Jericho, 04 September 2018 – The Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies (PITA) and Palestine Information and Communication Technology Incubator (PICTI), hosted the first ICT solutions competition at the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park (JAIP), where five young entrepreneurs (4 from West Bank and 1 from Gaza), selected by a jury of local and international experts, won a trip to Japan to further develop their business ideas into prototypes in addition to USD 1000 each and a presentation at the 2018 Palestine Expotech week.
H.E. Takeshi Okubo, Ambassador for the Palestinian Affairs, and Representative of Japan to Palestine, thanked the efforts made by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies (PITA). “The ICT sector has a huge potential to significantly contribute towards the economic growth in Palestine where well-educated and talented youth present a high percentage of the population,” he stated. “Our Foreign Minister H.E. Yohei Kono announced upgrading the initiative by promoting the ICT sector and facilitating logistics during his last visit to Palestine in December 2017. Therefore, the Government of Japan decided to hold this competition as one of our actions to materialize this upgrading plan,” he added.
The Ja-Pal’s DigiBiz Solutions initiative aims at identifying talented entrepreneurs from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip who have innovative business ideas that address different socio-economic issues linked with the Sustainable Development Goals and can make a difference in people’s lives.
Dr Yahya Al-Salqan, Chairman of PITA, highlighted that as part of their mandate and since their inception, both PITA and PICTI have facilitated and supported young Palestinian ICT start-ups and entrepreneurs with expertise, know-how, seed funding and paved the way to set-up and manage their own companies with an overwhelming ambition. “We have provided sustainable channeling between startups, accelerators and investors at both the local and international levels, including the Palestinian Diaspora. For the very first year, PITA and PICTI are launching this initiative in partnership with UNDP/ and the Government of Japan,” he added.
Mr Sufian Mushasha, UNDP Senior Policy Advisor, thanked the Government of Japan and the partner institutions for supporting this important initiative and emphasized that UNDP will continue advocating for such ICT for development initiatives to ensure their future growth.
Over 100 applications were received and assessed by a peer committee of university professors, private sector representatives, JAIP and others. 25 applicants from the West Bank and Gaza Strip (11 women, 14 men) were shortlisted and further mentored on the development and pitching of their business ideas.
Unlike other competitions, this contest challenges the applicants to step outside of their traditional context and use their creative ICT skills to work on issues important to them and the community. The contest, which took place on 04 September 2018, gave these entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a jury of local and international experts, including business representatives from Japan.
In addition to the competition, a Business to Business side event took place were 15 Japanese and 12 Palestinian ICT company representatives met to discuss the potential of the Palestinian ICT environment. Both ministries of National Economy and Telecommunications and Information Technology gave presentations on the current context and future prospects of development and cooperation.
The event, which took place at the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park (JAIP), was attended by H.E. Takeshi Okubo, Ambassador for the Palestinian Affairs, Representative of Japan to the Palestinian Authority; Dr Yahya Al-Salqan, Chairman of the PITA; Mr Shinya Fujii, Director General of Service Industry Department, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO); Dr Safa Nassereldin, Vice President at Al Quds University and Chairperson of the Committee of Exploration, Stimulation, Incubation and Experimental Development at the Higher Counsel of Innovation of Excellence; Dr Ali A. Shaath, CEO of the Palestinian Industrial Estates and Free Zones Authority (PIEFZA); Mr Bassam Hamid Walweel, Chairman of Board of Directors, Jericho Agro-Industrial Park Co.; Ms Rania Jaber Naser, Policies and Strategies Manager, Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology, and Mr Sufian Mushasha, UNDP Senior Policy Advisor.