Gaza´s young unemployed find link to jobs through technology (GUARDIAN UK) Angela Robson in Gaza 06/09/12)
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For an economy like Gaza, where movement is restricted, ICT presents
unique opportunities for a jobless generation
Five years ago, Abdulrahman Dallou found himself out of a job and
with time on his hands. The Israeli blockade of Gaza had brought his
work as an electronics technician to a sudden end and months of
Desperate to find a way to support his young family, Dallou, who is
in his mid-20s, decided to join the University College of Applied
Science (Ucas) in Gaza where he did a diploma degree in electronics.
While studying he submitted some of his business ideas to Ucas. He
was in luck: Ucas was impressed and offered him a place in its
business development "incubator" laboratory. "I felt as if my future
had been restored to me," he says.
Ucas creates innovative computer games, animation films, Geographic
Information System (GIS) tools and web systems for a growing number
of clients across the globe, as well as for businesses in Gaza.
Dallou is now employed by Ucas as an electronics maintenance engineer.
Ayman Afifi is international relations officer at Ucas and oversees
its mentoring programme for information and communications technology
(ICT) entrepreneurs. He says young people like Dallou are just
longing for an opportunity to develop their creativity.
"The employment crisis in Gaza makes it increasingly vital for people
to find a way of rising above the challenges here and not to succumb
to the doom and gloom prevalent among so many youth," he says. "We
are creating work that directly develops the economy of Gaza. Young
people want to study and work here, because Ucas recognises the
potential of great ideas."
Afifi´s visionary outlook is needed. Recent research by Danida, the
Danish government´s international development agency, found that the
majority of young people in Gaza are graduating from school and
university with little hope of finding employment. Danida believes
this is causing disenchantment and providing a captive audience for
For the past year, in conjunction with Ucas and six other local
partners, Oxfam has been supporting young people, an often isolated
and marginalised sub-sector of Gazan society, in a three-year
economic recovery programme. Funded by Danida, the aim is to create
job opportunities for 5,000 young people in the ICT sector by
providing vocational training for school and university graduates,
and for young entrepreneurs.
"ICT is one of the emerging and most promising economic sectors in
Gaza," says Karl Schembri from Oxfam Gaza. "Its sustainability
depends primarily on human resources and local skills, which are
ideal features for an economy like Gaza, where movement is restricted.
"At Oxfam, we realise that humanitarian aid interventions need to be
coupled with longer-term economic recovery approaches," he adds. "ICT
is the only thing that can be exported out of Gaza without Israel´s
Amir Shurrab, a software designer and head of the electronic work
(ework) unit at Ucas, says the ICT sector in Gaza has the most
potential in terms of long-term economic opportunities. The majority
of staff at Ucas, including Shurrub and Afifi, are aged between 22
and 35, and most have completed their degrees and training outside
"Our exposure to a world outside Gaza, a place where freedom abounds,
is key," Shurrub says. "We have returned here to put many ideas
related to IT and business development into action in the Palestinian
context. It is an exciting time."
Business is booming – despite the debilitating Israeli blockade – and
Ucas has already won four major awards, including the Palestinian
excellence award for creativity. Contracts are coming in from clients
from around the world, including in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi
Arabia and Dubai.
A website and programme Ucas recently produced for a South African
client, All4Women, already receives 300,000 views a day. Another
project, due to be launched in July, is a smartphone mobile app for
university students – the first of its kind in Gaza. This month, Ucas
will bring out an interactive map of Gaza, with live updates,
highlighting sports events and restaurants, as well as areas of
But Afifi is taking nothing for granted. "We have the expertise and
the technology here," he says, "but we still need investors so that
we can increase our ability to access and engage with foreign
With more than 1,400 students graduating in ICT-related subjects each
year in Gaza, the ICT sector is mirroring the growth in the industry
globally. Schembri is impressed by the standard of work being
produced by Ucas. "The sky´s the limit for these young people," he
says. "They´re constantly coming up with new ideas. Their energy is
incredible and that inspires Oxfam to see Gaza´s economic development
potential. This is definitely a success story, one that should
inspire other young people to keep believing in a future for Gaza." •
Angela Robson travelled to Gaza with Oxfam (guardian.co.uk © Guardian
News and Media Limited 2012 06/09/12)
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