September 27, 2007

Did Jordan transperancy decline over the past year

Transparency International (TI) has ranked Jordan 53rd on its 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), a setback from 40th last year.
However, TI sees the decline as “statistically insignificant”.
In its annual CPI, which covered the perceptions of public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories, Jordan scored 4.7, whereas in 2006 of the global watchdog scored the country at 5.3.
According to the 2007 CPI, Jordan ranked 5th in the Middle East along with Oman. Both countries were preceded by Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar and Israel respectively. Also in the region, Kuwait ranked 60, Saudi Arabia 79, Lebanon 99, Yemen 131, Libya 131, Iran 131, Syria 138 and Iraq 178.
The CPI is a composite index that draws on 14 expert opinion surveys. It scores countries on a scale from zero to 10, with zero indicating high levels of perceived corruption and 10 indicating low levels. It scores countries in terms of the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians.
Survey questions focused on corruption in the public sector and defined corruption as the abuse of public office for private gain. Surveys also included questions that related to the misuse of public power for private benefit, such as bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds or questions that probe the strength of anti-corruption policies, to make sure they encompass both administrative and political corruption.
According to this year's CPI, Somalia and Myanmar share the lowest score of 1.4 while Denmark has edged up to share the top score of 9.4 with perennial highflyers Finland and New Zealand.

Thats surprising to see Denmark at the top of the list, was it related to the Prophet Mohammad's insults in the media?

Over the past year the Kingdom has created an anti-corruption commission and endorsed several laws on the issue such as the Financial Disclosure Law, the Access to Information Law and a law criminalizing the practice of wasta (favouritism).

Jordan transparency forum described the Survey as "biased", disputed the results and stepped back from the TI.
What do you think about the survey?

September 25, 2007

Going backward - Government to Monitor the freedom of Electronic Media

AMMAN -Jordan Times
A government decision to scrutinize contents of web-based news services has drawn angry reaction from press groups, with the Jordan Press Association (JPA) describing the move as “a step backward” in the Kingdom’s stride towards a free press.
The association called on the government to reconsider its decision, which it said would have devastating impact on freedom of expression, according to Tareq Momani, head of the JPA.
“We strongly reject monitoring electronic media,” he told The Jordan Times on Monday, adding the measure contradicts His Majesty King Abdullah’s vision for a free press.
“Electronic media has become a driving force among media organisations as far as freedom of expression and objective reporting are concerned. We must encourage them to continue their honourable work, instead of impeding their progress.”
Officials at the Press and Publications Department (PPD) confirmed they have begun monitoring materials published on local news websites.
According to Mohammad Quteishat, head of the PPD, the legal definition of “publication” places electronic journalism in the print media category.
Citing Article II of the Press and Publications Law, endorsed by Parliament earlier this year, Quteishat said a publication is defined as “every publishing outlet that portrays ideas or thoughts in any form”.
“This definition clearly indicates that electronic media is under our jurisdiction… What applies to print media applies to electronic media in terms of legal responsibility,” Quteishat told The Jordan Times, noting that his department’s job is limited to referring cases of electronic media violations for prosecution.
“We are not going to censor contents of websites. But if there was a breach of law, we will take necessary measures,” said Quteishat.
He stressed the department has no right to shut down or revoke the licence of any publication in case of violation.

According to one leading journalist, who runs a news website, there is no need, so far, to obtain a licence for such sites from authorities.
The PPD said the decision was based on an interpretation of the Press and Publications Law by the Legislative Bureau at the Prime Ministry, which tags electronic media as part of the other forms of media such as print media.
The Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists issued a statement on Monday lambasting the government for the step, seen as a way to “muzzle press freedoms”.
The centre said its legal department concluded that subjecting electronic media to censorship is against the law.
The first thing that came to my mind was:

Why they want to control the electronic media instead of blocking Pornographic web sites? Or anti-religion websites, anti-Arab, racist websites, etc. Or we just want to keep our citizens ignorant, shut their minds, cut the resources for expression and communication?

This is a clear contradiction to the principle of the freedom of expression as "sky is the limit" as our King advocates. Why don't the decision makers in this country don't understand or know how to follow the leadership of our King?

Electronic journalism is part of alternative media, which has opened way to a higher degree of press freedom and mainstream media. This is a step backward, to the development of our country, and the future of democracy in Jordan. Sending us to the dark ages again!

However, I am not sure how this can be implemented?

Will they block "some" websites or "Blogs"? or can they control the comments? What about the forums: local, regional, and global forums. Or the Web2.0 user based websites ...

No no no no ...whoever thought of this decision doesn't really understand the electronic press, or what is the Alternative Media and doesn't respect the freedom of speech that our king advocates.

September 18, 2007

Amman city traffic congestions

AMMAN (Petra) - The Traffic Department has prepared a new plan to address traffic congestion and limit road accidents during the holy month of Ramadan.
“The comprehensive plan seeks to facilitate traffic movement by identifying trouble spots and finding alternative routes for motorists in order to reduce car jams on main roads during peak hours,” said Brigadier General Thaher Gharaibeh, assistant director general for Traffic Affairs at the Public Security Department (PSD).
The peak hours begin when people leave work and last until iftar (maghreb prayers), he added.
Under the plan, large vehicles, including trucks and tankers, will be banned from using the streets during this period, while PSD helicopters will monitor congested roads and report accidents to the main traffic operations room.
With the help of Amen FM and PSD personnel, motorists will be guided to alternative routes.
“The Traffic Department coordinated its efforts with the Public Transport Regulatory Committee (PTRC) to assign PTRC personnel at the main bus terminals to regulate the movement of buses and vehicles,” Gharaibeh said.
The department also coordinated with the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) regarding technical measures, including traffic light operations and removal of road blocks on main streets.
“Traffic light durations on main roads witnessing traffic congestion will be amended in accordance with the end of office hours during Ramadan,” Gharaibeh noted.
He added that PSD and GAM personnel will carry out inspection patrols of street vendors and stalls on main roads in order to facilitate traffic flow.
He said the department has taken all the required administrative measures to ensure that the comprehensive plan will be implemented during the holy month, adding that PSD staff will be stationed on the capital’s busy roads to monitor traffic.
Traffic congestion is a serious problem in major cities. If the city have been planned correctly it might prevent serious traffic problems that have it's impact on the environment and the economy. On the other hand, smart technology solutions can help solving those problems. For example: using a real time based GIS (geographic information system) used with GPS (global positioning system) can show traffic flow on real time with navigation systems installed in police patrols, trucks, taxis, and smart phones. Also, since Amman city is not been planned to accept that much traffic or density of population we need to implement smart solutions to manage traffic, and provide transportation alternatives, as I mentioned in my previous post.

Some solutions in major cities like London implemented congestion pricing fees for driving at certain routes during rush hours. Similar studies are being discussed in NY city to adapt similar policies to charge drivers $8. They did not ban trucks or tankers from driving during rush hours due to it's negative consequences on businesses. Not like this new plan for Amman City traffic control in Ramadan. Will it be an effective measures to control traffic? or it's just a beta test, trial and error, maybe it works?

As for the "coordination" efforts between: Traffic Department with the Public Transport Regulatory Committee and the Municipality I am surprised that they weren't doing this already? and they do this only in Ramadan?

I always like to bring examples from other developed countries, to learn from it and not criticize anybody. If you study the developed cities police departments you can find their intensive efforts in operating and controlling traffic and transportation. You can see and feel the presence of the police department all over the city, they are highly equipped with communication devices, know how to deal with traffic jams, they are sharp and well educated. On a larger perspective, the police department that implement effectively the city rules have great influence on the citizens. Developed cities have a well rounded, smart, educated personnels because this is how they can give order and educate their citizens, they are the representatives of the governments.

Finally, the new development plan for Amman City expansion need to make transportation, traffic, and parking as a very serious issue to be studied "comprehensively" and "responsively"
to prevent serious future problems. Moreover, it must go hand by hand with all other public and private sectors to ensure the effectiveness of traffic and transportation initiatives in Amman City.

I mentioned this too in many previous posts:

Regarding the new GAM Interim Strategy

Amman City Streets

Promoting for transportation alternatives and bicycle lanes in Amman City

Amman Mini-Metro from the 1st circle to the 8th circle?

Opening of the complex travel north and the conversion of Abdali into Garden

GAM uses GIS to enhance performance

Creating digital maps and maps content for Jordan

September 13, 2007

Creating digital maps and maps content for Jordan

Satellite image of Jordan

I’ve been digging into the GIS (geographic information systems) for the past year. I attended where2.0 conference in San Jose, Google Developers day, Yahoo Where2.0 camp ..etc. and met many mapping companies representatives, developers, cartographers, neorographers…ect.

First of all there are only two companies that collect the data: Navteq, and tele-Atlas who provide the data to be used by platforms like: multimaps, Google maps, Yahoo maps, MSN Live, Mapquest, Autocad and others who compete with each other to provide mapping services.

According to my talks with Tele-atlas and Navteq in June 2007 they did not and is not interested in collecting the data for Jordan. They recently covered most of the middle east but all the other platforms didn’t provide the services yet.

The GAM are trying to organize the parcel services so when Navteq or Tele-atlas comes to Jordan they will have a strategic local partner.

What does that mean to us?

Getting road maps with driving directions “Geo codding” is not a 5 day work, and can’t be done by a simple GPS devices, or not even by the GAM alone. It needs millions of dollars with expertise to collect such the data and Geo code it.

Each country have a different numbering and road systems. When tele-atlas went to china they faced difficulties in the existing numbering system but they did it.

I bet they were both shocked when they saw our streets and that why the GAM is developing the street numbering which will be done by the end of this year.

Moreover, I wanna mention that Autocad mapguide depends on landmarks to collect data and not streets which I believe best fit cities like Amman, Cairo, Tunis, etc.

But now I have to say this:

It’s just the beginning for many many many initiatives and opportunities.

If anybody is interested to play with maps and create miracles please contact me @

Related Posts:

GAM uses GIS to enhance performance

Regarding the new GAM Interim Strategy

Type rest of the post here

GIS Amman

South Dakota traffic flow map
The Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) intends to use the Geographic Information System (GIS), as part of a plan to upgrade services and enhance performance. Director of the Geographic information Technology department in the Municipality Eng. Hassan Kaswani said that this system would allow to locate GAM’s vehicles in any part of the city. “Such technology would help us to ensure that every vehicle is in the right place at the right time to serve the citizens,” he added. More than 95 per cent of GAM’s work depends geographic data and information.

GIS is a system for capturing, storing, analyzing and managing data and associated attributes which are spatially referenced to the earth. In the strictest sense, it is a computer system capable of integrating, storing, editing, analyzing, sharing, and displaying geographically-referenced information. In a more generic sense, GIS is a tool that allows users to create interactive queries (user created searches), analyze the spatial information, edit data, maps, and present the results of all these operations. Geographic information science is the science underlying the geographic concepts, applications and systems, taught in degree and GIS Certificate programs at many universities.

Geographic information system technology can be used for scientific investigations, resource management, asset management, Environmental Impact Assessment, Urban planning, cartography, criminology, history, sales, marketing, and logistics. For example, GIS might allow emergency planners to easily calculate emergency response times in the event of a natural disaster, GIS might be used to find wetlands that need protection from pollution.

September 7, 2007

Rainbow street transformed to a shopping hub

The Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) said it has completed the first and second phases of the renovation and development project of Abu Bakr street, Rainbow, at a cost of JD 826,000. Director of the Works Department in GAM Eng. Adel Rosan said GAM will start the third phase before the mid of this month noting that the duration of the project is 8 months, but the municipality will complete the project before its planned time. The street will be designated for the pedestrians and the small vehicles. The project includes tiling, expand the sidewalk, designate two parking zones and rearrange the shops front sides. The project is one of several similar projects to develop the Amman downtown to attract tourists and citizens and to make the area as a shopping hub.

Amman with it's east and west part is experiencing a lot of transformations. Wither it's the Towers and high density buildings, architectural styles, or urban centers.
The current pedestrian streets in Amman are Thaqafah in Shmeisani neighborhood, Wakalt in Swefieh, and recently the Rainbow street in Jabal Amman.
Having pedestrian friendly locations is important to Amman city urban development. However, I see these projects locations are transforming those places into a modern, commercial, and a market for investors to buy and sell properties.

If we look at Jara for example, it did transform Jabal Amman to a new commercial magnet and it didn't respect the history of the neighborhood. The neighborhood around Jara is unique and famous of traditional houses but Alas...moreover it's going to be connected to the rainbow under-construction commercial strip transforming it to a mall-ish street type neighborhood attracting a crowd of noisy teenagers hanging out, and the pollution that comes from the market.

Renovation can have many meanings, it might mean transforming and it might mean conserving. Changing residential neighborhood into mixed-use districts, have impact on the place, it's people, and it's identity.
We have a lot of history and character that shaped the identity of Amman city that's unique with it's buildings, streets and neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it's being transforming in a fast pace trying to catch up with the opportunity of capitalizing in it paying it's price at the cost of it's identity, and the comfort of the existing neighbors.

What do you think?

Related Posts:

Building what and why Amman?

From an out of place architecture to an out of place identities.

"The Transformers"

Amman City Streets

September 6, 2007

Facebook opens to Public Search - Save your Privacy

One of the great features of Facebook was privacy. You could be assured that what was in Facebook remained in Facebook. However, that illusion might be ending soon.
Facebook launched a “public listing search” which allows anyone to search for a specific person. The company says that the information being revealed through these listings is minimal and much less than the information available to someone logged into the Facebook network. Here is what I found when I logged in Facebook:In a month from now, these public listings are going to be find their way into search engine indexes. “We are giving users approximately one month to set their privacy options before we allow search engines to index these public search listings,” the company spokeswoman wrote in an email.

This development is going to strike fear in the hearts of teenagers, with 29,404 users in Jordan network today, when they find their information being available in search engines who just want to connect with their friends in close networks, don't necessary want to be found publicly.

According to Scott Karp from Publishing2.0, the problem for business users (which you can add to the other facebook problems for businesses), is that there’s not a lot of utility in having a public profile if the details are locked behind a garden wall that prospective business contacts are forced to scale in order to gain access.

Think broadly however, this is another small step in the overall erosion of personal privacy. I don't like the direction where all this is headed. We are slowly leaving digital litter all over the web, and some day it is going to cause problems.

What do you think?

September 1, 2007

Amman City Parade

(NYC thanksgiving parade photo by Emad Salameh )

Amman is a cultural city that needs to celebrate it’s arts and people in it’s own streets that shapes it’s environment.

Why don’t we have an annual parade to celebrate Amman City it’s environment and culture by marching in the streets form different organizations, associations, businesses, schools, clubs with diverse ethnicities, believes, and origins.

It is challenging but lets see the feedback and if we can get the blessing from the municipality to sponsor one or support it.

We marched for politics opposing, and condemning, or supporting, and blessing. Shouldn’t we march for our city it’s culture, and environment?

We march for peace, love, education, honor, and, most important, we march for the environment.

Let’s show how we, the citizens, can work together side by side with the leadership of our king and the government in building this country.

We need to start thinking about a campaign building a movement to celebrate our city and it’s people and culture.