A pillar of the Jordanian economy, the ICT sector has been the center of attention for decades as efforts are continuously underway to capitalize on the country’s position as a major ICT player and solutions exporter. With a GDP contribution worth around 12 percent, the ICT sector has witnessed significant growth over the years. In 2015, IT revenues grew to more than USD 600 million, while the telecom sector’s total revenues reached more than USD 1.35 billion.
Attractive Investment Environment
In a country with limited natural resources, Jordan has had to rely on the creative innovations of its human capital to spur economic growth. From the early 2000s, incubators, venture capital firms, startup accelerators and co-working spaces like Oasis500, iPark and V Business Center have been steadily popping up, helping facilitate the making of a vibrant local entrepreneurial scene and making Amman the 10th best place to establish a startup in the world. With a growing pool of talented Jordanians and relatively low running costs, Jordan is regarded as an ideal testing ground for any startup. Home to more than 600 tech companies of which at least 300 are startups, Jordan continues to leverage its close-knit network of partners to promote the country as an ideal location to launch a business. The country has continuously strived to develop state-of-the-art infrastructure to make way for the robust diffusion of technologies to all sectors, undertaking projects such as the National Broadband Network, which aims to connect different healthcare, public and educational entities through fiber-optic networks. For these reasons, new generations of innovative entrepreneurs are continually emerging and coming up with more out-of-the-box ideas suited for the region.
Jordan is the best kept secret in the global ICT sector; this situation, however, is about to change. The country launched the REACH2025 initiative in 2016 to streamline the digital transformation of the Jordanian economy. REACH2025’s vision is to have a digital economy that empowers people, sectors and businesses to raise productivity and ensure growth and prosperity, creating a highly-attractive business destination for investments and international partnerships. By encouraging public-private sector collaboration, and by moving towards the digitalization of major sectors like health, energy and cleantech, education, finance, transport, communications and security, the action plan seeks to accelerate GDP growth by an additional 3 to 4 percent. These sectors’ revenues are also expected to increase by between 25 and 30 percent, subsequently creating 5,000 to 7,000 new businesses and adding up to 130,000 to 150,000 jobs by year 2025.
With economy-wide transformations underway, REACH2025 will build on Jordan’s forte of having a young and tech-savvy population to inspire a new generation of successful entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs capable of keeping pace with the technological advancements taking place worldwide.
Digitizing the Public Sector
The Government of Jordan has been working on enhancing the number of e-government services available in efforts to transform the way stakeholders interact and participate with the government. Nearly 150 e-government services are now available in various government institutions, while an additional 70 e-services are expected to be launched by end of 2017. Meanwhile, the government is working to fully replace citizens’ traditional ID cards with smart ID cards, enabling quicker and simpler access to e-government services. In line with its efforts to extend further paperless offerings, in 2015, the Central Bank of Jordan announced the launch of eFAWATEERcom, a portal that aims to enable citizens to inquire about, review and settle their bills online, including water, electricity, telecom, education and healthcare bills, as well as government fines and taxes.
Jordanian ICT Goes Global
As Jordan continues to foster an innovation-enabling ecosystem, it has managed to capture the attention of several global tech giants, such as Oracle and Cisco. In 2017, Microsoft opened a new Customer Service and Support Hub, making it the company’s second global setup in Jordan. Similarly, travel company Expedia recently decided to capitalize on the talented local software developers by opening its own office in the capital city. Another major recent development in the sector has been the sale of the regional company, Souq.com, which hosts more than 400 employees in Jordan as its major technology center in the region. This is in addition to several other companies that operate in the region and employ technical Jordanians at their branches in Jordan.