Top IT stories of 2010 - May

Virgin causes Qatar confusion, Etisalat loses court battle and Arabic domain names go live

Tags: 2010retrospective
  • E-Mail
Top IT stories of 2010 - May Richard Branson making a splash in Doha (Getty Images)
More pics ›
By  Mark Sutton Published  December 23, 2010

May was a good month for technology students in the Arab world, with wins at international and regional science competitions.

In the 2010 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) held in California, students from Saudi Arabia, Palestine and Jordan won five IDEF Grand Awards and two Special Awards for their ideas, standing out from a field of more than 1,600 students from 59 countries. Students from Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco also took part in the event.

In the regional leg of Microsoft's Imagine Cup, which asks participants across the world to come up with ideas on how technology can be best used in relation to set themes, an all-women team from the American University of Kuwait took home the gold, with their ‘TWTD', a multi-touch tutoring system for the disabled that was developed using Visual Studio 2008 Professional and MS SQL.

Egypt became the first Middle Eastern country to go live with a web address entirely in Arabic, following approval by ICANN in April. Egypt's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology website added the Arabic string equivalent of ‘.misr' in its URL. The Egyptian site was followed by the website of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, with the Arabic equivalent of ‘khalifa.emarat' as its URL on May 23, and then came the website of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai with the equivalent of 'sheikh-mohammed-bin-rashid.emarat' or 'mohammed-bin-rashid.emarat' on May 30.

There were fractious times in the telco sector in both Qatar and the UAE in May. Qatar Telecom (Qtel) announced a brand partnership with Richard Branson's The Virgin Group, to launch Virgin Mobile Qatar. Vodafone Qatar, the country's other mobile operator objected to the deal, saying that the venture was a breach of the terms of Vodafone Qatar's licence, which stipulated that the market would remain free of additional mobile operators for a set period.

ictQATAR countered that the deal did not represent a true third licence and stated that it "does not object to licensed telecommunications operators using innovative practices to provide different products and services to the public".

Meanwhile in the UAE, an Emirati man finally won his legal case against Etisalat over claims the company breached his copyright for mobile TV over the internet. The Abu Dhabi First Instance Court ordered Etisalat to pay resident Mosa Isa Mosa Al Amiri AED30 million ($8.1m) compensation and halt its mobile TV services.

Etisalat also came under scrutiny with the release of a government report that revealed that the Etisalat chairman and board members paid themselves a total of AED37.5m ($10.2m) in bonuses in 2009, despite the fact that the telco made an AED1.24bn ($338m) loss across ten of its overseas operations in that year.

The State Audit Institution (SAI) report also noted a string of discrepancies in bonuses and salaries and found that Etisalat's salary system had integral weaknesses and lacked necessary safeguards to prevent exploitation. The report also recorded loans to employees contrary to company policy, uncollected loans for former employees totalling nearly $800,000, business loans and debts to operating units that were granted without proper collateral, and an incident of a $7m embezzlement, that took advantage of weak financial controls.

Etisalat responded that all bonuses were government-approved.

Also in the legal sector, a Saudi man was jailed in the US, after being caught selling 200 counterfeit Cisco gigabit interface converters (GBICs) to the US Marine Corps. The man had charged the Corps $119,000 for the GBICs, which turned out to be $25 fakes sourced from eBay.

May saw another round of appointments and management changes in the Middle East.

AMD announced the appointment of a new vice president for sales and general manager of the Middle East, Turkey and Africa region, Bernard Biolchini.

Biolchini joined the company from control and automation systems company Invensys, where he served as president and general manager for EMEA and had also spent fifteen years with HP in senior marketing, sales and channel roles.

Cisco created two new general manager positions, for Bahrain and Kuwait, to drive growth in the two countries. Hani El-Kukhun took on the role for Kuwait, and Mohamad Hassoun filled the same spot in Bahrain

Meanwhile Sun Microsystems Middle East channel manager announced that he would not make the move to Oracle after the acquisition. Bruno Haubertin, who had headed Sun's MENA channel operations for five years said that he felt Oracle was more of a direct-selling company than a channel organisation.

SAP announced its intention to buy database and business software company Sybase, for $5.8 billion, to give SAP access to Sybase' mobility solutions portfolio, enabling SAP to deliver its applications to mobile devices.

May also brought trouble for the popular social network site Facebook. After a Facebook member announced a joke campaign for a day to draw the prophet Mohammed, Pakistan shut down the site in response to protests. The UAE and Saudi Arabia blocked the page, but left the rest of the site open.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code

2010 retrospective