The First Birzeit Internet Festival

Birzeit University Computer Center and the Birzeit University Student Council held an innovative 3-day program from Monday 7 September to Wednesday 9 September for all students and staff at the university.

Over 400 people attended the 3-day event, entitled "3 Days Around the World", which was aimed at introducing the Birzeit Community to the Internet and e-mail. It involved demonstrations on basic use of the Internet, searching the Internet, sending and receiving e-mail and participating in discussion lists and newsgroups. The Birzeit University website was discussed and ways in which the entire student and staff body could get involved in producing for the web.

The event was the first of its kind in Palestine and demonstrates the strong support for Information Technology at Birzeit University. According to Marwan Tarazi, Director of the Computer Center, "The Computer Center and Student Council strongly believe that students must become literate with the Internet and Information Technology if they are to effectively put the case of Palestine before the world. The Internet provides an avenue for students and staff to express themselves freely and a means to directly reach the international community. It is also important that students keep pace with technological developments and participate in these changes."

"The Birzeit website is an important part of the university's IT work. The website is a voice for the Birzeit community to express themselves and display the impressive range of work conducted at the university. In Palestine, there are not many avenues to directly speak to the world with as much impact as the website. This Festival is the first step in increasing the participation of the entire Birzeit Community in the Web Project."

Rana Ahmed, an Architecture Engineering student, told Birzeit News,"For a student who has never used the Internet before, I think that the course was very successful and I now know the basics and can reach the information I want on the Internet. The booklet provided with the course was a very good idea and will help remind me of what I learnt. I hope there are similar courses held in the future."

One of the demonstrators, Feras Nasr, an electrical engineering student at the university said,"It really was a pleasure to give demonstrations on the Internet and its use to students. I have a strong feeling that there are many students in our university who really want to explore the Internet and in my opinion these students have learnt a lot in these last three days. We will continue to help these students and increase their knowledge of the Internet, so that hopefully these students will also help and train the students that come after them.I hope to see a university and a community full of people who are well educated in these fields."

A commerce student who attended the Internet festival, Ashraf Shibly, said "I really benefited from this workshop which is the first of its kind. The Internet has become very important in our lives and I would like to suggest other courses in fields such as Accounting programs."

The 3-day event saw the launch of a project entitled "Telling our Heritage", aimed at involving students and staff in producing for the web. Over the next two months the Birzeit Web Team will be collecting reports from students based on interviews with their parents and grandparents about life in Palestine over the last 50 years. The reports will be in the form of written interviews, photographs, video footage, audio interviews and will be published on the Birzeit University website. Over 50 students indicated during the workshop that they would participate in the project.

Mahmoud Najjar, from the Student Council Cultural Committee, told Birzeit News,"The Internet is important for students to reach information that is not censored and help the students find their own truth. Not someone telling them what information is right or wrong but giving them the opportunity to discover for themselves. The Student Council were interested in trying to provide some local services to the students and to get out of the traditional ways of working. Now we have a connection with the Computer Center we want to keep working together on other projects such as the Telling Our Heritage project."