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French Version

A local tech slowdown?

As the world gets smaller, the effects of a technology market slowdown in Europe and the United States was felt in other parts of the world, including Jordan.

Amidst the technology slump that swept across the world in 2001, it's worth taking a look at the state of the technology 'industry' in Jordan.

The past year hasn't lived up to everybody's expectations, especially considering the strong push for information technology developments in the country led by the government, on the one hand, and an association of the country's top private companies.

As the world gets smaller, the effects of a technology market slowdown in Europe and the United States was felt in other parts of the world, including Jordan.

For a start, the promised projects that local software development companies had lined up did not materialize as expected. Although there was a flurry of activity in 2000 to acquire software development contracts from the US and Europe, and a considerable amount was won or was in progress, the past year witnessed a sharp decline in business of that nature.

This caused a wave of lay-offs among some of the countries biggest software houses, especially the newer ones that were desperate for talent less than a year before and therefore hired top programmers and paid very high salaries to lure them away from their jobs. Those salaries only added to the problem.

Adding to that situation were lay-offs at the 'struggling' dotcoms that had looked so promising a few months before. Even the established dot-com businesses cut back on employees, conducting one restructuring after another; and they're still re-structuring to this day.

The amount, as a whole, of technology exports from Jordan grew though, as it was a relatively low figure in both 1999 and 2000, so it could only increase with so many coordinated efforts to achieve the dream of a 'tech-exports' fueled economy in the country.

The groundwork has been made and the potential is excellent. In fact, particular initiatives should be enough to lift our economy, especially the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, which opens up the US market to products manufactured in Jordan, with the benefit of no customs taxes.

That advantage alone should have tech-investors coming to Jordan by now! However, it's taking a bit longer than expected.

Still, efforts continue with int@j, the association of Jordanian information technology companies, at the center of a blitz of activities, workshops, exhibitions and a variety of events all aimed at promoting Jordan's IT potential to the region and the world. What's more, there is a sense of belief among IT companies in the country that there is a lot to gain, and that software sales to other countries has got to rise.

One of the software exporters I talked to explained that his company successfully exported software in the relatively slow era of the early nineties; back when all this current support and encouragement for the software industry did not exist.

According to him, it's got to get better with all the cooperation going on between the government and the private sector and with signs of a revival becoming obvious in the world's demand for technology products. We could already be on our way out of the current, global tech recession that hit everyone so hard in 2001.

So, although there's a local tech slowdown, it has generated an atmosphere of level-headedness that is just about right to tackle the current situation in world technology markets. If technology exports are to grow, they will do so at a reasonable pace; and if employment is to grow in tech-related fields, it will also do so at a reasonable pace.

Slowly, but surely, is a sober approach. Too bad the whole world economy had to be 'shaken-up' in 2001 to establish that fact.

Come to think of it, compared to what's been happening in local tech-industries across the world, we're lucky!

Zeid Nasser
The Star

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