AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Branding Jordan as Country for Technology



Welcome to Boulder, Somewhere, USA.

Is Boulder green with grass? Is it red with sand? Does it have an active nightlife, or great cuisine? I really have no idea.

I do know one thing though: Boulder is a good city for startups.

I know this “fact” because I have been reading it everywhere during the past year. In the last issue of Fast Company. Business Week. Huffington Post. Blogs. News.

That’s the beautiful thing about the world of today. If you read it enough, you start to believe it.

Never Mind the Valley, Here’s Boulder from ReadWriteWeb on Vimeo.

Why I’ve been thinking a lot about Boulder these days though is because it is a great example on how we can brand Jordan as a thriving place for the region’s ICT sector.

It also coincides with a very hot year for us we count down to the first Tech Tuesday, an event, which according to its creators, has a very ambitious main goal of “organically fortifying and interweaving tech-ties in Amman to further our position as the region’s Silicon valley/Sahara.” It’s also in the same year where Jordan showcased its regional importance in terms of techy brain power at ArabNet, and when later on we wait to host another ICT forum in the capital come autumn.

So what can we learn from Boulder? These are quick and random thoughts, and I would appreciate any thought or idea that we can provide and document here for future reference.

1. A is for Assertive
Assertiveness is essential for branding.
It’s about saying, with a completely straight face, “Hey, man, Jordan is where the hardcore technology action is happening in the Arab world.” It’s about drilling it into everyone’s heads. It’s about getting the media to write about it. It’s about involving regional tech people in techy events in Jordan.

It’s about consistently convincing everyone that we got the shit, man.

2. Community is Love
The beautiful thing about Boulder as a case study is how the community takes matters into their own hands. They meet up, they discuss, they spread the love for tech.

That reminds me of my early days of involvement. I would have probably never become involved in this scene if I didn’t get introduced to some of the brilliant members of Amman’s tech community: Ahmad Humeid, Ammar Ibrahim, Isam Bayazidi, and many others. Connecting the community, nurturing it, and supporting it will definitely plaster Jordan’s position as an ICT leader in the industry.

Plus, Intaj can’t do miracles alone. They need the help of the community, and they need to realize that involving us to turn this initiative into a collaborative, buzzing project that is lifted by real voices and real experiences is the “key to success” (ooh, don’t you love corny phrases?)

On the flip side, we, as the community, have to realize that we need to take part of branding Jordan as well, which is why Tech Tuesday is such a cool event — it brings people together.

3. Good Design Matters
Jordan is stuck in the dark ages, design wise (and many other things wise as well, but let’s just stick to design today). The problem is not about the supply of good design, it’s much more about the demand for bad design. When demand for bad is high, why would many supply good? Demand and supply basic principles. That’s the main reason I decided to stop being a designer.

I really think that the ICT sector should be different. We should encourage the demand for good design. We should stand up to bad design. That can really set Jordan apart, as I completely believe that good design and technology revolve around each other; just think of Apple, websites like Engadget, and magazines like Wired.

Modernity and relevance in this industry are tied to aesthetics, and we can’t market Jordan globally unless the package is shiny, friendly, and fun.
 
Nice modern typography and pretty bright colors are effective weapons, sometimes.

Look at how nice the branding of Boulder is:

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We need to be world class, both visually and literally.

4. Wadi PHP
If the Facebook albums of my contacts say anything, then a very large portion of ICT professionals love hiking in the Wadis and mountains of Jordan.

Why not leverage this love? It would be a great marketing campaign for tech events, I can see the headline, “Jordan, where geeks face the challenges with both caffeine and nature.”

It’s easy and fun marketing: Let’s organize eco-tourism around ICT events and encourage people to both discuss the disaster of Arabic content online as well as try to brave the currents of Wadi Mujeb. You think PHP is messy? Try the regional bird poop at Dhana.

Let’s have brain-storming sessions on a visual style that would be a nice mix between technology and modernity with culture and history. Let’s use the bright blues, the warm reds, and the beiges in the branding of Jordan as a tech capital.

5. Cement the Community (Yes, that’s community twice)
Official bodies should help the community of this sector thrive. I know, I already said that, but I’m saying it again.

Yeah, it seems like everyone in this field knows everyone. That’s GOOD. Make deals with certain coffee-shops with fast, free WI-FI to provide discounts for the tech community. Let them start mingling even more, become friends. 

Let’s pour effort into events like Tech Tuesday.

Invite the big players. And the small players. And the smallest players. Put them all under one roof and steer the conversations towards start-ups. Create something as simple and laid back as the Boulder Start Up Week, a mash-up of different industries that somehow have technology in common, all trying to bring ideas to life. Make it cheap, accessible to students. Make deals with hotels to provide affordable accommodation for people coming from neighboring countries.

Cut the official edge. Cut the bureaucracy. Make it fun, casual, friends-meeting-friends over coffee and nice scenery kind of event.

  https://i1.wp.com/farm4.static.flickr.com/3065/2535616012_78c66e1222.jpg?resize=470%2C313

Those are my five cents of the day. You can google Boulder for some inspiration, and add your own thoughts and ideas below.

The goal: Make Amman the place to start a technology company. Make the rules easy, simple, publicly available to all on the Web.

Yeah, it’s a lot of work. But that’s the very essence of the tech field: Caffeine.

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11 Comments

  1. i can’t believe it, you might stopped designing, but you can’t help your self stop talking about colors; a major designing element.

    as you go for being realistic about the community and how it should support,supply and demand and how it affects, you should talk about market, potentials will die if its aim goal is the local or regional market, i think you guys or we should aim globally enterprisingly.

    market is harsh, there is already honest & non-honest competitive beasts there.
    .-= The latest from Mesh´s blog ..Feeling 80′s =-.

  2. Yes, the Amman Tech Community is buzzing with innovation. One thing that made Boulder succeed is that it was seen as a “destination” for tech start-ups. Amman could really be the same in the middle east but not until it is easier for non-Jordanian’s to come and work in Jordan. An innovation hub requires the best minds in the region. I was recently yelled out of the Ministry of Labor for “stealing Jordanian Jobs” when trying to get a work permit for an exceptionally talented “foreigner”. The creatives that have made Boulder a stand out tech destination are not original residents of Boulder, they came from outside to be a part of the community. Jordan does have the best talent in the region but it will never become the “Silicon Valley of the Middle East” unless the regulatory environment allows for the best talent to join in on the fun.

  3. Dave

    Boulder is in Colorado, just so you know.

  4. Najeeb

    While I agree on some point, Jordan lacks in good talent, While we have good 1-2-3 years programmers, we dont have any Senior Software engineers, we have the mentality that after 3 years of writing code, we start calling our selves a team leader and we stop learning, we dont have a PHD level engineers working , I think we need to invest more into the education system more and more, the outcome of our universities is not that pleasing with 80s-90s technology education .

    and us doing more PR than neighboring countries doesnt mean we are more successful, its just we do better PR.

    which oddly reflects on our companies, you can see the same people and same companies in media talking about technology and them being innovative, while the true innovative examples in Jordan, dont waste their time in PR and media, instead they work.. and “innovate” which translates to $ at the end of the day.

    We need to beat that culture of us saying that we have the best talent, and actually investing in creating the best talent in order to compete in Global market, and lets not look at the small fish :)

  5. I am sorry to say that Amman will not be the city where you will start Tech companies. It takes a lot more than a few names in the field. Being a person who has been involved in technology for the past 20 years, i can tell you for sure, that aside from a few people with real talent and passion, it takes a lot to build a sustained environment for real tech industry ( i do not about your speciality which i assume is in design, but i am Software) I am running a couple of companies with a little more than 80 employees doing software. The main infrastructure for software is the availability of the right people. Well, i do not want to be on the offensive, but there is huge lack when it comes to educational basics, craftsmanship , passion, attitude, responsibility, professionalism, sense of quality, sense of service, or attention to documentation. Programming itself does not account for more than 35% of a software project, i am also sorry to say that, again , very few understand the concept , coding styles and techniques to build good (non – spaghetti style ) program. If you do not believe me, just interview fresh graduates and experienced programmer and ask them, for example, to define and apply true object oriented concept, or precisely define Normlization in database data modelling, and Alas, you will come to conclude that “us” being an IT hub is what you would call, wishful thinking. You will, however, find individual who can rise as examples to prove that my opinion is wrong, while i am aware of some of those people, and some of whom work closely with me, and while a handful can be enough to build a few successful companies, it is not enough to build institutionalized industry; we are way behind and not going in the right track. The culture that prevails in Boulder simple is not her, you need to revamp the infrastructure her. Sorry for coming down so harsh but if we do not face things realistically, we cannot be effective. There have been many initiatives to market Jordan as an ICT hub since the late 90s, like REACH 1, REACH2 etc ,, but, how can we market something that we really do not have. Most of the successes that you hear about are driven by individual, and such individual successes undoubtedly exist in every industry and every country.

  6. Mesh, lol, I’ll never stop being a designer designer. Just won’t do that as a career :) You’re right.. aiming global is important, but branding local is too :) Thanks for your thoughts Mohannad.

    Heath, great point. Of course, these success stories are all about learning from other experiences, and opening the borders to new ideas and solutions. It is quite sad how the we have so many laws in regards to hiring, when our local market really needs a kick in the butt to start working harder.

    Dave. lol, thanks man :P

    Najeeb, thanks for your comment. You’re right of course, about education in our universities being absurd, and experience being even more absurd. But wouldn’t you agree that technology is about passion? Honestly, I have lost hope in the educational institutes in this country. I was thinking yesterday about how I haven’t learned much in my four years at JU. I learned what I did learn by myself, and most of the great developers I know did the same. It’s not completely the fault of education.. it’s also the fault of our culture that encourages spoonfeeding. But that is a different issue altogether, much deeper and harder to solve that the simple issue of branding.

    Ammar, I understand and agree with your concern. As I was telling Najeeb, education in our universities is absurdly bad. But wouldn’t you agree that technology is about passion? Honestly, I have lost hope in the educational institutes in this country. I was thinking yesterday about how I haven’t learned much in my four years at JU. I learned what I did learn by myself, and most of the great developers I know did the same. It’s not completely the fault of education.. it’s also the fault of our culture that encourages spoonfeeding. But that is a different issue altogether, much deeper and harder to solve that the simple issue of branding.

  7. @Ammar

    mosh ra7 agdar agool aktar men heek, jebt-ha 3al waja3. *Computer Engineer*

    I’ve been recently involved with few foreign software products which suppose to be a real time systems.. i can assure you that they do also lack for well engineered designed, structured of the SW, no one is complete, still we are far behind them.

    @Roba, i do also believe that University doesn’t give as much as we learn by our selves, but if they do give pure correct knowledge, they will save us a lot of pain in the A**, i can find that easily in every day’s life: I’ve took a course about this or that at university so at least will makes things easier for me, if not make me able to solve a problem with that semi-knowledge.
    .-= The latest from Mesh´s blog ..Feeling 80′s =-.

  8. As Dave said, Boulder is in Colorado, near Denver, high up (altitude a hair over a mile) in the Rocky Mountains. Lots of green, surrounded by forests, national and state parks, wildlife preserves, hiking trails, skiing (particularly cross-country as opposed to downhill (Nordic as opposed to Alpine)), rock-climbing, grizzly bears and mountain lions. Short summers, long mild winters buried in many feet of snow.

    It’s a small city, with a state university and a Buddhist university. The social atmosphere is very “green”, and it’s very hippie-feeling. People who moved to Boulder two decades ago were not thinking about making money – they were more likely to want to “do good for the world” and “save the planet”. That kind of social atmosphere is likely to attract open minds, and lead to innovative solutions.
    .-= The latest from Silk´s blog ..2952 Thoughts =-.

  9. Talal

    Although it pains me to say this due to my love for everything Apple, I think something else that we should capitalise on is the presence of arguably the world’s biggest IT company in Jordan that is already contributing quite a lot to the local IT community…no doubt they are making plenty of money from their agreements with the government etc etc and ensuring our young are hooked to their products from an early age but from what I hear they are also contributing quite a bit in developing skills, providing students with free access to their technologies and products, supporting the ministry of IT’s various programs and initiatives and also providing free IT training through a development centre they established here a few years back. We may consider them the big evil, but perhaps credit should be given to them for establishing such an active presence in Jordan and directly contributing to the growth and development of the sector – unofrtunately the same can’t be said for Apple, Google or any of the other big IT players – and we should capitalise on their presence by publicising it as much as possible in order to attract other big IT companies to also set up a presence in Jordan…if its good enough for them, then surely its good enough for the others!

    I long for the day that a Google and/or Apple office opens here (my resume is ready!), but until then we should take advantage of the presence of the other company.

  10. Mesh, lol, sa7 7akyak of course :) I learned how to learn in highschool, which is why I guess it’s much easier for me. It must suck for people who didn’t learn to do that! I really hope education improves….

    Silk, thanks for the lovely intro about Boulder :) That looks like a pretty awesome city. If it weren’t for the cold you mentioned, I might actually be inclined to visit :)

    Talal, excellent point about Microsoft. I agree with you, they have been making a difference for years, educating and helping students and people who just joined the job market. Plus, Microsoft have been getting better, don’t you think? I do hate IE with a passion, but Microsoft and their other products are excellent products, and the “Big Brother Asshole” title has been divided pretty equally these last few years with them, Google, and Apple.

    Thanks for the comments, guys :)

  11. One other comment, I am positive that it doesn’t hurt that Boulder has a HUGE IBM facility. I mean huge. Their campus is lovely. I worked with a guy out there (was really surprised that there’s no mountain. Bummer really. That said…

    You are 100% correct that what we put out there can have a bearing on reality. If the government says the economy is crap, it will be (I call this the W model of poor economic performance). If we say Boulder is a great place for start-ups, it may become. HOWEVER (you knew that was coming didn’t you), in order to be a great place for start-ups and innovation, you have to reward the behavior. I am certain that in Boulder it doesn’t cst anywhere near 1000 JDs to register a company, it doesn’t take 3+ weeks, you don’t have to argue for weeks over the name, and you don’t ahve to rent out commerical space. These things may seem minor, but I assure you they aren’t. When you’re innovating and giving creativity a try, not have barriers makes a huge difference.

    As for the failings of the educational system, well I’m pretty well documented on my feelings about this. The Jordanian education system systematically destroys creativity and innovation and then laments its lack. Until the college entrance exam/high school graduation test are not based on rote memorization of others’ ideas, tis will be nearly impossible to change… Sigh. Great post Ruba and sorry for the book!
    .-= The latest from MommaBean´s blog ..The trouble with the "boys will be boys"-and-they’re-only-bothering-the-non-veiled-infidels train of thought =-.

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