Interview with Ferruh Gurtas, Intel Corporate Affairs Group Director, Middle East, Turkey and Africa


Intel has long been committed to improving education on a global scale. The company has invested over US$1 billion in education programmes through the Intel Education Initiative in more than 50 countries on all continents, thus helping to train four million teachers in more than 40 countries to date. Especially in Africa, Intel is actively supporting teacher education. According to Ferruh Gurtas, Intel Corporate Affairs Group Director, Middle East, Turkey and Africa, more than a quarter of a million teachers have been certified through the Intel Teach Program so far in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco, and plans are to certify an additional one million over the next four years…

eLA: Intel has been participating in eLearning Africa for the second year running. Do you think the conference is helping to raise awareness of the important link between technology and education?

Ferruh Gurtas: Yes. The conference was very well received last year and proved to be an extremely important platform to kick-start crucial public-private partnerships that were rolled out throughout the year. We are proud to be a headline sponsor once again this year because it is clear that meetings like these are needed to keep Africa on the developing path.

The knowledge economy is a reality and all countries, both developed and emerging, have recognised the long-term importance of innovation and creation of critical thinkers among their youth.

To compete, you need to innovate. And to innovate you need to educate. The Intel message at the very base of our Intel Teach Program is resonating loud and clear in Africa, and the conference is helping with calling people to action on these very basic principles for every society.

eLA: Do you have an update on Intel World Ahead Program initiatives?

Ferruh Gurtas: Intel is very active across the whole African continent. Some of the highlights include:

Two projects in Ghana: Africa’s first WiMAX-connected school and the iAdvance digital-inclusion initiative. The selected school for the pilot project, the Accra Girls Secondary School, was set up with a full eLearning centre, hardware, software, Internet connectivity and teacher training. WiMAX technology is now used to provide high-speed Internet access to the school. Whereas the iAdvance is Ghana’s digital inclusion initiative and was set up with the aim of ensuring that Ghanaians have access to PCs, Internet access and software. In particular, both Intel and the Ghanaian government have a specific interest in improving education through digital models, and share a vision of enhancing students’ learning experiences by applying modern information and communication technologies (ICTs).

In Nigeria, Intel has seen the first finalists for the Intel Science and Education Fair. This marks a significant milestone since the launch of Intel Education Initiatives and programmes in Nigeria, which officially commenced in September 2006 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Nigeria Federal Ministry of Education and Intel Corporation.

As part of the Intel Learn Ahead initiative, the company launched a Classmate PC Pilot Program at the Junior Secondary School, Jabi in Abuja. The Pilot Program was a resounding success and exceeded expectations of both the students and teachers at the school. However, the most important proof of its success is the fact that, at the end of the year, the pilot class had the highest performance of the three classes it was compared against.

Finally, across other markets, from South Africa to Morocco and Egypt, Intel has signed Memorandums of Understanding with the government to further ICT development, has trained teachers as part of the Intel Teach Program and works tirelessly to help the young generation have a better chance in life.

eLA: What needs to be the focus in education to make Africa a competing force in the world economy?

Ferruh Gurtas: Education of both teachers and students, without a doubt. At Intel Education, we strive to work together with educators, governments and multinationals around the world to improve teaching and learning. We also collaborate with leading institutions in every community in which we have a presence.

We feel that the private sector should play a role in this because companies like Intel have a clear understanding of the kind of employee that is needed now and, more importantly, will be needed in the future.

It is clear that African countries are definitely moving towards the right direction. Intel is talking to many government officials across the continent to show what has already been achieved in countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt, and how a commitment to education now can have a huge impact on the country’s future economic health.

eLA: Why does Intel focus on science disciplines instead of human studies?

Ferruh Gurtas: One of the main objectives of the Intel Education initiative is ensuring digital fluency, that is, ensuring that the workforce of the future learns the essential 21st-century skills such as digital literacy, problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration.

As digital fluency has become a basic requirement for the expanding job market, students need to comfortably use technology and collaborate with others to solve complex problems. The Intel Teach Program prepares educators to effectively develop innovative learners and critical thinkers who can successfully compete in a 21st-century economy.

In addition to that, science is the base for the innovation that will move any country forward and make it a real player on the world market. The most common educational background of Fortune 500 company CEOs is engineering, and Intel is a company made of engineers – we believe in technology and what it can achieve for the society at large, and we want to ensure that more and more people learn to enjoy it.

eLA: How do you find the education arena in Ghana and how can Intel help?

Ferruh Gurtas: Despite the major breakthrough in the last 10 years, Ghana still faces huge challenges. Latest IICD statistics reveal that 75 percent of the population still has no access to basic telephony, Internet prices are really high and computers are still out of reach for the majority of the population.

But it is conferences like eLearning Africa that induce change and we are participating this year with the hope that case studies from other African countries will open up dialogues with local ministries. This is a prime example of the potential of public-private partnerships in changing the lives of people, particularly through the adoption of technology.

On the African continent, more than 250,000 teachers have been certified so far in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco, and we have plans with the respective Ministries of Education to certify an additional one million over the next four years.

eLA: What is your vision for the education space in Africa? How do you see it developing?

Ferruh Gurtas: Africa holds tremendous potential. Intel is enthusiastic about collaborating with African governments and institutions to improve the quality of education across the Continent through the effective use of technology.

The NEPAD e-Schools Initiative – which represents 52 countries coming together with the vision to share knowledge gained through various initiatives – is a great example of a joint approach to revolutionise Africa. Since its launch last year, NEPAD has developed a business plan that was shared with all Phase One countries in April, during the first e-Schools conference.

All permanent secretaries and the NEPAD board of directors were present.

The costing model is still to be worked out as costs vary from country to country, depending on the relevant import duties and government levies.

A broadband strategy was also developed and presented to support the e-Schools Initiative, but no collective strategy is in place yet.

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