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French Version

INTAJ holds Jordan e-Commerce Workshop: International, local IT gurus eye future of e-commerce

THERE HE sits: Hisham El Manawy; director of sales (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at VeriSign Inc., the world’s largest provider of Internet trust services.

THERE HE sits: Hisham El Manawy; director of sales (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at VeriSign Inc., the world’s largest provider of Internet trust services. Next to him is Mustafa Nasereddin, executive director of the IT Consulting Services Dept. at Talal Abu Ghazaleh International (TAGI). At the parallel table is Sankar Krishnan, vice president and regional head of Citibank (Middle East, South Asia and Africa); and Jack Selby; CEO of PayPal.com, the world’s first instant and secure online payment service.

The Sheraton’s ballroom seats a number of Jordanian IT gurus including Hatem Zeine, CEO of Zeine Technologies and Karim Kawar, chairman of Information Technology Association-Jordan (INTAJ). When it comes to doing business, these guys never actually meet or see each other. They work behind computer screens powered by titan servers connected to cyberspace. The name of the game is e-commerce. The Jordan e-Commerce Workshop, organized by INTAJ in co-operation with the USAID-funded AMIR program, brought together international and local IT pioneers to discuss the future of e-commerce strategies in the Kingdom. According to recent statistics by INTAJ, the size of the IT market in Jordan was $60 million in 1999 and estimated to have reached $176.96 million last year. It is expected to grow at an annual rate of 15 to 30 percent.

The need to address the IT sector in Jordan has never been more urgent. With an e-government project underway, the Kingdom is witnessing spiraling expansion in its IT infrastructure. E-commerce remains the ultimate challenge to all parties. Panelists discussed pivotal issues like telecom supply and demand in Jordan, streamlining customs, aviation and delivery systems, electronic payments, e-security issues and successful strategies for tapping the e-commerce market.

Mustafa Nasereddin talked about TAGI’s initiative to launch the first credit bureau in Jordan and the importance of such a project to the IT sector. “The most important aspect in today’s e-world is security. Very little do we talk about the party we are dealing with. What do you know about your business partner? It’s time we have a third party to provide the financial information needed to secure e-business,” Nasereddin said. “The establishment of a credit bureau would give companies and customers the security they need to do business,” he added.

“A credit bureau is a credit information-reporting agency, which regularly engages in the practice of assembling or evaluating factual information bearing on a business or consumer’s credit,” Nasereddin explained.

The majority of panelists agreed a credit bureau would help boost the integration of IT companies in the local market. “We need a secure environment to do business. Hence, I believe the IT sector would benefit from the establishment of a credit bureau in Jordan,” Hatem Zeine, told The Star. VeriSign’s Hisham El Manawy agrees. “I believe the establishment of a credit bureau in Jordan is a must. In the world of e-commerce, people are invisible, you do not see me, I do not see you, we need a verification method that would be able to help us launch our businesses in the Kingdom, that’s the way it is done internationally,” he said.

“I am definitely for the establishment of a credit bureau in Jordan. You need to know if your client is creditworthy or not, a credit bureau would provide an environment of secure business, whether its B2B (Business to Business) or B2C (Business to Customer),” said Dikran Tchablakian; CEO of CompuMe, a renowned IT tools online purchasing company.

A credit report is any written, oral or other communication of any information reflecting how an individual or business has handled its debt obligation. The report identifies such information as name, address, identification number, credit accounts and payments history. The report doesn’t reveal any private information, only data that is basically related to financial payments.

“Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of a developing economy like that in Jordan. They usually find it difficult to apply for loans or funds basically because they lack cash money. A credit bureau would help SMEs to grow. How? Through providing financial information on SMEs to banks and creditors. When the credit history is clean, banks won’t hesitate to provide loans or funds to SMEs, and that applies to IT companies as well” Nasereddin said.

“For an IT sector to succeed we need to have political commitment, an IT-aware society, the right legislation, human resources and the right infrastructure,” Deputy Prime Minister Dr Mohammed Halaiqa, told The Star. Halaiqa pointed out the Jordan credit reporting draft law will be passed by Parliament soon. If the Parliament dissolves, a temporary law will be issued. “I fully support the establishment of a credit bureau in Jordan,” Halaiqa said. “The IT sector will be liberalized by 2003, which will usher in a new era of IT development in the Kingdom,” he added. The deputy prime minister has been a key champion behind the REACH Initiative for the development of the IT sector in the Kingdom.

“His Majesty King Abdallah is the driving force behind the establishment of a solid IT sector in Jordan. English and computer science are now prerequisites for university students and will be taught starting from grade 1 in schools as well,” Halaiqa explained. “Public schools and remote areas are plugging in to the net. Computer networks are being installed there. We are starting to decrease the fear people have from dealing with a computer and logging on to the world wide web.” Lawyer Salah Bashir, managing partner of the International Business Legal Associates, said the Kingdom is in need for a law governing e-commerce. “We are moving from paper payments to “paperless” transactions. Under Jordanian law, if one needs to prove he/she wants money from someone, he/she must show a physical invoice and this invoice must be submitted by a human being and not via any other medium,” Bashir said.

“In e-payments, you neither see the client nor the company. We need to address these issues when drafting an e-commerce law,” Bashir, who worked on drafting the pending credit report draft law, pointed out.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Al Khasawneh from the Ministry of Information, talked about the e-government project, which the ministry is currently working on. Al Khasawneh stressed the importance of the e-procurement project that is expected to be completed in 2002. The workshop was also attended by Minister of Information and Communications Technology Dr Fawaz Zu’bi who discussed the issue of telecom supply/demand in Jordan.

The two-day workshop (20-21 May) was successful in creating a springboard for e-commerce strategies in the Kingdom. The IT gurus are back behind their PCs now, but the glimpse they had on the status of e-commerce in Jordan would hopefully bring them back together, to do business this time.

Rasheed Al Roussan
The Star

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