Many of the world’s major software and hardware IT companies, including Cisco, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle and Samsung, are present in Jordan. In addition to targeting the local market, a number of these firms use the kingdom as their regional centre. For example, Oracle’s regional office for the Middle East and Africa, as well as Central and Eastern Europe, is located in Jordan. The company undertakes a variety of activities from its Amman office, including pre-sales, sales, business operations, consulting and R&D. Cisco has also used the kingdom as a base to target markets across the region. The presence of such firms underlines Jordan’s attractiveness as a stable base with high-calibre human resources from which to serve the wider region.
HEALTH CARE: Foreign firms are expanding IT services into various segments and helping the development of other industries and the national economy through the use of computing technology. Cisco, for example, has, partnered with the King Abdullah II Fund for Development and the Information and Communications Technology Association of Jordan (Int@j) to create the Jordan Health Care ICT Taskforce. The body aims to develop the kingdom’s health care-ICT cluster capacity and promote Jordanian health care-ICT technologies that Cisco – which was previously active in e-learning initiatives – believes will expand access. “Like e-learning, e-health care has the potential to extend medical provision to rural and underserved communities,” Ashraf Arafeh, the general manager of Cisco Jordan, told OBG, though he said it will be critical for policymakers, businesses and health care providers to raise awareness of e-health care services. Arafeh feels Jordan has the potential to replicate its success as a medical tourism centre in the technology-driven end of the business. “By adopting ehealth care solutions, Jordan could become a regional centre for this $100m segment.”
Foreign firms have also identified a number of IT niches they believe are very promising. Raed Hajarat, the MEA and Jordan managing director at Oracle, believes Arabic content production represents a major opportunity. “The region needs more Arabic content, whether in games, mobile phone applications or multimedia. To have a dynamic content industry, Jordan must first develop a culture that places greater emphasis on innovative thinking. OASIS 500 has been a very successful initiative in this respect,” Hajarat told OBG.
Mohammed Helal, the country manager for Jordan and the Levant for Dell, cites business process outsourcing (BPO) as a potential growth segment that can also help tackle wider economic challenges. “Given its high level of unemployment, Jordan should focus on developing a BPO industry, which could create thousands of jobs and add tremendous value to the economy,” he told OBG. “The kingdom’s advantages include strong human resources, an ICT-friendly government and a local dialect that is widely understood across the region. That said, Jordan needs to improve the communications skills of its IT graduates, and the cost of running BPO operations is still relatively high.”
SURVEY SUCCESS: Data from other sources supports the notion that Jordan is one of the region’s most attractive countries in terms of BPO services, but that it needs to deal with a number of challenges. A.T. Kearny ranked the kingdom 22nd out of 50 countries in its 2011 Global Services Location Index, which rates the attractiveness in terms of offshoring of 50 countries worldwide. Jordan ranked third among MENA countries. The kingdom scored 2.97 out of 4 in the financial attractiveness category, 1.49 out of 3 for business environment and 0.77 out of 3 for people skills and availability, giving it a total score of 5.23 out of 10, compared to Egypt’s 5.81 and the UAE’s 5.41. Jordan has fallen in the ratings in recent years, having been in ninth place in 2009, though political developments the region since the rankings were published in early 2011 appear likely to highlight Jordan’s comparative political stability, increasing its attractiveness compared to some other regional competitors.