At the breakfast meeting with information technology leaders
31 January 2000
Thank you very much for attending this breakfast. What is most important is for you to be able to meet not only the ministers and government officials but also the private sector representatives of IT in Jordan. I am sure that they will all give you a fairly clear picture of what we have to offer in Jordan.
Allow me to say a few words on this if I may. My purpose is to help establish and grow an IT industry which will create, over time, tens of thousands of high quality jobs for Jordanians. Initially, we are focusing on developing an industry of IT software and engineering.
With a sufficient investment in human resources and the presence of entrepreneurs, we can create this industry. Our human resources are well educated in technical subjects. Only modest training is needed to allow graduates to become software writers and service providers, and at relatively competitive costs. There is a market for Jordanian software engineers or their products, domestically, regionally and at the global level. Jordanians can get IT jobs with national companies that have contracts with larger regional or international firms. Alternatively, they can work directly for foreign companies that establish operations in Jordan or the region. Israel, on its own, currently has 30,000 high tech jobs unfilled and this level of demand is expected to continue for the next few years. In the United States, where the biggest demand for IT professionals lies, we are told that there are 350,000 such jobs available. The industry imports 100,000 IT professionals each year.
In order to allow Jordanian professionals to supply the demand in the market, we realised the need for human resource development, improvement in the business environment and infrastructure.
In fact, an initiative carried out entirely by the private sector, the REACH Initiative, identified these requirements and produced an action plan that was adopted by all relevant parties. It called for co-ordination with institutions of higher learning to establish IT curricula and training centres, to establish job placement centres, and to encourage the setting up of technology oriented business incubators. It also identified the necessary laws and regulations that needed amendment in order to help attract foreign investment. Most importantly, the initiative was a major factor in enacting legislation and drawing up regulations for the enforcement of the respect of intellectual property rights. It also emphasised the need for effective regulation of access to telecommunications, rates and standards. In addition, it identified the necessity for further investments in infrastructure, not only to improve the general business environment, but to also provide the requirements for data lines, Internet connections and the like.
The initiative has succeeded in prompting all concerned to prepare the groundwork for a successful launching of an IT industry in Jordan. Through its call for proper IPR legislation and regulations, it was a catalyst for Jordan's accession to the WTO. It provided yet another reason for accelerating the privatisation of the Jordan Telecommunications Company, and for the quick implementation of a crash data communications project. Its adoption by the government allowed for the sector to benefit from the incentives provided to other leading sectors of the economy. It also provided groundwork for IT venture capital funds to be launched in Jordan. It was the main reason for my decision to allocate a prime property for its future use by the sector as the first Technology Park of Jordan.
In addition to the specific competitive advantage of this potential sector, and to the incentives provided for investments in Jordan, it is important to keep in mind that other trade-related factors also contribute to its successful development. They are the Qualifying Industrial Zone status that allows for exports to U.S. markets without customs tariff or quotas, the Arab Free Trade Area Agreement, and the Jordan-EU Free Trade Area Agreement.
Finally, I would like to invite you all to a meeting that I am holding at the Dead Sea Movenpick Resort on March 24-25, 2000 where we can meet once again and follow up on this encounter, and where you will have the chance to meet with the representatives of the sector and to find out for yourselves what Jordanian talent can offer in this field.
Once again, thank you very much for your interest, and I look forward to welcoming you when you come to see us in Jordan.