IBM Centennial "THINK" Forum
New York, US
20 September 2011
In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate
Thank you, [Sam]. I am delighted to be here as IBM celebrates its first hundred years ... and begins a second great century. May it bring even more achievement, innovation, and growth.
We in Jordan are glad to share in the celebration. In the early 1970s, Jordan's first computer center, considered one of the region's most sophisticated, was stocked with - what else? - IBM computers.
Today, our country has a $2.2 billion ICT industry, a region-leader powered by outstanding IT professionals. And IBM is still with us - partnering with top Jordanian companies ... working with our universities in cutting-edge R&D - and supporting Jordan's model, early-learning programs. Sam, we are grateful for your partnership and hope it will continue for years to come.
Jordan's partnership with IBM is evidence of a powerful global reality of the modern age. Technology, innovation, and new business processes have pushed back borders and horizons. Connectivity is a given. And we all have an interest in working together.
Because for all the wonders that technology can do, here's what it can't do: It can't make our choices for us. To confront hard realities and accept the need for change. To reach out and build consensus on complex issues. And to have the will to get to the goal.
Making these choices is the job of leadership - at every level - whether we are talking about a company like IBM; a family; a community; a country; or the world we share.
In my region, three of four people are under the age of 34. They have vast potential to achieve and to lead. They have also come of age at a time of great challenge. Our countries like others have been hit by the global crises in food, energy, and finance. Regional unemployment is at crisis levels. Regional conflict continues to drain resources and attention.
Our countries can tackle these challenges - but we must make the tough choices it requires. Even before the Arab Spring, I and many others chose change.
More than a decade ago, Jordan began the difficult task of comprehensive, structural reform. We made a national investment in education and infrastructure, and pursued regulatory reform to support private-sector-led growth. We concluded FTA's with the United States, Canada, Europe, Turkey, Singapore, and every Arab country. Our growing ties to the GCC countries validate Jordan's excellent regional position, safety, and growth potential.
We are still looking for improvements in all arenas - from more market-oriented skills training in schools, to more infrastructure investment, to less red tape. But we have been working to open the door and let free the talent of Jordanians, young and old.
Jordan's ICT sector is an example. Visionary Jordanian ICT firms were among the first to see the possibilities of regional ICT. They jumped on the advantages of Jordan's geo-strategic position: at the heart of a region of 350 million consumers ... with transport hubs, and a telecom infrastructure, that can access markets worldwide. Jordan has a steady flow of creative IT professionals coming out of our universities, and the highest penetration of bilingual Arabic-English speakers in the region. The bottom line? With one percent of Jordan's workforce, ICT now contributes 14 percent of our GDP.
This year, the Arab Spring sent a message: people want more success, more freedom, more dignity, now. In Jordan, we are listening. We know that reform that is half-done, is reform that can be undone. For change to last, it must be comprehensive: economic, social and political. The process must be inclusive, and people must see concrete results.
This is our goal. Wide-ranging constitutional and legislative measures are under way, to reinforce the separation of powers and protect civil rights and freedoms. These and other steps are aimed at growing the core elements of parliamentary government: a thriving, national political-party culture, and strong democratic values - accountability, transparency, the rule of law, and more.
Jordan has not allowed regional tensions to divert us from our commitment to our economic and political goals at home. But we are also continuing to work for the peace that our strategic region urgently needs.
The central threat, a source of global division and instability, remains the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I do not need to tell you that today, the situation is at a critical point. The people of the region reject a status quo in which Israel continues to build settlements and defy international law, and Palestinians continue to be sent to the back of the bus to wait for change.
The entire world has an interest in moving forward the one basis for lasting peace: a two-state agreement, with a sovereign, independent, and viable Palestine; and security and acceptance for Israel. That means comprehensive negotiations that resolve the final status of key issues - borders; Jerusalem; refugees; and settlements - and lead quickly to the end-game.
President Obama recognized this strategic imperative when he set the parameters for a solution last May. Together, the friends of peace must keep up the pressure, to get through this impasse to a fresh start.
Tough choices lie ahead. But the prize of success is vast: peace, prosperity, and limitless horizons. We must choose to succeed.
If I may borrow a few words from Sam Palmisano, "a period of discontinuity is, for those with courage and vision, a period of opportunity."
In Jordan, we have grasped this moment as an opportunity to move far, fast, and now. It is an exciting time.
Thank you very much.