Jordan and Dubai: IT rivals or partners?
(Jordan Times) — Whenever representatives of international IT companies visit the Kingdom, one of the questions most often asked at meetings and press conferences is whether Jordan has a chance competing with Dubai.
The visitor is usually first preoccupied with seizing this good opportunity to praise the host country and highlight its potential. Then, giving a second thought to the question, usually answers along the lines of an incredulous and puzzled: “But why do you want to compete with Dubai?”
Boris Anderer, chairman of Germany's e-banking giant Brokat, for example, told journalists and IT representatives during a visit to Jordan in late May that Jordan and Dubai should be seen as Singapore and Malaysia, “two regional players that complement each other.”
Like Malaysia, Anderer said, Jordan can make impressive strides if it concentrates on adding to what a stronger regional player has, rather than emulating it. Anderer's advice, in a few words, was: “Do not try to be Dubai.” Just be you.
Complement rather than compete, appears to be also the principle behind a memorandum of understanding governing cooperation in the IT field between the Kingdom and the Emirates announced last week.
The memorandum hinges on the availability of Jordanians with high computer technology skills, on one hand, and on the fast strides that Dubai has made in establishing itself as a regional IT hub, on the other hand, officials said.
It was worked out in a relatively short period of time, reflecting the very warm ties and good working relations between the leaderships of the two countries. King Abdullah discussed the main guidelines of the agreement in talks with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad Ben Rashid Al-Maktoum during his latest trip to Dubai late May.
Jordanian IT executives do not share commentators' fears of competition with Dubai, and appear instead confident in Jordan's potential.
Khaldoun Tabaza, co-founder and director at Arabia.com, concedes that IT companies “need Dubai as a business and media hub, a center for advertising and marketing.”
Of the some 45 companies registered as members of Int@j, Jordan's information technology association, more than a handful have offices in Dubai.
Arabia.com has its business development services based in Dubai due to the competitive banking and infrastructure facilities that the emirate offers, Tabaza explains. “But Dubai will never be the place for content creation or start-ups. Our editorial operations, main production and technical operations are and will stay here. Jordan and Dubai are two different creatures, you can't really say there is competition.”
Sonia Shahin, client executive at the Washington-based DMR Consulting Group Inc. — a company with 15,000 employees in 85 offices worldwide and worth some $2 billion — may be speaking out of Jordanian national pride, but her experience is undeniable. “Dubai is no place for creative work,” she says. “Mainly because it has no manpower of its own.”
Also Hatem Zeine, president and CEO at ZEINE Technological Applications, stresses that Jordan's edge over Dubai lays in its skilled human resources, including the over 2,000 graduates in computer-related subjects produced each year by Jordanian universities and colleges. “Dubai relies on foreigners, we rely on our own people,” Zeine says.
There appears to be complement not only between the products and environments offered by the two countries, but also between their strategic goals. “They are two completely different mentalities,” says Zeine. “Here, we want to create more jobs. In Dubai, they want to make more money.”
By Francesca Ciriaci
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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