Startup Kingdom: Jordan's IT Boom
June 21, 2011
For all of the talk of Egypt and Facebook, Jordan is the technology leader in the Middle East. Last month, Oasis500, a Jordanian angel fund for IT startups, signed a strategic partnership with Microsoft for boosting IT entrepreneurship in Jordan. Actively supported by King Abdullah and his development fund, Oasis500 aims to fund 500 startups in the next five years.
Tech entrepreneurs tend to thrive in Jordan. Startup costs are low, and an educated but resource-scarce population has made the monarchy keen on innovation. Infrastructure is also stronger than in rival markets: Egypt, for example, has less than half of Jordan’s Internet bandwidth per person, according to the World Bank. Jordanian startups also have an impressive track record. A social network founded in Jordan, d1g.com, hosts the Internet’s largest stream of Arabic videos, according to MIT’s Technology Review. Every month, the site streams so many videos it would take 30 years to watch them all.
Jordan itself is too small a market to sustain a vibrant tech sector. Most products are intended for export, and a key niche is producing Arabic-language products destined for countries such as Saudi Arabia, where English language skills are scarcer and incomes higher.
Other Jordanian businesses take a different approach. Dakwak.com’s product, for example, attaches to websites and automatically translates them into visitors’ native languages. And IrisGuard is a Jordanian company that is a world leader in iris recognition technology. No language there—just pure engineering.
This piece is a part of Mezze, a monthly short article series spotlighting societal trends across the region. It originally appeared in the Middle East Program's monthly newsletter, Middle East Notes and Comment. For more information and to receive our mailings, please contact the Middle East Program.