|Establishing a National Information System for Jordan
Presented by Yousef Nusseir
National Information Centre
Amman - Jordan
For the proper utilization of information as a national resource necessary for the development process, Jordan has embarked on establishing a National Information System (NIS) . This totally decentralized information system would be utilized for decision-making, planning and research at the institutional and national levels in both the public and private sectors. The National Information Centre (NIC) entrusted to establish NIS conducted national studies and set requirements and strategies for implementation of this project.
Many institutions and information centres have been established to collect, organize, and disseminate information in an attempt to satisfy the needs of decision makers, planners, researchers and scientists in all walks of life. However, these efforts were conducted in an ad hoc manner without coordination and in the absence of a national plan to manage and organize information. This prompted the need for an organized coordinated information system at the national level.
This need led to a plan for a project to establish a National Information System (NIS) which would serve all national institutions in various public and private sectors through a network of computerized information systems, thus facilitating the availability of unified timely information to the various sectors of the community. This cooperative effort requires the establishment of a national body that would be entrusted with the management and coordination of all activities that lead to the establishment of NIS. Hence, the National Information Centre (NIC) was established in 1993 as a result of the by-Law No. 50 for the year 1992 which was issued in accordance with Article 11 of the Higher Council for Science and Technology Law No. 30 for the year 1987.
NIC embarked on planning and implementing activities pertaining to the establishment of NIS . This effort was supported by international agencies, such as, the German Technical cooperation (GTZ) , International Development Research Centre of Canada, the World Bank and UN organizations.
The Information Sector in Jordan
a- Status of information
Although there was a remarkable progress in the information sector of Jordan in the last decade, most of it was done in an individualistic uncoordinated manner. The lack of cooperation and coordination procedures had contributed to the emergence of incompatible information systems. In spite of the high recognition of the importance of information, information systems, and uses, the information service is still traditional.
The available capabilities in the form of equipment and maintenance are quite satisfactory. In the data communication area there is an apparent deficiency. At present Jordan lacks a digital network that is capable of high data transmission. This, in turn impairs the ability to transfer data or even have remote access to this data.
c- Data and Data sources
In general, data is available in Jordanian institutions, but it is not organized, and, in some cases, not accurate. There is data repetition and duplication in various institutions. Data coding and classification vary in most fields and institutions. All this impair the data exchange and transmission. Furthermore, the automation process is below the required level in most national institutions.
Qualified and skilled manpower in information and information technologies are adequate as a whole. Certain shortages in some specialties are recognized. Training opportunities are generally adequate in most specialties. However, training needs are quite apparent at various levels.
d- Operating Equipment
Most institutions are equipped with some hardware for the processing of their current data, but in most cases these are either old or insufficient to meet the data processing requirements. In the software area significant obstacles related to application software exists. Many institutions did not introduce information technologies in their activities. However, it is evident that the local market has the capabilities to provide adequate systems and technical services.
The Project objectives are to :
Establish and manage an integrated National Information System, linking information collecting and generating centres in the public and private sectors, and coordinating their activities through national networks.
Develop and process information ensuring its flow to users in the public and private sectors, so as to enhance the management and organizational effectiveness, thus promoting socio-economic development.
This document describes a project proposal aiming at supporting NIC's efforts to establish NIS in Jordan. Having been assigned the task of establishing NIS through development, management and coordination activities, NIC seeks assistance to help it in fulfilling its objectives.
In its role as a catalyst, organizer and coordinator NIC is entrusted with tasks including the development of information sources in cooperation with concerned national institutions, setting-up unified procedures and standards, providing access to timely information, networking related information sources, manpower development, so as to facilitate to the promotion and development of the information sector in Jordan and achieve the goal of establishing NIS.
These tasks are quite difficult to implement without due assistance to elevate and enhance the national capabilities and develop the appropriate infrastructure.
NIC has conducted several studies to identify status and requirements, namely a survey of information sources in the public (105 institutions) and the private (358 organizations)sectors together with a survey of companies working in information technology field (176 companies).
The Project components are the following:
1- Establish/develop 300 information systems at various national organizations. This would entail acquisition of hardware and software together with expertise to develop applications.
2- Set-up 17 information clusters, sectorial sub-networks, in
Environment, Economy, Agriculture, Industry, Labor, Legislation, Services and Transportation, Culture and Tourism, Education, Health, Natural Resources and Water, Social Affairs, Population, Science and Technology, and Geographic sectors. This assumes that data transmission, capabilities are available at the national level.
3- Provide appropriate technical manpower.
4- Conduct training courses in the various fields of information, information technologies, systems and usage.
5- Organize awareness programs, to elevate the knowledge of decision-makers and researchers in the public and private sectors on information utilization and technologies.
6- Carry out management & coordination to identify focal points
within information, remove redundancies and duplications, and coordinate flow of harmonized information.
7- Prepare and adopt unified standards and procedures, for the establishment and development of information systems, as well as, information exchange.
It is estimated that the time frame to implement this project would
be 5 years. Accordingly, the following scaling is proposed:
- Establish develop 300 systems at a rate of approximately
60 systems per year.
- Setup 4 information clusters (sub-networks) per year.
- Conduct 10-15 training courses per year.
- Organize awareness programs including seminars and
workshops on a yearly basis.
- Establish unified standards and procedures in the first 2
years of the project.
The implementation of the Project would be handled by the
National Information Centre (NIC) .
NIC's Objectives are
- To establish and manage an integrated national information system, linking information collecting and generating centres
in the public and private sectors, and to coordinate their
activities through national networks facilitating the
provision of comprehensive and up-to-date economic, social
and technological information.
- To develop and process information, ensuring its flow to
users in the public and private sectors, so as to enhance the
management and organizational effectiveness in those
sectors and to support the various scientific and productive activities.
To fulfill its objectives NIC would take charge of the planning management and supervision of the implementation phases of the project. This would entail the following:
- Cooperate with local organizations to carry out the various
tasks and activities according to a pre-set plan of action.
- Contract-out technical work to local organizations under the
supervision of NIC.
- Contract foreign expertise to assist in highly specialized tasks
including evaluation tasks of the various stages.
- Coordinate the activities and the various information related
tasks through national coordinating committees assigned by
the information sector.
Sustaining the established information systems at various
orginzations within The NIS would be the responsibility of those
organizations that generate the information and, hence, operate and
maintain the systems.
For the purpose of developing the information infrastructure in Jordan within the context of a totally decentralized national information system, it is assumed that the major component for the implementation of this effort are made available. These components fall in four categories, namely, information and communication technologies , data, manpower, and finance . It is further assumed that if the financial component is made available, then the other four components would be easily fulfilled.
Considering that information is becoming one of the main ingredients in the socio-economic development process, its organization and management is vital for that process. The fact that Jordan is striving to implement this Project, the establishment of a National Information system , indicates national commitment to ensure the proper organization and utilization of this important and vital resource, information, in the development process. Needless-to-say that Jordan aims at joining the regional and global information infrastructure for the betterment of society. This assumes proper information infrastructure at the national level.
The development of the information sector would surely create job opportunities specially for women. Accessibility to information would enhance the capability of individuals to interact in the workplace regardless of location . This would encourage and promote distributed work environment. Furthermore, the development of integrated information systems would elevate the efficiency and effectiveness of production.
It is important to note that once the project is implemented, which would involve establishing information systems at various organizations, them the operation and maintenance aimed at sustaining the system would be the responsibility of expenditure would became part of the budget of those organizations.
As a result of the scientific and technological advisement, and the rapid progress of the country, a precise and up-to-date knowledge educational and cultural, scientific and technical point of view, has become a prerequisite for national planning. Decision makers and planners in private and public institutions are increasingly faced with the problem of inappropriate information as an essential national resource for development.
The impact due to the introduction of information technology and the accessibility to information can be summarized as follows:
1- Participation in decision-making becomes the norm.
2- Development of management practices and skills to lead industrial and commercial enterprises. Restructuring organizations, in light of decentralization supported by information technology.
3- Elevation of the level of social awareness dure to accessibility to information.
4- Cultural interaction due to transboarder data flow.
These changes are mainly directed towards administration restructuring and development. Information systems employing computers and communications technologies are a key component in this development process.