Arab IT trio: regional cooperation-international competition
The recently emerging Information Technology (IT) trio of the Arab World, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Egypt, has more to complement each other than compete. A research by Arab Advisors, a regional consultancy group, points out the potential for cooperation between the three on issues of human resources, legislation, banking infrastructure and telecommunications and data communications infrastructure.
Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE have all launched initiatives to promote their countries as the ideal regional IT hubs, in an attempt to secure a portion of international and regional investments in the Internet, telecommunications and technology industries.
Arab Advisors Group suggests that Egypt and Jordan must liberalize the labor laws for the IT sector between them to encourage free flow of skilled IT professionals between the two countries. This would make it easier for companies to relocate into either of the countries and will enhance the combined IT attractiveness of the three countries of Jordan, Egypt and the UAE.
According to Arab Advisors research, the Internet penetration rate of the UAE has reached 14.07 percent, ranking it amongst countries with “Pervasive” penetration rates, with more than 180,000 Internet accounts, and more than 414,000 users.
Such penetration rates, along with the availability of international fiber optics and submarine cable connectivity projects grant the country the top position in the availability of communication infrastructure regionally. Egypt and Jordan, on the other hand, has achieved the “Established” and “Common” penetration rates respectively.
However, the two countries have the clear advantage of a large number of new native IT graduates every year. The research notes that around 11,000 IT and computer science students graduate from Egyptian and Jordanian universities every year. Jordan and Egypt boost relatively much higher population rates than the UAE, with Egypt’s population reaching 65.7 million, Jordan’s population at approximately 5 million, and that of the UAE at 2.9 million. Amongst the three countries, Jordan has the highest literacy rate of more than 85 percent of the population being literate, compared with 60 percent in Egypt, and 80 percent in the UAE.
The study concludes that IT companies whose sales and marketing operations are in Dubai — a regional trade hub — would appreciate the chance to relocate their development work to Jordan and Egypt instead of bringing expatriate workers into the UAE at much higher costs.
Combining the pool of IT workers in Egypt and Jordan would guarantee that that the two countries do not become competitors but complementary players. The report stresses that “in order to maximize benefits the three countries should focus on intentional cooperation rather than cooperation stemming out of regional conditions”. — (Albawaba-MEBG)