AMMAN — The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology will begin consultations this week to develop a new strategy for the country’s ICT sector, a ministry official said Tuesday.

The five-year strategy will include projects to revitalise the sector, increase Internet penetration and improve telecommunications infrastructure as part of ongoing efforts to make Jordan a regional ICT hub, Haitham Qaisi, the ministry’s spokesperson, said Tuesday.

A series of meetings will soon be held with representatives from the private sector along with an independent consultancy firm to start drafting the strategy, he said over the phone yesterday.

The Kingdom’s most recent ICT strategy, which ended earlier this year, succeeded in increasing Internet penetration to 50.5 per cent by the end of 2011. However, the strategy fell short in attracting investments and creating jobs, according to the ministry.

“We will make sure to announce the strategy soon and start the implementation of its objectives to revitalise the ICT sector, which was negatively affected by the global financial crisis over the past few years,” Qaisi said.

With an annual growth rate of 25 per cent, the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product rose from about 2 per cent in 2000 to about 14 per cent in 2011, according to figures from the ICT Association of Jordan (int@j).

Despite contributing more than $500 million annually to the treasury, the sector only provides about 80,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The Kingdom’s 450 ICT companies — up from 20 in 2000 — face a shortage of IT graduates who are prepared to join the labour force upon graduation, according to int@j.

Meanwhile, Qaisi said the National Information Technology Centre (NITC), which is currently an independent institution, will soon come under the administrative, financial and technical control of the ministry.

“There are no plans to close the centre. It will just be affiliated directly with the ministry in order to enhance the implementation of the e-government programme and ICT projects,” he said, adding that NITC employees will not be affected at all by the decision.

Qaisi also said the Audio Visual Commission (AVC) will soon be placed under the auspices of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, adding that this change will have no impact on AVC employees.