Bill Gates in the early 80's
Bill Gates in the early 80’s

I just came back from the Bill Gates iftar. The whole government and ICT sector was there. Gates gave a short speech praising Jordan’s technology adoption and its commitment to education and training. Notably, he urged Jordanians to build their own intellectual capital. There was no major announcement in the speech other than MS and Jordan have signed an agreement further extending the current agreement of cooperation. One Jordanian company was mentioned by name: Menhaj.

On the technology front, Gates only talked about voice recognition on mobiles and tablets that can recognize handwriting. When he finished his speech he was waiting to take 2 questions from the attendees (as mentioned in the visit’s agenda), but he was ushered from the stage by the MC. That was pretty disappointing.

After iftar, Gates disappeared into a closed Miscrosoft related meeting. On my way into the hall earlier I saw many demo booths set up in the foyer.

The Jordanian muscial troupe Duzan played re-arrangements of folkloric music. Almost no one was paying attention to them though.

Gates: Israel part of Silicon Valley

It’s Wednesday noon as I am writing this article. In a few hours, Jordan’s technology sector executives will join HM King Abdullah and Jordan’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 Cisco’s John Chambers who was speaking to the Jordanian tech sector at the Dead Sea. In 2002, Intel’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 Apple’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 we’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 Israel’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?

Ebay’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 “the empires of the future are the empires of the mind”. Nothing can be more true when we look at the technology empires that Mr Gates and his fellow hackers of the 70’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.



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8 responses to “You have the attention of Bill Gates: what do you tell him?”

  1. David Avatar

    I’d tell Bill to get with the program, especially when it comes to the web standards. As a designer/developer, Internet Explorer has been causing me trouble for years due to Microsoft’s unwillingness to conform to the evolving system; they’d rather create the system instead.

    At least they seem to be making a step in the right direction with the next version of IE (beta due out soon), but I’ll still be pulling my hair out for a while until 95% of the planet upgrades.

    There also needs to be big improvements in the Operating System department. Gates should swallow his pride and take a few tips from Jobs & Co. when it comes to feature set and innovation. Windows Vista looks promising, but it’s not due out for another year or so.

  2. Ammar Sajdi Avatar
    Ammar Sajdi

    I attended a round table discussion with another 15-20 IT companies executive. The meeting was supposed to last for 20 minutes, unfortunately it was reduced to only 10 minutes; which gave us the opportunity to see Thee Bill Gates face to face, but left very little time to engage in real discussion. The discussion was led by questions and suggestion by us and for Mr Gates to answer. Again very little time was there to try to give an impression or brand Jordan ICT sector. However, the general impression was that of praise to Mr Gates and Microsoft, and there was no way to even imply that Windows or IE needs any improvement.

  3. M Arrabi Avatar
    M Arrabi

    All what Bill Gates wants is to make sure that Jordan’s eGovernment is Microsoft and Jordan’s Computer-Education is also Microsoft. MS is putting A LOT of money to convince governments & schools/universities go their way. They see this as “buying the future” deal.

    Besides that, these big names don’t make difference. We have to build our own IT sector. It seems to me that there are 3 possible options for an IT company in Jordan:
    1- Products targetting local market/Gulf
    2- Products targetting out-soucring businesses (US/Europe/Gulf)
    3- Products targetting internet end-users worldwide

    I don’t know Jordanian companies in the 3rd category yet. Technologically, nothing prevents Jordanian companies from inventing Skype or Google or the next Picture-sharing or Blog-Hosting website. Just implement an algorithm, design for scale, and publish on the web. It’ll be interesting to see attempts in this area in the future.

    The first 2 options can make one live comfortably, less risk, but also less potential.

  4. Global Voices Online Avatar
    Global Voices Online

    From the Jordanian Blogosphere

    Photography taken in the National Music Conservatory in Amman, Jordan.
    “Girl Playing the Flute” by Sabri Hakim
    This week marked two celebrations- Jordan’s Al-Faisali brought home the first-ever Asian trophy in the history of Jord…

  5. Ahmed I. Khatib Avatar
    Ahmed I. Khatib

    hi … well at the begining … i want to thank His Majesty King Abdullah II cause he let us ( The youth of jordan ) to share the iftar with him …..
    let me tell you somthing … aftar the iftar … we had a closed session with Princess Sumaya , Mr.Gates , Minister of education(Dr.Tokan) and Minister of IT ….
    this session included only 2 minuets sketch ,, and three round tables ( present , transformation , future ) that talked about the current projects … and the future projects … (about 3 min for each table ) …
    and there were a question from the students … i was the one who asked Mr.Gates …..

    really i wanna tell you .. when we finished the session … one of the microsoft lebanon told us that bill gates told him that the session ( our session ) was the most intresting session he ever had …..
    well i am happy … why ????
    1-i was happy at 1st cause i shared with His Majesty the Iftar …
    2-for seeing Mr.Bill Gates ,,,
    3-for being at the challenge to give a nice picture for jordanian youth ( projects ,, way of thinking ,, imaginations … etc )
    4-for having a nice memorial with the students & ( INJAZ ) staff ….

    well thanks very much …

    Ahmed I. Khatib
    Microsoft .Net Club ( J.U.S.T )
    Jordan University of Science and Technology

  6. mostafa Avatar

    I thought the company’s name is Mehanej!

  7. ruth nzomiwu Avatar
    ruth nzomiwu

    thanx for your sincere openess its a rare ut beautiful quality from men like you.u are a rare gem!!

  8. Ebrahim Avatar

    hi . where i can work for new idea about IT?