|Jobseekers swamp limited IT sector in Lebanon
|Lebanon must develop the IT industry to employ thousands of university graduates each year, Economy, Trade and Finance Minister Damianos Kattar said on Thursday.
Speaking at a forum on the digital economy organized by Data Investment Consult Lebanon, Kattar said Lebanese universities graduate 16,000 people each year and only a fraction of them actually find work.
Citing some studies, the minister said that government departments can only accommodate 3000 graduates per year.
With an IT market of $80 million a year, Lebanon still lags behind many countries in technology investments.
Several software and IT companies opened offices in Beirut in recent years to tap into the small market.
However, the high rate of copyright violations and the lack of government incentives has kept the IT market very small.
Kattar stressed that Lebanese abroad have excelled in software development and design and have even outdone Indian engineers and computer designers.
"But despite the remarkable achievements of Lebanese software developers abroad, the IT industry is still far behind India and other emerging countries."
Kattar also said that the government plans to pass new laws to advance use of the Internet, adding that a law on electronic trading has already been approved.
Other speakers at the forum also pointed to the weaknesses in the IT sector in Lebanon.
Zuhair Berro, the president of Consumer Lebanon, said that successive governments viewed telecommunication and IT sector as money generators for the state.
Berro added that only 14 percent of the population has access to Internet and that this percentage is very low by all standards.
The cost of cellular calls and Internet use is considered one of the highest in the world.
The government owns and runs two cellular networks with more than 900,000 subscribers and a fixed telephone system with 750,000 users.
The Treasury collects revenue of more than $850 million a year from both the cellular networks and fixed telephone.
Berro said that if the government continues to adopt the same old policies towards the telecom sector, the number of cellular subscribers and Internet users will remain the same in 2010.
The Daily Star