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French Version

Lebanon must invest in hi-tech - top-notch infrastructure could create new IT hub (Daily Star)

Lebanon needs to invest more in creating a top notch infrastructure to give it a competitive advantage over other countries and attract investment from foreign companies, said Stacy Smith, the vice-president of Intel’s sales and marketing group and general manager of Intel Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Setting up a hi-tech infrastructure is key, and if it is done properly, then it would make it that much easier to become an Information Technology (IT) and financial hub,” said Smith.

He also added that by investing in technology, private companies would benefit by becoming more efficient, industries would differentiate themselves from competitors and people would use it as a tool to learn, play and communicate.

In an interview with The Daily Star, Smith said Lebanon can avoid the need to invest heavily in setting up a high-cost internet-ready country by investing in wireless technology. “Wireless can dynamically reduce the cost of setting up the necessary infrastructure, and new wireless technology, which has not been released as yet, will soon allow whole cities to be covered by high connection speeds,” he added.

He said this vision has to be supported on the governmental level, adding: “Lebanon’s private sector has taken some very positive steps, but needs to steadily continue on this path.”

Smith was referring to the three hotspots recently installed at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and at the Phoenicia and Movenpick hotels. “The government could help by fast-forwarding the speed of adaptation. Intel likes to see a fast pace. It is part of our corporate culture,” he said.

As an example, Smith said that when Intel decides to invest in a new $1 billion manufacturing plant, the “first thing we look for is if the country is adequately equipped with the correct infrastructure for such a huge investment. We use lots of power, lots of labor and obviously study costs of production and political stability as a second step. But since our plants are infrastructure dependant, it is our main criteria for investing.”

Smith said Intel has mainly focused on the fast growing emerging markets of China, India and Russia, “but the region of the Middle East and Turkey has huge opportunity for growth due to the low computer penetration rate.”
“As the market emerges, Lebanon could play a central role as a major Arabic language programmer,” he added.

Smith came to Lebanon for the first time to deliver a keynote address on the first day of Termium 2003, Lebanon’s leading technology exhibition and one of the Middle East’s largest IT events. He also finalized an agreement with AUB to develop a finance competency center that would support the university’s academic programs.

Beirut 22-09-2003
Tarek El Zein
The Daily Star

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