Business visit to Palestine

From 11 to 13 December 2017 I joined a business visit to Palestine organized by Paul Tjia in collaboration with the Palestinian Market Development Program (PMDP). 

First day we were on the Expotech, initiated by the Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies (PITA). With delegations from Sweden, Greece, Dubai, Jordan, the Netherlands and many Palestine companies, an interesting mix of people were present in the Millennium hotel in Ramallah. Listening to the presentations of sponsors and experts, ranging from the tense situation in Palestine to the achievements of the IT-sector in spite of the numerous challenges. From lacking 4G mobile and an incomplete implementation of 3G, to artificial intelligence. From augmented and virtual reality to the under-looked or undermined women pioneers in innovation. I liked the talk of Haifa Takrouri about those women a lot. Ever heard of Dr. Maria Telkes responsible for the first home entirely heated by solar power in 1947? Or Helen Sharman, the first Brit in space?

Later that day the Dutch delegation headed towards Rawabi, a new city in development aimed to be the main Tech Hub of Palestine. Although delayed because of water disputes with Israel and still a bit empty, the aspirations and ambitions are high. One of the biggest outsource companies, already moved to Rawabi and they give us a tour through the city and their own modern and attractive offices. After the tour we drove back and enjoyed a gala diner at the Expotech. That night we explored Ramallah a little bit more with Aref from Iconnect, our colleague Mariam and Mohammed, her husband.

The next days were scheduled with business to business meetings. Also a last minute morning meeting in Nablus with two companies was agreed upon. Looking for good Python/Odoo programmers is a goal, but finding them in companies who are busy with Odoo themselves for the local or regional market, is really interesting. That would stimulate the mutual knowledge sharing even more. And indeed, Odoo starts landing in the Middle East! A few companies made their first Odoo implementing steps.

Except from local customers, Jordan, Egypt or Qatar, many customers of the outsourcing companies are located in the United States and quite a few in Europe. So, if you look for Palestine team members, you can find European, American and Palestine style companies and approaches for your projects. Astonishing or not, also the clients from Israel count, although neither the customers nor the suppliers like to talk in public about it.

I learned furthermore that the concept of Open Source is not very popular yet. Some local business systems exists already, with low license costs and free support. Many potential customers think Open Source is not secure, or bad quality. Often knowing people is more important then the qualities of the system or team you deliver.

In many aspects an even more challenging situation then when Therp started in the Netherlands.

On Tuesday our delegation was invited for diner by the Dutch representative in Palestine, holding residence in Jerusalem. Because the nearest checkpoint, Kalandia, was closed, he send his diplomatic car for us, which opened the gate, and postponed for me the inhuman experience to pass a militarized border without such assistance.

At the diner Peter Mollema and Tys Hoekstra welcomed the business visit to Palestine and stressed the importance. We got also a lot of information about their work in Palestine, which is not not so much at the political level of the conflict, but more practical, like being an intermediary in water disputes and coming up with workable solutions.

As for the many companies from Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, Rawabi and even Gaza (remote call) we spoke to, some will get an invitation from Therp to follow our -soon to organize- Odoo training. From there we’ll take our next step.