Friday, November 11, 2011

Conference Focuses on IT Growth in Palestine

By capitalizing on its educated labor pool, proximity to Israel, and technical strength, information technology has become the fastest-growing part of the Palestinian economy, speakers told a daylong conference cosponsored by the MBA student Middle East and North Africa Club.

STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS — By capitalizing on its educated labor pool, proximity to Israel, and technical strength, information technology has become the fastest-growing part of the Palestinian economy, speakers told a daylong conference cosponsored by the MBA student Middle East and North Africa Club.

Business leaders from Silicon Valley and the Middle East discussed the information technology market in Palestine during a one-day conference sponsored by the MBA student Middle East and North Africa Club. From left, Tony Lahlouh of Lahlouh Printing, Marjan Hassanein and Usama Hassanein both of Techwadi, and Yehya Al-Sakqan of Jaffa net.

The TechWadi 2011 Fall Forum included business leaders from both the Middle East and Silicon Valley including venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, academics, and developers for the October 8 event held on the Stanford Graduate School of Business campus. Participants included the Palestinian Information Technology Association, representing 56 companies from Palestine's IT business sector.

Khaled Nasr, a partner at InterWest Partners venture firm, described consumer mobile applications, cloud infrastructure, and big data, as areas of particular interest for VC investment. Health care information technology is a growing area of interest, he said, as investors shift away from hardware and semiconductors.

Alexis Ringwald, a Bay Area entrepreneur and Fulbright scholar, described the convoy of solar-powered vehicles she led across India to raise awareness on clean energy research. Struck by the interest of the locals — traffic stops usually ended with local police officers trying to purchase the vehicle — she then founded Valence Energy, an energy-use monitoring software company, which was later acquired by Serious Energy.

Miriam Abu Sharkh, visiting professor at the Stanford Center for International Development, showed a clip from her documentary, Gaza: Tunnels to Nowhere, about a father's quest to escape Gaza to attend his daughter's wedding. Omar Dajani, professor of law at University of the Pacific, Sacramento, and a negotiator of the Middle Eastern conflict, and Jess Ghannam, chief of medical psychology at the University of California, San Francisco, led a dialogue on the importance of identity, organization, and cooperation among members of the wider diaspora.