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Price cuts, re-structured market & promise for an IT future : Jordanian computing 2001

It's the end of the year again, and quite an eventful one it was.

It's the end of the year again, and quite an eventful one it was. As with any other years, there were loads of computer and information technology developments, breakthroughs and stories.

However, to look at things from a Jordanian perspective it would be best to narrow down this 'lookback' to four levels of development: personal computer use, local and regional market developments, the Internet in Jordan and our national IT strategy.

For start, the most important development witnessed by personal computer users was the massive drops in prices of PC, peripherals and accessories. Week after week, advertisements by computer dealers came out with even more ridiculous prices.

Today, you can get a 1.4MHz Pentium 4, full system, for less than JD500!

The best inkjet printer, to go with that system, costs less than JD40, a good scanner also costs less than JD40 and anything else you want costs even less! Webcams cost JD10 or less, the best internal modems cost the same.

It's quite amazing that CD-RW drives are now available for around JD60, DVD drives for also around JD60 and, for better viewing, a very good 17 inch monitor will only set you back JD 100.

It was great that all these neat gadgets, that enriched your computing experience were both available and 'dirt' cheap. The user base for PCs in Jordan must have expanded in 2001 like never before; and that's good news.

Even Internet connectivity became cheap, with all ISPs providing offers of nlimited Internet accounts for an annual fee of less than JD 120, which is JD 0 a month!

Still, the local computer and information technology market had a slow year.

All computer hardware and software dealers I talked to were complaining of low profit margins- probably related to the very low prices mentioned earlier- and extreme competition with too many companies in Jordan serving and already small market.

As for software companies, who mostly had a rather good 2000, this year was a step backward with the international IT market recession and the promise of large software development contracts not really materializing.

Software houses in Jordan either laid off people, or just shrunk in size and activities.

The local market demand for software and services actually grew, though, driven by telecommunications and infrastructural projects. These big local contracts played a role in re-structuring the IT suppliers landscape in the country, separating the 'big guns' from the smaller and continuously shrinking companies that once commanded bigger shares of the country's computer and It market.

Over all, it's been a somewhat disappointing year for IT businesses, especially export-oriented software ventures.

As with any other place in the world, Internet use exploded and it drove the entry of countless people into the realm of the cyber-world. Internet cafes increased in numbers, people flocked to them and it must have been another excellent year for Jordan's continued evolution into an e-society.

ISPs fueled this by innovative price packages, better connectivity and generally making sure that every computer user got 'connected'.

As for Internet-based projects and ventures, well it was kind of slow. The big projects based in Jordan, like Arabia.com and Maktoob.com continued to grow while newer projects faltered, as did such projects all over the world.

The Dotcom revolution, turned into a Dot bomb. And that was the case in Jordan too.

Now, for a shining light amidst all of this: Our national IT strategy. Although it's still in its beginnings, the sheer amount of effort and commitment demonstrated by the government and private companies has presented a unique partnership that is attracting attention regionally and internationally.

The political conditions in the region, though, are not too encouraging to attract major IT investments yet, but some investments have begun and the stage is set for Jordan's future success as an IT center. The extensive work done, and its details, cannot be delved into here, but it's an excellent step forward. Hopefully, in next year's column we'll have more to say about that. God willing, I assure you we will.

Zeid Nasser
The Star

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