OBG talks to Basem Rousan, Former Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

JordanICT

Interview

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Basem Rousan, Former Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Interview: Basem Rousan

How has funding affected the ICT sector recently?

BASEM ROUSAN: Due to budgetary constraints, government spending on ICT has dropped considerably. This has had a negative impact on local ICT companies by reducing the number of available government contracts and tenders, which are important given the small size of the domestic market. Moreover, due to the slowdown in regional markets, and in the Gulf in particular, ICT enterprises in Jordan have seen fewer business opportunities overseas. Despite these challenges, the ICT sector in Jordan still provides more than $500m to the treasury each year, and creates around 80,000 jobs. In 2011, the sector’s contribution to GDP reached 14%, up markedly from a mere 2% in 2000.

In what ways are multinational corporations helping the ICT industry, and what is being done to encourage more foreign direct investment (FDI)?

ROUSAN: Multinational ICT corporations are creating thousands of jobs, transferring technology and expertise to Jordan, and demonstrating to the world that this is an excellent destination for FDI. To encourage further investment, the government provides corporate income tax exemptions on all exported goods and services, and offers a unified corporate income tax rate of 14% for service-based industries. Furthermore, we have created special economic zones across the country that offer additional tax and Customs exemptions, and special rules allowing foreign companies to operate here without incorporating. Multinationals like HP and Microsoft have also benefitted from access to our local talent, which we hone through job-placement schemes such as the Graduates Internship Programme.

How can the Kingdom of Jordan ensure that it has a sufficient number of qualified ICT workers?

ROUSAN: We are working closely with universities to ensure ICT curricula in Jordan are aligned with employers’ requirements. In partnership with the private sector, we plan to establish a training academy to provide demand-driven education to current and future ICT workers. This programme will strengthen the bridge between graduates and the labour market.

To what extent are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) using ICT solutions, and how can more technology adoption be promoted?

ROUSAN: ICT is an enabling platform that can help companies streamline management, enhance customer service, develop new products and more effectively target growth markets overseas. Thus, we are working to promote ICT awareness in the local business community, particularly among SMEs, which represent the vast majority of Jordanian businesses. For example, at the Microsoft Open Door 2011 event held in Amman, we highlighted how cloud computing can store data and reduce maintenance costs.

It is important to note that ICT solutions can also streamline public sector operations. E-government is an important topic for the kingdom’s policymakers, who are keen to form revenue sharing partnerships with ICT experts in the private sector. In April, the ministry launched a new e-government mobile portal that provides mobile users access to 27 public services.

What measures are being implemented to promote entrepreneurship and facilitate ICT start-ups?

ROUSAN: Several programmes and incentives have been put in place to encourage entrepreneurship in ICT, as evidenced by the increase in the number of companies in the sector from just 20 in 2000 to 450 in 2011. Most recently, the capital requirement to establish a new business in Jordan was lowered from JD30,000 ($42,150) to JD1000 ($1405), a measure that will promote further start-up activity in the coming years.

Private and non-governmental organisations have also been very active in stimulating entrepreneurship. For instance, last year Oasis 500, a counsellor-driven seed investment programme, helped secure investment funding for two promising digital publishing start-ups.

Anchor text: 
Basem Rousan

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