RAMALLAH — The United States is channeling nearly $4 million through 2006 to promote the development of information and communication technology in the Palestinian Territories.
Funded through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Palestine Information and Communications Technology Incubator (PICTI) opened in the Al-Sheikh Commercial Tower in the West Bank city of Ramallah in May and is seeking Palestinian entrepreneurs to partner with.
“This state-of-the-art office space offers technology innovators an environment that encourages creativity while meeting their specialized needs for advanced technical support,” said PICTI’s first Chief Executive Officer David Bailey.
“Incubator clients will have an entire suite of advanced business development, marketing and promotion services, including a dedicated web portal,” Bailey added. A dedicated web portal is a website that PICTI develops and maintains for a Palestinian enterprise.
Business incubators provide support and financing for entrepreneurs, including services such as concept development, legal review, market and business assessment, competitive analysis, packaging, targeting, regulatory advice, and entity management.
PICTI has been chartered to operate as a not-for-profit institution that eventually intends to be self-sustaining with income from service fees and minority investments in companies it helps launch. After participating in a Palestinian trade show in September and in another in Dubai in October, PICTI now is vetting partnership proposals from a number of Palestinian enterprises. Bailey said PICTI is giving serious consideration to proposals from four individual Palestinian businessmen engaged in telecommunications, web-based products and remote monitoring which have applications for medicine, security, data management and accounting.
In addition to individual businessmen, PICTI also encourages business groups and universities to apply. PICTI sources say the business incubator aims to have established partnership agreements with a dozen or so Palestinian entrepreneurs by the end of 2004. It hopes to conclude partnership agreements with IT Centers of Excellence in the Palestinian Territories, which are supported by the IT giants, Cisco and Oracle.
Innovation Republic, a Palestinian IT market and product development firm, based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has benefited from PICTI’s advisory services in its development of an accounting software program that it plans to distribute throughout the Middle East. Innovation Republic sources say the firm is likely to seek further PICTI services as it moves into the marketing phase.
Said Abu Hijleh, strategic adviser to PICTI and director of Development Alternatives, Inc., Palestine (DAI), said USAID is not simply a donor, but rather is a partner for PICTI, sitting on its board.
“It’s not the typical scenario of USAID providing project funding and walking away when it’s done. PICTI is meant to be a sustainable, permanent institution in Palestine,” Abu Hijleh said.
PICTI is expected to make available as much as $5 million in financing for first time entrepreneurs and for expansion of existing businesses beginning in the first quarter of 2005, according to Abu Hijleh. He added that at least a dozen additional entrepreneur proposals are expected by early 2005.
The Palestinian Information Technology Association, the Palestine Trade Organization, and the Palestine Banking Corporation have also contributed to the establishment of PICTI.