Bill Gates in the early 80’s
Itâ€™s Wednesday noon as I am writing this article. In a few hours, Jordanâ€™s technology sector executives will join HM King Abdullah and Jordanâ€™s guest Bill Gates for a Ramadan iftar at the Dead Sea. What an intriguing event! But what does it all mean?
Just a year ago, it was Ciscoâ€™s John Chambers who was speaking to the Jordanian tech sector at the Dead Sea. In 2002, Intelâ€™s Craig Barrett was the star of the Jordan ICT Forum 2002. It is rather amazing that Jordan is able to attract the presence of these heavy weight global technology leaders. Can we dream of having Appleâ€™s Steve Jobs in the Kingdom soon?
To a large extent, it is the tremendous efforts of His Majesty that are making this happen. Undeniably, another reason is that when the world looks at the Arab region, Jordan (along with Dubai) is emerging as somewhat bright technology spots. Both the private and public sectors in Jordan have taken some good steps on the path of technology adoption. And we do have the occasional technology export success story to tell.
But are we up to this attention weâ€™re being given? Are we in the tech sector making the most of the doors that are being opened for us? When we showcase Jordan to Mr Gates are we mildly impressing him with our adoption of technology or can we wow him with a Jordanian innovation.
Waiting for a Jordanian tech brand
Mr Gates comes to Jordan after a visit to Israel. Looking at Israelâ€™s tech sector (but also at the Indian, Chinese, Irish, etc) should make us think. The classic Israeli tech story from the days of the internet bubble is the sale of ICQ, an online chatting software, to AOL for several hundred million dollars. What was AOL paying for? A technology? Or rather an audience and a brand, enable by some cool technology?
Ebayâ€™s recent acquisition of Skype, the Scandinavian-based internet telephony platform (developed by Estonian programmers), for several billion dollars should also make us think.
The world is entering a 2nd internet revolution. Call it Web 2.0, call it software-as-services.. Call it utility computing.. Something very big is moving and even Microsoft has to cope in world where Google also thrives and where hundreds of startups are being launched to re-invent the way the world works, plays and gets entertained.
In this context, can we hope for a Jordanian technology brand that can wow Mr Gates, maybe not this year but the next. Can we move into the next phase of technology innovation, beyond technology adoption and training? Will we see Jordanian technology patents being registered worldwide?
Empires of the mind
In 1943, Winston Churchill said â€œthe empires of the future are the empires of the mindâ€. Nothing can be more true when we look at the technology empires that Mr Gates and his fellow hackers of the 70â€™s built. They started in college dorm rooms and garages and took on the industrial giants of their days with nothing more than the power of ideas.
In the coming few years Amman will be transformed by skyscrapers, malls and new urban developments. Sure, this is fascinating and in some cases a natural step in the progress of our country. But we need to put equal emphasis on building up the minds of our young people (and the older ones too!). It is there where our digital skyscrapers of the future will be built.