Middle East needs to cut surf costs, says HP boss

Middle East governments need to lower the cost of internet access to fuel growth, one of the most senior IT executives in the region claimed last month.

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By  Peter Branton Published  October 13, 2004

Middle East governments need to lower the cost of internet access to fuel growth, one of the most senior IT executives in the region claimed last month. Joseph Hanania, managing director of HP Middle East, said that Egypt has been able to grow its domestic IT market by cutting the cost of internet access: “The government realised that by making IT accessible it helps growth,” he said at a press conference last month. Asked whether other internet costs should come down in other countries in the region, he replied bluntly: “It has to.” “I think you will see a similar trend in Saudi Arabia,” he added, referencing the Saudi ‘PCs for Homes’ initiative, which is looking at bringing PC ownership to a million more families in the Kingdom over the next five years. Part of the proposed scheme will be a bundled deal offering PC ownership with cheap internet access, Hanania said. “They’re thinking about injecting 200,000 PCs a year into the market,” he said. Although the details are still to be finalised on the initiative, Hanania said that HP was bidding for it, pointing out that the company’s PC assembly plant, which recently celebrated its first anniversary, put the company in a strong position to win the deal. “The fact that we had a PC assembly plant in Saudi Arabia did not happen by chance,” he said. “We’ve made an investment, hopefully it will pay off.” While the consumer market is increasing in the region, Hanania said it was a long way away from achieving its potential” “Most schools don’t have computers, most homes don’t have computers,” he said. However, Hanania said that there was also a lack of accurate information on the size of the computer market in the region, another thing that governments need to address: “In some areas of the Middle East, if you want to know how many computers are sold then computers have the same code as TVs or microwave ovens,” he complained. “Governments need to do more to keep track of how many computers are sold.”

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