to communication tools. We consider this initiative from ictQatar as part and parcel of RAF's interests," said Dr. Mohamed Salah Ibrahim, the CEO of RAF," said Mohammed Salah Ibrahim, RAF CEO.  "We are grateful for ictQatar's contributions to raise the profile of our homeland, better serve citizens and all those living in the State of Qatar," he added. 
The Better Connections Program was first launched in May 2014 at QITCOM. With promising results reported and a shared vision of raising ICT awareness among the migrant workers, ictQatar inked today MoUs with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), Qatar Foundation (QF) and CH2M HILL International BV (CH2M) which work on the most iconic infrastructure projects in the country. As per the MoUs, these institutions will seek to include provisions with their contractors to provide ICT facilities for migrant workers where ICT can support their needs, provide connectivity to ensure a technically feasible Internet access and help contractors implement the Better Connections Program. 
"The SC is proud to be a part of the Better Connections program and to join with partner institutions in mobilizing resources to improve the welfare of workers in Qatar", said Hassan Al Thawadi, the Secretary General of the SC. "This important program aligns with our belief that worker welfare is also about creating opportunities for workers to learn and grow during their time in Qatar. If a worker helping us deliver World Cup projects is able acquire a new skill that they can take back home with them--especially a skill such as digital literacy, which could help improve a worker's employment prospects--then we have taken a significant stride toward leaving a sustainable social legacy". 
Commenting on the MoU between ictQatar and Qatar Foundation, Mohammed Ahmed Bakhamis, Director of the Health, Safety, Security and Environment Directorate at QF said: "The Better Connections program is a superb low-cost solution which is closely aligned with our own efforts to provide internet services to our employees. As communicated in our Mandatory Standards for Worker Welfare, QF places huge value on the role that internet connectivity can play in enhancing the living standards of individuals and we look forward to working with ICT Qatar as we look to set an example for the ethical treatment of workers."
"At CH2M HILL, we believe in working with our clients and partners to make a positive difference in the communities we serve. ictQatar's The Better Connections program is a unique initiative that will help workers reach their families back home, learn basic IT skills and build their wider knowledge through being digitally connected. These are powerful new skills that can foster social mobility. ictQatar has shown great foresight in implementing this initiative and we are proud to be a partner," said Mike Abdel-Fattah, CH2M HILL's Vice President and General Manager for Qatar. 
To broaden the scope of the program, ictQatar signed MoUs with five more contractors which joined the Better Connections Program recently, per which HBK Contracting, Bin Omran Trading & Contracting W.L.L, Joannou & Paraskevaides, Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T), the China Harbour Engineering Co. Ltd will implement a total of 25 ICT facilities at their sites. The implementation of this program in the contractors' sites will start immediately and will be based on the individually agreed upon plan between the contractors and partners involved in the delivery of the equipment and the training. 
The Better Connections Program gives employers of migrant workers a practical framework to provide access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools. ictQatar understands the time constraints and pressures that employers encounter on a daily basis. Therefore, the Better Connections Program has been designed to ease the input needed from them and help them meet their duties with migrant workers. 
The Better Connections Program helps employers to deliver the following components: Providing a room or a designated area that is dedicated to computer access and ICT training at workers' compounds; Sourcing low-cost computers and software to keep any outgoings to a minimum; Providing connectivity - through a fixed or a wireless solution for Internet connection; and Granting access to appropriate content and training - helps to deliver ICT-based training to meet the needs of migrant labor force.