By Steve Hamm, IBM Writer
Nader Iskander, the founder and CEO of EME International, in Cairo, Egypt, isn’t afraid to make a bold bet on a big idea. Way back in 2004, he created a company to develop innovative enterprise mobility solutions across the region. Today, mobile is taking off in Egypt.
And now Iskander is expanding to what he believes will be the next big thing in the region: cloud computing. . “We like to be innovators; first movers,” says Iskander. “There’s huge potential in the cloud to improve our customers’ productivity and profitability.” Already, EME has made a major sale of cloud-based software–to a major Egyptian automobile company.
EME International was among the first 20 Egyptian software makers to complete a cloud computing development program designed by Egypt’s Information Technology Industry Development Agency and IBM.
Until now, the cloud has been slow to take off in Egypt. That’s in spite of the fact that it makes it possible for organizations of all sizes to gain access to the latest technologies without having to pay upfront for computers and software. Some companies and government agencies are cautious about shifting to a radically different approach to computing. That’s true throughout the region.
To break through that logjam, Mohamed Sayed, IBM’s cloud computing leader in the Middle East and Africa, developed an approach for making the cloud more compelling for organizations in the region. He perceived that IT buyers would be more willing to try it out if they had a broad portfolio of cloud apps to choose from. He saw that the best way to create an ecosystem of cloud apps and services was to help local software makers transition their existing products to the cloud or build new apps from scratch to run in cloud data centers.
IBM’s team in Egypt loved the idea, and they found a willing partner in the country’s Ministry of Communication and IT. The ministry provides incentives for companies with strong growth potential. IBM introduces them to the benefits of the cloud and gives them technical training and business advice. Their applications run on IBM’s SoftLayer cloud infrastructure, relieving them of the expense of building and provisioning their own data centers, and IBM promotes the companies and their products through it regional marketing programs. The ministry and IBM plan to run 100 companies through the program over the next couple of years.
“This is what the cloud is about,” says Sayed. “You have an idea. You put it on the cloud. We’re helping these companies put their solutions in the right shape and sell them across the Middle East and Africa.”
Egypt has nearly 5000 IT companies, a large pool of talented software developers and about 50 universities producing graduates who are seeking careers–many of whom see technology as a exciting path forward.
For the Egyptian government, cloud computing represents an opportunity to enliven an economy that has been weak for the past three years. The government 15 years ago set the goal of transforming Egypt into a knowledge society, and has had success in building a tech sector based primarily on offshoring of IT services. Cloud computing offers the potential of fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. “We’re working with IBM to make a success story to tell in Egypt and across the region,” says Mohammed Fathy, director of investment and international business development for ITIDA.
Several of the first 20 companies to complete the program are now in-market with cloud solutions, among them Automation Consultants, a 30-year-old software maker that has remade itself as a cloud company.
Through the program, EME International quickly shifted one of its mobile apps to the cloud and rebuilt an app from scratch to be a cloud solution. Says Iskander: “My vision is to empower enterprises with our mobile solutions in practically every country in the Middle East and Africa where IBM has a strong presence.”
Now that the cloud ecosystem program has gotten off the ground in Egypt, IBM plans on running similar programs in other countries in the Middle East and Africa–beginning with four countries next year. But that’s just the start. “Everybody is looking for ways to take advantage of the cloud,” says IBM’s Sayed. “Once we prove success, this program will go outside our region to the rest of the world.”