Lebanese businessmen are urged to “go east" and invest in telecommunications infrastructure and internet ventures, reported the Daily Star newspaper, quoting a Syrian official as saying.
The Syrian telecommunications market could be worth 1.4 billion dollars within five to seven years, and Lebanese businesses are among the best positioned to take advantage of opportunities there, said Sami Khiyami, consultant of the Damascus-based information and communications technology (ICT).
“It is a golden time for the Lebanese in Syria,” Khiyami told the Daily Star, referring to the role that Lebanon could play in that country’s economic liberalization.
Khiyami, who is also board member of the Syrian Computer Society, was in Beirut as part of a Syrian delegation at the 2001 Arab e-forum, a three-day conference on “enhancing e-commerce and e-finance in a digital economy.”
The non-profit Syrian Computer Society has some 5,000 members, 2,000 of them ICT professionals. The society has been active since 1989, and is one of the largest civic groups in the country.
Khiyami said that in seven years from now, the growing Syrian telecommunications market could comprise 200 million dollars in satellites and 100 million dollars in data and radio telecommunications.
Traditional fixed-line communications in Syria are reasonably well developed, he said, but the market for new satellite, data, internet, and mobile technologies is “nearly virgin.”
In addition, Khiyami said that the Syrian market, with 17 million consumers, is large enough to be attractive, and better located than any other country to become a telecom center for the Middle East.
Laws to regulate e-commerce in Syria are still under preparation, and the market for such applications could not be estimated, Khiyami said.
But he predicted that an internet backbone project would help the figures for internet users to explode, reaching 50,000 by the end of 2001, and possibly 200,000 by the end of 2004.
Two pilot projects for internet access, one operated by the Syrian Institution for Telecommunications, and the second by the Computer Society, currently serve 8,000 subscribers, according to the paper -- Albawaba.com