Google, Microsoft and HP also investing as West Bank and Gaza eye tech-driven growth.
Cisco plans to work with Palestinian authorities over the next several months to help IT companies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip bolster their ability to handle large outsourcing contracts from the U.S. and other countries.
The United States Agency for International Development, along with advisory partner Carana Corp., are assisting with the project.
Cisco and USAID's Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion (EDIP) project for Palestine will, over the next six to 12 months, "collaborate to ensure that the participant companies will be ready to enter global outsourcing contracts at the end of the program," USAID said in a mission briefing last week.
While Israeli companies dominate the tech sector in the Mideast, the Palestinian territory has been quietly building an IT outsourcing industry over the past couple of years with the help of U.S. IT firms. In addition to Cisco, Microsoft, Google, and Hewlett-Packard are investing in the region.
Atlanta-based Alcatel-Lucent is among the U.S. companies that have turned to the area for software development. The communications systems manufacturer tapped Palestinian IT service provider Exalt Technologies to build a call analyzer system and other call center software.
Ramallah-based ASAL, meanwhile, has built up an international list of customers that includes Volvo, Intel, NIIT, and Cisco itself.
Cisco initially disclosed plans to invest in the Palestinian IT sector in 2008 with a pledge to provide $10 million in seed funding for tech startups in West Bank and Gaza. "Education and the Internet are the great equalizers and vital to a sustainable, productive economy that increases the standard of living for all," Cisco CEO John Chambers said at the time.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Cisco's investment would help his government's stated goal of building a market economy "in close cooperation with the private sector." USAID's EDIP project in November sponsored a Palestinian IT expo in Ramallah that drew more than 30,000 attendees from the area.
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