IT associations come together

A collection of Middle East IT associations signed a letter of intent yesterday morning to form a pan-Arab alliance to promote the local industry.

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By  Greg Wilson Published  October 23, 2003

A collection of Middle East IT associations signed a letter of intent yesterday morning to form a pan-Arab alliance to promote the local industry.

The proposed organisation will be active on a regional level on a number of issues, such as protection of intellectual property (IPR) rights, cross-border trade and partnership, movement of labour, free trade and other regulatory issues.

The IT associations attending Wednesday morning’s meeting came from Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt and Palestine. Together they represent approximately 600 companies throughout the region.

“We had a very fruitful meeting this morning and we have signed a letter of intent to form an alliance of Arab IT associations that is capable of lobbying on issues, helping move regulation forward and enabling members to network and form partnerships,” says Marwan Juma, chairman, INTAJ.

Currently, no constitutional structure has been put in place outlining the roles and responsibilities of the proposed group. All the associations that signed the letter of intent must go back to their respective organisations to ratify the decision. Only when the agreement is ratified can work begin on establishing the association.

“[Once] we have the approval of our respective organisations, we can then formalise our objectives,” says Juma.

The next meeting between the IT associations has been provisionally set for December at the World Summit of Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva. “We’re all planning to attend the event,” says Juma. “We will meet to put more concrete plans in place,” he adds.
One of the initial issues that the proposed body plans to tackle is its Gitex attendance. The existing informal alliance of IT associations would like to see the creation of an Arab Pavilion, which brings together all local IT companies under one roof.

“We would like to see an Arab Pavilion at the heart of Gitex,” says Juma.

Undoubtedly, the proposed Arab IT association faces a multitude of hurdles before it evolves into an effective regional body. Not least, it has to change the local mindset and build much stronger local trade and partnership links.

“We have to change this strictly local mindset and get [companies] to look at the bigger picture. Companies have to start acting, and thinking, regionally,” comments Juma.

By thinking regionally, the IT associations believe they will be able to increase the size of the industry throughout the region to the benefit of all parties.

“We’re looking to improve trade and partnership between the different companies around the region. We hope these companies can work together to improve the environment for trade in the region,” explains Juma.

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