ALGERIA: ICT innovation start-up initiative

Algeria has launched a start-up initiative called ASI to help university graduates and hi-tech entrepreneurs transfer ideas into innovative information and communications technology-based enterprises in the hope of establishing a Silicon Valley-style innovation zone and a "Google - made in Algeria".

ASI, which is one step forward in implementing the 'e-Algeria 2013' strategy that aims to connect Algeria to the information society and knowledge-based economy, was announced at the First Conference on the Creation of Start-ups.

The event was held on 26 October and organised by the National Agency for the Promotion and Development of Technology, the US-Algeria Business Council and Algerian business leaders based in California.

The main aims of ASI are to speed up the use of ICTs in enterprises, to develop mechanisms and incentive measures enabling access to equipment and ICT networks, and to develop skilled human resources.

Participants at the conference emphasised the need to create a national technology investment fund to finance new enterprises specialising in ICTs, to enable Algerian university graduates and entrepreneurs turn ideas and projects into viable and well-managed ICT enterprises.

To build bridges between Algerians and skilled expats living abroad, a national competition for start-up projects will be organised for 30 January 2010 in Algiers, in cooperation with Algerian researchers and experts working in Silicon Valley in the United States.

Three prize-winners will receive full funding for their enterprises, and will also be provided with a personal advisor and an 'intelligence office' in the Sidi Abdallah 'cyber-park'. They will also have the chance to visit Silicon Valley and meet representatives working at the cutting edge of ICT.

Sadallah Boubaker-Khaled, a professor of mathematics at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Algiers, cautiously welcomed the news.

"ASI could help solve the problem of university graduate unemployment and technological, economic and social problems as well as creating a knowledge-based society - if proper financial support is provided and a practical action plan for implementing and evaluating ASI is put forward," he told University World News.

"Building bridges with Algerian researchers living abroad cannot only be done by cooperation in setting up a prize. A clear strategy for promoting collaborative research and innovation activities with Algerian researchers living abroad, especially in priority scientific fields needed for development, must be prepared," Boubaker-Khaled concluded.