An In­ter­view with HE Ni­co­las Sehnaoui, for­mer Min­is­ter of Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions

Arabnet - The Quarterly - - Business -

1. Tell us about the Coder-maker pro­gram you launched in Le­banese pub­lic schools. The pro­gram is a joint ini­tia­tive launched by the Mouna Bus­tros Foun­da­tion (FMB) and the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for Education (IAE) to pro­vide 10 pub­lic schools with 10 Rasp­berry Pi’s and ad­di­tional tools, as well as the nec­es­sary train­ing for us­ing them. The pur­pose is to help school stu­dents be­come mak­ers and coders.

2. Why did you launch the pro­gram? Why is it im­por­tant? This is a pi­lot pro­ject that aims at show­cas­ing the tremen­dous po­ten­tial of our youth. This pro­gram started in 2012 at the Dhour el Choueir pub­lic school, where an en­tire class was equipped with the afore­men­tioned tools. The teams proved to be very in­ge­nious with their fi­nal prod­ucts and ideas: one of th­ese teams of­fered the mu­nic­i­pal­ity a sys­tem to man­age the town’s traf­fic lights. I ex­pect the new team to sur­prise us even more. It will send a great sig­nal to the dig­i­tal eco-sys­tem that says “dig­i­tal starts in schools, there lies a huge po­ten­tial.”

3. What is the govern­ment’s role and re­spon­si­bil­ity with re­gards to Coder-maker education? I think the govern­ment should in­tro­duce cod­ing classes in schools. The sooner the bet­ter. It is the only way we can keep up with the rest of the world. Let’s not for­get that we are in com­pe­ti­tion with the whole world. Our dig­i­tal sec­tor has huge key suc­cess fac­tors like cre­ativ­ity, lan­guages, en­trepreneur­ship, and the Cen­tral Bank (BDL) ini­tia­tives, but other dig­i­tal hubs are rapidly ad­vanc­ing. To­day’s job mar­ket is in need of pro­gram­mers. Even in the US 71% of all new jobs in STEM are in com­put­ing, and only 8% of grad­u­ates are in com­puter sci­ence. Plus, com­puter sci­ence grad­u­ates re­ceive in av­er­age 40% higher salaries.

4. Many be­lieve that tech­nol­ogy will en­large the gap in qual­ity be­tween pub­lic and pri­vate education. Do you agree? How can pub­lic schools keep up, what do they need? What we need is a na­tional strat­egy. To­day both pub­lic and pri­vate schools are lag­ging be­hind. Le­banese au­thor­i­ties at the high­est level should rec­og­nize that the dig­i­tal sec­tor is one of the main pil­lars that can sus­tain growth and re­verse the coun­try’s “brain drain”. A few mea­sures such as bol­ster­ing in­ter­net speed and in­tro­duc­ing cod­ing classes in pub­lic schools can make a huge dif­fer­ence. Let’s hope we can see such mea­sures adopted and im­ple­mented soon. In the mean­time NGOS and pri­vate ini­tia­tives will con­tinue try­ing their best to fill the gap on the mi­cro level.

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