RAMALLAH: Business leaders in Palestine have welcomed a new $10 million initiative funded by Google to support local tech graduates, developers and entrepreneurs.
The three-year program, which aims to help people in the industry improve their digital skills and improve their job opportunities, was announced by Ruth Porat, chief financial officer of Alphabet and Google, during a panel discussion in Jerusalem organized by Jest, Jerusalem Entrepreneurs. Association for Technology and Community Services.
Porat said the initiative will ensure the contribution of global companies to the development of Palestine’s technological environment.
Jest CEO Hani Al-Alami said: “This is an important development for the Palestinians, as relations with Google had weakened in services, search and maps, and there was neglect and injustice towards the Palestinians.
He told Arab News that Google “hasn’t provided anything to the Palestinians, we’ve been playing with them for a while.”
Al-Alami said he urged Google to train Palestinian graduates in its system to increase their skill level, adding that he also ordered business tools for Palestinian startups.
Palestinian universities produce about 3,500 high-tech engineering graduates each year, but many of them go to work in Israel or Arab countries. About 1,000 are doing outsourced work for international and Israeli companies, while others are leaving the industry altogether.
“We look forward to seeing a Google building in Palestine, like there is in Israel, to help develop the skills of Palestinian engineers and graduates,” Al-Alami said. “Because training and collaborating with Google gives them experience and prestige when they open their own startup in the future.”
He added that he was looking to attract 10 other global high-tech companies to invest and work in the growing Palestinian market.
Issues faced by the local tech sector – in particular the need to include a map of Palestine on electronic platforms – as well as its technological and digital rights were also discussed at the Jest meeting.
Mahmoud Khweiss, CEO of Techlinic in East Jerusalem, said the initiative “provides Palestinian engineers and graduates with the specialized training and skills they need to advance their work in this field. opportunity to work in Google offices in Arab countries.”
If Palestinian graduates had the choice of training and working with Google or in the Israeli high-tech sector, they would choose Google “without hesitation”, Khweiss said, because it would be better to pass through the military checkpoints between the West Bank and Israel every day.
“No one is saying no to training and working with Google,” he told Arab News.
Despite Israel’s absolute control over Palestine’s internet networks and services, Palestinians are considered one of the best communities in the Arab world for digital technology and social media. This is due to the lack of geographical connection between the West Bank and Gaza and the widespread use of social media by Palestinians in their fight against Israeli aggression.
Meanwhile, Google on Sunday announced a new $25 million initiative to fund technology skills development programs for members of underrepresented communities in Israel.