Palestinian Information Communications Technology Capacity Building Initiative
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today announced the launch of the Palestinian Information Communications Technology Capacity Building Initiative (PITI). This initiative is designed to enhance Palestinian economic capacity in the information communications technology (ICT) sector by facilitating partnerships between Palestinian ICT companies and U.S. multinational companies, particularly those with operations in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel, Jordan, and the broader Middle East. This initiative, modeled on successful ventures by U.S. companies, also seeks to strengthen the Palestinian private sector by encouraging broader economic growth, development and job creation for Palestinians.
The Palestinian ICT sector has grown rapidly over the last five years. Approximately 250 Palestinian ICT companies—mostly small businesses—employ 5,800 people; nearly 1,000 Palestinian students graduate annually in ICT-related fields. Skilled ICT labor costs are competitive and there are an estimated 10,000 qualified Palestinian workers available for employment in this sector. Most of the graduates are bi-lingual, further boosting their competitiveness in the international marketplace. This initiative will continue to advance Palestinian ICT competitiveness by working with multinational IT companies, helping Palestinians foster innovation and gain advanced skills in marketing and project management, and improving the long-term investment climate.
PITI, led by the Department of State in partnership with USAID and Partners for a New Beginning, will help expand U.S. investment in Palestinian companies and promote new business opportunities in the region. Initial PITI partner companies include: Cisco, Google, HP, Intel, Medcor, and Salesforce.com. These companies announced commitments to initiate or expand projects with Palestinian companies during the December 17 launch of the PITI at the Department of State:
- Cisco will invest $5 million in the Middle East Venture Capital Fund. The investment is an extension beyond Cisco’s commitment over the past two years to help develop the Palestinian ICT sector by collaborating with Palestinian companies like Exalt, ASAL Technologies, and GSSI on research and development projects and training programs that support the development of information and communication technology skills in the Palestinian Territories.
Google will make a $2 million investment into supporting the internet ecosystem and is currently investigating 3 areas:
- an investment in the Middle East Venture Capital Fund;
- a grant to MercyCorps' Arab Developer Network Initiative; and
- other opportunities for incubation and seed funding for entrepreneurs in Gaza and the West Bank
- HP will make a long-term commitment to collaborating with small and mid-sized businesses in the region and will start by increasing the size and scope of its Exalt project. HP collaborated with USAID, Exalt Technologies and ASAL Technologies on two different projects in FY 2010. In both projects, USAID provided training to the Palestinian companies’ engineers and also subsidized the first contract for both companies, which lasted for six months. Both projects were implemented with great success and, as a result, HP will expand its Exalt project without additional USAID support.
- Intel will expand its research and development project with ASAL Technology. In November 2008, Intel Israel signed a scope of work agreement with ASAL. The engineering project started with two engineers and has increased to 12 engineers with an expected 25 percent growth of the project in 2011. The ASAL teams are applying engineering skills to help test and validate wireless technology solutions.
- Medcor will launch a telemedicine project with IConnect, a Palestinian technology company, in early 2011. The project will support a minimum of 14 full-time developers for two years. This project follows successful completion of an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) project that has supported 12 Palestinian programmers in Kurf Aqab and Ramallah since 2008. Medcor is planning another EMR project that could support an additional 16 developers for two years, pending funding and board approval.
- Salesforce.com Foundation, together with partner Idealist Consulting, has committed to an economic development program to provide Palestinian-based technology firms with the skills needed to run a consulting, implementation, and development practice based on Salesforce cloud computing solutions. The project is intended to create opportunities to deliver Salesforce solutions in English and Arabic to NGOs for free or steeply discounted rates as well as to businesses in the West Bank and Gaza, and throughout the Middle East. Initial implementations will be carried out on Salesforce licenses donated to Palestinian NGOs and institutes of education to increase their capacity to have social and educational impact.
By providing ongoing support to these partnerships, PITI will strengthen the Palestinian private sector and encourage sustainable economic growth and development. PITI invites additional companies to join this initiative to increase investment and capacity building in the Palestinian private sector. The United States is committed to helping Palestinians build the institutions necessary for a future state, including a thriving private sector that promotes entrepreneurship, economic opportunity, and prosperity for the Palestinian people.