By Mohammed Affan
Over the last 18 months Jordan’s initiative to evolve into an information technology hub has suffered at the hands of a harsh economic environment and the impact of September 11th.
Over the last 18 months Jordan’s initiative to evolve into an information technology hub has suffered at the hands of a harsh economic environment and the impact of September 11th. Partly as a result the ten companies that make up Jordan’s pavilion are campaigning hard to win both local investment and contracts at this year’s show. “We will have a pavilion at Gitex, and it will be larger than last year’s,” says Marwan Juma, chairman, Information Technology Association Jordan (Intaj).“Jordanian companies need to start thinking beyond geographical boundaries. Gitex is an opportunity to start the process — the international players and regional investors are going to be there. It is going to be a chance for companies to show off their know-how,” he adds.Previously, most efforts to win investors and business had focused on the US and Europe. But in light of changes on an international scale, Intaj is increasingly looking to work with local companies. The strategy leverages on the existing cultural ties across the region and reduces the pressure on local human resources. Overall it helps to build the reputation of the Middle East as an information technology hotbed.“[Instead] of asking how does Jordan compete with Dubai, or Dubai compete with Beirut, we should be looking at the region as a whole. We are trying to create this regional pie, we want to get to a point where we are seen as an IT region. Not a collection of IT hubs,” says Ra’ed Bilbessi, chief executive officer, Intaj.The Jordan pavilion at Gitex and the soon to be opened office in Dubai Internet City (DIC) are two initiatives that are intended to foster closer IT ties between Jordan and the UAE. However, a healthier investment and partnership environment is only going to be accelerated by greater data transparency.Intaj has been working to encourage transparency among its member companies. At the time of going to press the association had convinced 90% of companies to disclose their figures and the remaining organisations were expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.“The culture of disclosure isn’t in this part of the world and that in itself is a first success. But if we disclose accurate baseline figures we have something to measure performance against. If we show transparency we will gain credibility. When an international investor comes into to Jordan they would have one figure, from one source that everyone adopts,” says Juma.