January 21, 2004–The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has chosen Mathematica technology to help accomplish the main objective of improving programs in science and technology in the Arab states. The UNESCO Cairo Office (UCO) recently signed a two-year comprehensive agreement for the use of all Wolfram Research products. The software is being used to establish a Mathematica demonstration and training center for the 17 Arab states covered by the UCO.
The UCO is a regional office for science, technology, and informatics for the Arab states. Dr. Tarek Shawki, regional advisor for Communications and Information at the UCO, says that he decided to focus on promoting the use of Mathematica because “it offers a wonderful system for handling both numerical and symbolic mathematics. Mathematica is an excellent tool for both students and teachers alike. It provides a wealth of features that are ideal for students’ visualization and exploration of mathematical concepts, while providing the teachers with an excellent array of tools to make teaching mathematics a lot more effective and fun. Furthermore, extensions like webMathematica introduce an exciting tool for distance education–a tool that helps students learn complex mathematics concepts.”
Shawki has used Mathematica extensively in his own work and was appointed as regional advisor on the strength of his technical expertise. Educated at Cairo University in Egypt and Brown University in Rhode Island, USA, Shawki spent 13 years as a researcher and professor of theoretical and applied mechanics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, one of the top engineering schools in the world. His leadership is now paramount to the Arab region in modernizing university education in basic and engineering sciences, and he feels strongly that Mathematica is integral to this effort.
In September 2003, Shawki demonstrated Mathematica technology before attendees of the UNESCO Communications and Information sector retreat in Paris, France. His presentation emphasized to the UNESCO board the importance of Mathematica as an educational tool. Shawki says that the sector specialists were most impressed by the “numerical, symbolic, and visualization aspects of Mathematica. They were pleased to learn about the Teacher’s Edition of Mathematica, which offers great potential for UNESCO to help improve the teaching of mathematics in both schools and colleges.”
The software and demonstration center will enable the UCO to introduce Arab leaders to Mathematica and its many applications for university and high school education. Ministers of technology and education throughout the Arab states will be able to visit the Mathematica center at the UCO offices in Cairo and learn how they can use the technology to build and improve curricula in their own countries. As the center becomes more established, it will also serve as a hub for certified Mathematica training. Paul Wellin, director of Wolfram Education Group, is scheduled to visit the center in January 2004 to work toward this objective.
The UCO’s new demonstration and training center is not the only Mathematica technology initiative currently underway in the Arab Gulf region. The 2004 Mathematica Gulf Conference, the first of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula, will be held in Muscat, Oman, in January 2004.
More information about the Mathematica Gulf Conference is available.