By Mohammad Ghazal

AMMAN – Discussions are underway between the government and IBM to establish a nanotechnology centre for providing innovative solutions in the field of water and energy, according to a senior official.

A strategic agreement will be signed soon between the two sides to start preparing for the centre, according to Minister of Information and Communications Technology Marwan Juma, who noted that the deal is expected to be finalised before the end of June.

“The research centre, which will benefit from IBM’s advanced technologies and solutions, will be a boost to Jordan’s research in the field of energy and water, which are two strategic and vital sectors for the Kingdom,” the minister told reporters last week.

“Jordan and IBM will hold the ownership rights of the innovative solutions that the centre will come up with,” he said, adding that the facility will be established on the Jordan University of Science and Technology campus.

“The centre will greatly benefit the Kingdom. It will enhance research in these two sectors,” Juma told reporters at a press meeting last Thursday.

There are also discussions with IBM to open an office in Jordan to provide services to the Kingdom and countries in the region, according to the minister.

Meanwhile, Juma said the ministry is working with all stakeholders in the ICT sector to draw up Jordan’s 2012-2015 ICT strategy, adding that it will be ready before the end of the year.

“We are in the process of assessing points of strength and weakness in the previous strategy to draw up a comprehensive new strategy,” he explained.

Stressing that the government will go ahead with the implementation of the e-government project, the minister said several services will be launched this year, including the Sales and Income Tax Department.

He added that a new e-government service will be launched before the end of February, enabling visitors to the Kingdom to apply and pay for visas online. The service will be provided in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he noted.

Noting that Internet penetration reached 40 per cent by the end of 2010, Juma said “it will not be difficult” to meet the target of 50 per cent by the end of 2011, as stipulated in the ICT strategy.

The minister said a new operator will provide 3G services this year, adding that he expects “strong” competition among Internet service providers that will help increase the number of users.

Currently, Orange offers 3G services, while Zain is scheduled to introduce the service during the first quarter of this year.