Tag Archives: Society

Doing business in Palestine

A colleague of mine and I were invited in Ramallah by a HP partner in Palestine to give presentations about the latest HP technology in servers and storage. This was an amazing four-days experience from which I learned a lot.

After I had seen the invitation for this event, my first reaction  was to check on both the French and German ministry of foreign affairs to see if it was really safe to go there. Fortunately, both of them made clear that there was no risk of going to the West Bank, but that we should take to behave appropriately.

We arrived right from Istanbul after the HP Enterprise Technology & Solutions Summit at the Tel-Aviv Ben Gourion airport and were driven by our contacts directly to Ramallah.

The first thing I learnt from this visit is how hard the environment is for Palestinian businesses. Due to political reasons, there is a lack of support that hinders the development of the Palestinian economy. Freedom of movement to enter Israel from the Palestinian territories is restricted, and there are checks along the roads, either from Palestinian security forces or from Tsahal. Furthermore, the state of the roads is poor and increases the time spent to drive even a few kilometers to hours. The electricity delivery was, however, impeccable , as were the cell phone network coverage and the Internet connectivity in hotels.
From what I could experience during these four days, the Palestinian people have a lot of courage to develop new businesses in these tough conditions. Although the situation is calm in the West Bank, the feeling remains that everything could change from one day to another. There is a saying in Palestine “Anyone who succeeds to open a business in Palestine can do that anywhere in the world”. It seems to be quite true.

From a technology perspective, we were expecting to present rather lower-end solutions, such as ProLiant – x86_64 based – rack-mount servers, c-Class ProLiant blades and P4000 iSCSI solutions. We were astonished to see that some Palestinian customers were using high-end servers, such as Integrity or even NonStop servers !
We visited the headquarters of top customers to discuss their IT and business strategies, their projects and to visit their datacenters. Again, the technology used in their datacenters was top-notch (HP c-Class blade systems, HP Virtual Connect, NonStop servers, etc.) as were the datacenter layout and facilities. We were really impressed by how advanced these datacenters were and how well organized and clean the setup was.

Finally, a very interesting aspect of this customer visit was the cultural aspect of meeting customers and partners. The relationship network is an essential part of the business life. To do business, people need to be friends, or at least know each other.
Also, unlike in Germany, for instance, where touching people without their consent is a no-go, it is absolutely normal to do so in Palestine. Men kiss each other on the cheeks when they are friends and frequently backslap each other. People also have a very strong forward-looking mentality. They tend to avoid talking about the general situation of their country when they are not asked directly and rather focus on what is next going to happen to them in the future.

To conclude, this visit in Palestine was a great experience. Though the business environment is extremely tough, people are still focused on creating opportunities and succeeding in making money. The road infrastructure seems to be a pain point for the economy but others, such as the mobile phone or Internet connectivity are impressive. The technology used by customers and their datacenters we visited were good as their European counterparts and the cultural environment was extremely interesting.

I am looking forward to following up with opportunities in this country and doing business with people from Palestine !

Big Brother is watching you

Since Internet has become a huge communication platform for million of people, some badly disposed-people have discovered, that they can take advantage of it. The motives for such activities are very different : from the hacker, who wants to help companies to enhance their IT-security, to people who download mp3’s, from terrorists, to people who counterfeit Vuitton bags and sell it on eBay, these people all break laws daily and are seen as a threat.

In order to fight them, some governments try to catch the authors, not by investigating only them, but by controlling the whole Internet traffic on their soil.

Chinese authorities forbid access to some websites made by opponents to the regime or Tibetan activists. You cannot reach them if you are connected through a Chinese official Internet provider (you can see if your website is available from China). Nonetheless, much nearer from us, in Europe, both French and German governments – both surprisingly democratic countries – plan to introduce new laws, in order to reduce considerably the privacy of their citizens.
In Germany, the Minister of Interior Department, Wolfgang Schäuble, proposed to install a Trojan horse on every personal computer in Germany, so that authorities can exactly know what is going on on it and have access to the hard disks.

In France, according to the newspapers “Le Monde“, a new law project has been proposed, in which the whole Internet data traffic (i.e. all data, credit card numbers, passwords, contents, logins. etc…) must be saved, either by the Internet providers, or by those who offer services on the web. Not only judges and policemen of the judiciary police will have the right to check it, but any administration ( the RG -the intelligence department of the French police- for instance ) and that, without any legal control.

Both projects are a real nightmare for anyone. who cares for his privacy and liberties. People who think, they have nothing to hide, are wrong. Because if you give up freedom in the name of fighting criminality, you take the risk of giving up much more freedoms, for the same reasons.
The postal secrecy is guaranteed in most democratic countries, why would this right not apply for emails ?
Democracy and civil rights are not just a matter of some activists in the third world ! It is an issue, people must daily fight for. Nothing is acquired and we are all concerned about it.
These initiatives remind me the book of George Orwell “1984”, in which all citizen are supervised. As soon as they express any opinion against the regime, they disappear. Of course, this book is primarily a criticism against the communism and it cannot be transposed directly to our western societies, but it is an interesting introduction in how you can direct people and control what they are doing.

The Internet is known to be one of the greatest factors of economical growth during the last five years. If all data were stored, a lot of citizens would mistrust the actors of the new economy. Moreover, most of the companies would have to pay a lot of money in order to improve their storage capacity and this could reduce their competitiveness.

In the end, this freedom-killing policy will not be a serious obstacle for terrorists who plan an attack. When I see, how easy it is to buy a cell phone (My name is officially Jaqes Macy for Vodafone in Germany), I think this is really not a problem to obtain one with forged identity papers. All those measures will not just be inefficient, but they also will create mistrust and, in the end, limit the economic growth of the whole country.

Of course, terrorists sites and, in general, illegal content must be forbidden, but this must be done without treating the privacy and the freedoms of the Internet users so badly.