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[AMMAN] The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) has launched a centre to monitor and support technology research and innovation opportunities in its member countries, and develop them in accordance with their needs.

The ESCWA Technology Centre for Development (ETC), inaugurated last month (15 November) at the El Hassan Science City in Jordan, aims to help ESCWA's 14 member countries, and public and private organisations, acquire the tools to accelerate socioeconomic development, according to ETC executive director Fouad Mrad.

"This centre will contribute to strengthening national science, technology and innovation systems in ESCWA countries, and help to develop problem-solving and policy formulation capabilities in the region," Mrad told SciDev.Net.

He added that the ETC will help identify and develop the best technologies for the region in the fields of construction, industrial technology, energy, agriculture, water and telecommunications. The first steps towards these goals will be to conduct studies to determine the best ways to use technology in support of social and economic development, and provide consultation services and networking opportunities in the region, he said.

Rima Khalaf, UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCWA, said at the launch: "The region is far behind in the field of technological development, and currently relies on imported knowledge and technology".

Creating such a technology hub for the ESCWA region was therefore crucial "to help member countries obtain tools needed for the development of technology to become competitive with other countries of the world," she added.

"ETC will be the first institution with impartiality and independence, which will enable it to study the indicators of achievements and failures made ​​by countries of the region in various areas of the knowledge economy," Nabeel Fayoumi, chief information officer at Jordan's National Information Technology Center (NITC), told SciDev.Net.

He added that the centre must also push for networking between local and international scientific research experts, form links with industry and transfer successful technology to the region.

Fahd A. Batayneh, an expert in internet governance capacity building at the NITC, said the ETC is an important step towards creating an information technology (IT) hub in the region. The centre could act as a focal point for all types of consultancy in the field of IT, and raise the quality of information provided to Arab citizens, he said.