Business visit to Palestine

From 11 to 13 December 2017 I joined a business visit to Palestine organized by Paul Tía in collaboration the Palestinian Market development Program (PMDP) and PITA (Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies.

First day, Monday 11, we were on the Expotech. With delegations from Sweden, Greece, Dubai, Jordan and 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 G4 and problemful G3 GSM connections to Artificial Intelligence (AI). From augmented and virtual reality to the under-looked or undermined women pioneers in innovation. I learned a lot of the talk of of Haifa Takrouri (link) about those women. 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 (link), 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. Of course finding Python/Odoo programmers was the main goal, but finding them in companies who are interested in Odoo themselves for the local or regional market is even more interesting. After all, that would stimulate the mutual knowledge sharing to a maximum. And indeed, Odoo starts landing in the Middle East! A few companies made their first Odoo implementing steps.


Except from local customers and Jordan, Egypt and Qatar, many customers of the Palestine companies are located in the United States and quite a few in Europe. If you look for outsourcing to Palestine you can find European, American and Palestine style companies and approaches for your projects. Surprising or not, also 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 ERP-like 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. An even more challenging situation then when Therp started in the Netherlands.


Tuesday our delegation was invited for diner by the Dutch representative in Palestine, holding residence in Jerusalem. Because the nearest checkpoint, Kalandia (link), was closed, they send their 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 Mollenaar (link) 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 practical solutions.


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