From : phil@kidzonline.org
Sent : Monday, November 1, 2004 2:35 PM
To : arabtimesnewspaper@hotmail.com
Subject : Winning Hearts and Minds in the Middle East with Opportunity

Dear Dr. Fawzi,

Attached is my 837 word Op-Ed piece responding to Assistant Secretary of State Patricia Harrison’s 9/11 Commission Report testimony.

For the past decade, Kidz Online has helped under-served kids in America learn technology skills to bridge the digital divide. There are nearly twice as many un-served kids in Arab countries desperately seeking opportunity, and it is in America’s best interest to help youth in this volatile region so that they will become agents of pro-reform and pro-technology. Peer training with teens and technology is a solution for creating jobs in the Arab World while also bridging the cultural divide.

I am a serial entrepreneur: founder of three start-up companies and have served as CEO of two public companies. I have also written over 70 articles published in national magazines and trade journals.


Phil Cruver, President
Kidz Online
CIT Building
2214 Rock Hill Road, Suite 020
Herndon, Virginia 20170
571-203-8990, EX. 110

www.kidzonline.org


Winning Hearts and Minds in the Middle East with Opportunity

On August 19th, 2004, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Patricia S. Harrison, testified before the House International Relations Committee about the findings and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission’s Report. She emphatically stated that we must offer opportunity to Middle Eastern youth as a public diplomacy measure for combating terrorism. Fostering opportunity for youth is indeed one on the major challenges facing the region, and thus, our world today.

Consider: In some Middle Eastern countries, more than half the population is under the age 15. Projections indicate that in the next 22 years, the entire Arab population of about 300 million will double. Today, about half the Arab world’s young people find themselves without work with youth unemployment ranging from 37% in Morocco to 73% in Syria.

First time job seekers will require nearly 100 million new jobs over the next two decades according to the World Bank. This is more than the number of jobs created in the region during the past fifty years. If afforded economic and employment opportunities, youth in the Middle East can become key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation. Without opportunities, these youngsters will become militant and embrace destructive alternatives.

In August, 2004, 60 students from the Middle East visited Kidz Online in Northern Virginia for a day of building bridges across cultures using technology as the cohesive element. A 15 year old student from Syria insightfully articulated: “The unemployment problem in my country is directly related to the education system which must be changed so that the outcome of education fits with the labor market”.

Systemic change in education must include 21st century skills to improve the quality and relevance of an education system that will better prepare Arab youth for higher paying professional jobs. Leaders in the Middle East must accept that modern, secular education is an inevitable and crucial credo for opportunity. They must adopt this creed if they wish to prepare and inspire a demanding new generation of youth to contribute to their economies.

Opportunities are on the way! The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), is aggressively adapting its certifications to encourage Information Technology careers for Middle Eastern youth. CompTIA certification programs are globally recognized industry standards for foundation-level skills for validating knowledge and competency. With over a million certified technicians in 102 countries, CompTIA is translating their certifications into Arabic to meet this exploding demand for 100 million new jobs in the Middle East.

This initiative is not entirely altruistic. 21st century skills will produce jobs for Middle East youth, reduce the appeal of radical, anti-western philosophies and will also assist in developing markets for American technology products and services.

The Internet has the greatest potential for creating new opportunities for Arab youth by opening a window into a modern world with new ways of communicating and learning. It is the only medium capable of facilitating rapid and scalable 21st century skill development in the Region’s effort to overcome further invasive unemployment. Moreover, it can provide unfettered communication between young people in the Arabic world and their global peers who are increasingly using the Internet as the media medium of choice. However, communication and information access poses a threat to the cultural and traditional values of many in the Arab world. The challenge will be convincing this conservative constituency that continued isolation from modern technology is detrimental to their families’ well-being because this perceived threat hinders education and employment.

The ambitious aspiration of universal Internet adoption in the Arab world promises profound opportunities for their teeming masses of next generation learners if they are to acquire the requisite skills to compete in the 21st century. New technologies have amplified the power and ease of online learning and globalization is extending its reach. Global education is nearing a “tipping point”, the front end of a dramatic inflection that is setting the stage for its transformation during the next decade and the Arab world is positioned to exploit this opportunity to meet the demand for 100 million new jobs.

The good news is there are local resources to pay for this opportunity in a region that controls a preponderance of the world’s oil reserves. The Economist Magazine has estimated that “With oil prices at their highest level in two decades, revenues of $600 million a day are gushing into the Gulf, double the volume during the 1990s. The monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council are alone likely to earn $35 billion more from oil exports this year than last…” - and that excludes big producers such as Algeria, Libya and Iraq.

As Assistant Secretary Harrison pointed out during her 9/11 Commission Report testimony: “This is not the work of weeks or months. It is the work of years and generations.” Technological solutions and resources exist for providing opportunities to youth in the Middle East, but getting the command from leadership will take time. Showcasing successful pilot projects will compress this timetable from generations to years.