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Jordan and Kazakhstan have agreed to cooperate in science, technology and innovation as well as higher education.

This agreement was announced during the two-day visit this month (8–10 August) of Jordan's King Abdullah II to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

Under the agreement, the two countries will promote cooperation in the fields of water and mineral resources, energy, agriculture, environment and medicine.

This will be achieved through staff and student exchange, joint projects and sharing of scientific knowledge and research results.

Jordan will support the establishment of e-learning and Internet education programmes in Kazakhstan, which is creating its first virtual university.

"Internet technology… could not be put to better use than to disseminate knowledge and learning in an effective and inexpensive way," Hanan Malkawi, director of UNESCO chair for desert studies and desertification control at Jordan's Yarmouk University, told SciDev.Net.

Jordan and Kazakhstan have also agreed to create a joint business council of entrepreneurs that will organise forums to promote investment in technology-based businesses and enhance technology transfer in information technology, mining and pharmaceuticals.

Jamal Othman, a researcher at Jordan's Al-Balqa' Applied University, said the agreement could help Jordan develop its capability to mine uranium, so it can build on its nuclear energy programme for generating electricity and desalinating water.

But he expressed reservations, saying that "similar agreements were signed with other countries and I did not hear about any significant progress".

Yousef Zurigat, from the University of Jordan, told SciDev.Net that Jordan has a good standing in higher education and that the agreement could "open the door" to Kazakh students, as well as "establish good ties" between the two countries.

In other news, at the end of last month (30 July), Kazakhstan and Russia agreed to create a consortium — 'Nanotechnology in Kazakhstan' — to promote joint nanotechnology projects between Russian and Kazakh national laboratories, universities, scientific research institutions and companies.