Palestinian entrepreneurs receive US funding

Palestinian IT entrepreneurs have been given a US$500,000 boost by the US Agency for International Development in a bid to develop the country’s IT sector.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  October 4, 2004

Palestinian IT entrepreneurs have been given a US$500,000 boost by the US Agency for International Development in a bid to develop the country’s IT sector. The money has been channelled into the Palestine Information & Communications Technology Incubator (PICTI), which has now opened offices in the Al Sheikh Commercial Tower in Al-Bireh city. The cash will be used to help pay salaries and purchase the equipment needed by Palestinian start up companies, and also to give financial support to new IT projects in the country. The PICTI, which appeared at this year’s Gitex for the first time, has already had strong interest from more established IT companies in the Middle East, and it expects donations could top US$1 million. “Palestine has one of the largest pools of untapped IT talents anywhere in the world, but unfortunately there is no outlet for this talent. If they want to further their career they generally have to leave the country. What we are trying to do is promote the growth of home based IT professionals,” says PICTI general manager David Bailey. “This money is effectively seed funding for a lot of IT businesses. We expect that, within twelve months, the first few success stories will come to light. And by that, I mean having properly run IT companies based in Palestine, with their own products, their own staff and their own ambitions finally realised,” he adds. Although Palestine’s IT sector has been growing, the largest untapped market is software development. Budding innovators and entrepreneurs have compiled many business proposals, but few have become reality. “Hopefully that is all now about to change. The ideas I have seen by some of these start-ups are quite brilliant, but they have never any chance of success before because there has been no interest in financing them. Now we can finally do so,” Bailey says. The PICTI has set up design office suites specially configured for ICT focused enterprises, featuring customised computer work desks that are fully networked with a high speed Internet/LAN infrastructure. “These will help create an enabling environment for high-value business support services offered to PICTI clients,” explains Bailey. The PICTI founding partners are: the Palestinian IT Association of Companies (PITA); Palestinian Banking Corporation (PBC); Palestine Trade Centre (PALTRADE); and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “Between these partners, we have a huge network of contacts in the region that we can now use to build the infrastructure needed to push the industry,” says Bailey. “This is our first time at Gitex, and it has been great so far. I would imagine that in a couple of years time, you won’t just see the PICTI here, but a number of new and highly successful Palestinian companies proudly showcasing their products.”

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