PM Launches “Sustainability and Development” Phase of Better Connections Program
Qatar’s Prime Minister and Interior Minister, HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, launched the Sustainability and Development phase of the Better Connections Program, which provides IT facilities and tools to migrant workers to engage them in the digital era and help them improve their ways of life.
The launch, which happened on the sidelines of the Qatar Information Technology Conference & Exhibition (QITCOM 2019), themed “Safe, Smart Cities” from 29th October to 1st November at the Qatar National Convention Center, was witnessed by the Minister of Transport and Communications (MoTC), HE Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti, and the Minister of Administrative Development, Labour & Social Affairs (ADLSA), HE Yousuf Mohamed Al Othman Fakhroo.
By completing this phase, the program has established 1,676 ICT facilities equipped with more than 16,000 computers in migrant workers’ accommodations. The program has exceeded its target of 1,500 ICT facilities by more than 10%.
During the event, and as part of the expansion phase of the ‘Better Connections’ program, MoTC signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with Qatar Foundation and Waseef Asset Management. The MoUs were signed by H.E. Ms. Reem Al Mansoori, Assistant Undersecretary for Digital Society Development at MoTC, and Mr. Mr. Abdulla Jobara S Al Romaihi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Waseef. Qatar Foundation, was represented by Mr. Stephen Briggs, Executive Director, Health, Safety, Security and Environment Department.
During the Sustainability and Development phase, which runs for a 3-year term, technical support will be provided to the IT facilities set up in the initial phases. In addition, 1,000 new pieces of digital content will be created and introduced through the ‘Hukoomi’ site. This content will be compiled and translated in the top 5 most spoken languages of migrant workers in Qatar.
The program will provide training for up 50,000 workers, enabling them to transfer digital knowledge to their colleagues in an on-going learning process. Additionally, brand new smart phones will be offered to the participants at affordable prices to enable them make use of technology and be part of the digital evolution in Qatar and the world.
Started as a pilot project in 2013 and officially launched in 2015, the Better Connections program is a groundbreaking national digital inclusion initiative for migrant workers in Qatar aimed at providing them with free access to the internet, computers, online services and training at their accommodation.
Each Better Connections facility is equipped with 10 computers with Microsoft licenses, Vodafone Wifi internet connection, furniture and other equipment needed to facilitate learning and communicating. Over 1.5 million workers have had the opportunity to learn and access digital technology since the inauguration of the program.
With the active support of its partners, the Better Connections program enables migrant workers to gain an understanding of the benefits online technologies have to offer, while providing them with basic ICT training, and introduce them to social media platforms to help in keeping in touch with family and friends in their home countries. Training is conducted over weekends, while surveys are conducted pre, post, and after a period of six months to measure the impact the program makes in their lives.
Participants include the workers themselves, site supervisors who are representatives of the companies participating in the program; and over 1000 volunteer trainers from MoTC and Reach Out to Asia (ROTA). At the end of the trainings, the 20,000 trained “Digital Champions” (workers who displayed the highest level of understanding of the program) are then selected to cascade information to their peers.
To ensure the program’s sustainability, 18,000 computers were donated by government entities and private organizations in Qatar. The devices are then refurbished through the Green Computers Club an initiative established within high schools and the local community in Qatar. E-waste resulting from the refurbishing process is professionally managed by Alhaya Enviro, one of the program partners, according to international best practices and environmental standards.
The Better Connections program, is proudly supported by various partners including Vodafone, Microsoft, Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI), Alhaya Enviro among others.