(HN, November 29, 2011) - Google and Mercy Corps have formed a partnership to spark technological entrepreneurship among young Palestinians.
In an innovative venture called the Arab Developer Network Initiative (ADNI), the global private sector entity and NGO have come together to tap the "brain trust" of the vast numbers of young people in Gaza and the West Bank.
Says Mercy Corps: "Through a combination of training in technical and business essentials, peer-to-peer learning, mentorship, and an initial seed fund for high potential startups, capitalized at $500,000, ADNI will help build a critical mass of Palestinian youth who are competent in multiple programming platforms and able to create and run successful web-based businesses."
As in much of the Middle East and North Africa, the Palestinian population is young, well-educated, and chronically unemployed. The World Bank reports that at the end of 2010, unemployment among those between the ages of 15-29 was an estimated 26 percent in the West Bank and 53 percent in Gaza - though some reputable sources cite much higher figures of unemployment.
The potential is not lost on Google, which has commited $2 million so far to the territory.
"Palestinians have such a unique position," Gisel Kordestani, Google's director of new business development, told Fast Company. "They're well educated. They have strong English-language skills. With 88 million people in the [Middle East and North African] region getting online, they have the opportunity to build something for the Arab world."
Says Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer: "One of the biggest challenges to economic growth in Gaza and the West Bank is that people can't move freely or easily cross borders. But there's an incredible brain trust of educated young people in the region. Unlike most other industries, web-based businesses are not limited by the physical movement of goods or people. Fuelled by young talent, the tech sector here is just waiting to take off."
The Source of Hope Foundation and Google.org are the main backers of the project.
- HUMNEWS staff, Mercy Corps