Technology businesses in West Bank and Gaza will gain a boost from proposed investment for six companies funded by Mercy Corps and Oasis500 . The investment will be spread through Gaza Sky Geeks, with US$14,000 on offer to each successful bidder. BMI believes the investment will be a welcome boost to development in the market, but we believe the telecoms infrastructure will remain a weak spot and a hurdle to long-term development.
Oasis500 is a Jordan-based investment company for ICT, digital media and the mobile sector making it a good partner for new companies in the West Bank's ICT sector. In developing local businesses, BMI believes new products will be targeted to the needs of the local market, improving the chances of success. Nevertheless, BMI believes the market has little demand for high-end developments and the funded companies will concentrate on providing basic services to the market. The market's operators do not offer 3G services, limiting the potential for mobile app development, as we believe access to smartphones is limited.
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Mobile penetration in West Bank and Gaza remains below 80% while fixed-line and broadband access is limited. The market's development is held back by a number of issues including the ongoing precariousness of the political situation, high youth unemployment and economic cutbacks. These are long-term issues and not likely to be overcome easily, meaning new investors and developers in the market's ICT sector will factor these in when developing new services. BMI believes the new investors will focus on opportunities among businesses, where there is greatest development potential and more likelihood of access to data connections.
However, the reach of mobile services in West Bank and Gaza does also offer new opportunities for consumer-focused projects. While new services developed by the Gaza Sky Geeks projects may not be heavily data-reliant in order to reach a wider range of potential subscribers, BMI believes that there are many opportunities for services using basic infrastructure such as mobile banking, filling a gap in the market for money transfers and access to basic financial services.
The project should also provide impetus behind greater demand for 3G among businesses and consumers, pushing development in the market. BMI believes 3G would provide wide spread benefits given the lack of access to fixed broadband infrastructure in the market. Prices for 3G-enabled devices have fallen considerably and BMI believes the market has considerable pent up demand. Developments in communications infrastructure would boost projects such as Gaza Sky Geek and bring new services to a wider proportion of the population.