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Intel puts chips on table for Lebanon

Vendor ups investment by US$15m

Intel is expanding its investment in the Middle East by up to US$15million to help the reconstruction of Lebanon’s shattered economy, its chairman Craig Barrett told IT Weekly in an exclusive interview.

Barrett said the money was in addition to the US$50million Intel has pledged to invest as part of the venture capital fund for the Middle East and Turkey it set up in November last year.

“We are expanding our Middle East venture capital funds to target some money specifically at Lebanon for investment in new business and the creation of both economic development and job opportunities for the country’s people,” Barrett explained.

The chairman was speaking to IT Weekly as he prepares for a visit to the Middle East and Africa in December to work with local governments and organisations on development of the internet in rural areas.

“We will be working on the issues of rural development of the internet, especially in the areas of education, healthcare, economic development and e-governance,” he said.

Barrett will be in the region for seven or eight days before the end of the year, but the precise date and list of places he is visiting during his trip has yet to be finalised. However, the chairman did confirm that he will be stopping in Lebanon, South Africa and Egypt, as well as a couple of other countries.

During the trip Intel will also be doing two demonstrations of how rural communities can leverage technology. Intel conducted two similar projects recently in India and China, and Barrett said the chipmaker had plans to do one in South Africa and another in Egypt.

Intel’s investment in Lebanon builds on the chipmaker’s involvement in the US-Lebanon Partnership Fund. Set up in September by Barrett and three other US corporate executives — Cisco CEO John Chambers, Ghafari chairman Yousif Ghafari, and Occidental Petroleum president and CEO Ray Irani — the initiative is aimed at raising awareness and resources from the US to help rebuild Lebanon.

“We want to specifically focus on opportunities in Lebanon with this fund and where it [the Middle East and Turkey venture capital fund] was initially set up targeting just a couple of countries in the Middle East, we would like to, as part of the Lebanese partnership programme, expand the Intel effort in that space,” stated Barrett.

The chairman said Intel had initially dedicated a sum in the range of US$10-15million in venture capital funding, but suggested the amount of investment could rise further if opportunities presented themselves.

“Obviously we never set an upper limit on these things. If the opportunities arise, and we have investment opportunities that make sense to us, but also can create economic growth and economic well-being on the ground in the target area, we’ll pursue them,” he added.

The venture capital fund has already been used to create Orascom Telecom Wimax — a joint venture between Intel and Egyptian operator Orascom.

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