Building an Innovative Society in Iraq

May 11, 2010
Under Secretary Hormats With Iraq Information Technology (IT) Interns

About the Author: Robert D. Hormats serves as Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs.

In October 2009, Secretary Clinton announced the Iraq Information Technology (IT) Intern Exchange Program at the U.S.-Iraq Business and Investment Conference. This provided an opportunity for six of some of the brightest information technology minds from across Iraq to come to the United States for a three-month internship in the technology sector. The first group of interns has just wrapped up their internships at AT&T, Howcast, Mercy Corps (IT Development), Engine Yard, and Blue State Digital. During their twelve-week internships, they focused on gaining new IT and entrepreneurial skills, which will help them to expand the IT sector in Iraq.

Earlier this month, six interns stopped by the State Department on their way back to Iraq. I had a great conversation with them about their experiences in the United States, and their thoughts on what Iraq needs to do to become a society of innovators and entrepreneurs. The interns identified electricity sector privatization as a top priority. Without a steady supply of electricity, they explained that the Internet infrastructure and Internet penetration could not grow. They also emphasized that an upgraded internet infrastructure available to everyone is the best way to foster innovation. Sharing information and ideas and connecting with the outside world to develop capabilities and human potential are keys to progress for Iraq. As a case in point, most of the interns found out about the Iraq IT Interns Program on the U.S. Embassy Baghdad's Facebook page! The interns identified other areas where their government needs to make progress to promote innovation, particularly increasing protection for intellectual property rights and tackling corruption. But the Internet, they explained, could make government more accountable and transparent to the Iraqi population, and ensure that the voice of the average citizen is heard.

They hit the nail on the head. Developing a society of innovators and entrepreneurs is not an easy task, and fostering a culture of collaboration and risk taking is not done overnight. But mindset changes and culture shifts can be accelerated with increased access to international technology. And increasingly, innovation cuts across borders are dependent on free, unfettered communication. In addition, no country should discount the importance of intellectual property rights protection and rule of law in creating the right environment for capitalizing on great ideas.

These young interns -- imaginative, dedicated people who want to contribute to the prospects and dynamism of Iraq -- are very likely to go on to do great things for their country's future. And I will be sure to share some of their ideas with Iraqi officials during my next round of bilateral meetings with the Iraqi government. I congratulate them on the completion of their internships, and encourage other young Iraqis to take part in future iterations of this important program.

Comments

Comments

OysterCracker
|
United States
May 11, 2010

O.C. in USA writes:

Innovation, education and technology is the best foreign policy. People's attitudes towards the West would soften with increased and meaningful contact. I think Iraqi high school students should be visiting on a regular basis and partnerships should be formed on both sides. Let's get our kids moving, learning about each other so that the world can be a more peaceful place.

OysterCracker
|
United States
May 11, 2010

O.C. in USA writes:

Again, Where's the women? If 10 Iraqi interns are invited shouldn't at least five of them be women? Are there no female innovators in all of Iraqi society?

lanka s.
May 12, 2010

Lanka S. writes:

There will be women this summer... at least 5 members of young students...

Ameer K.
|
Iraq
May 12, 2010

Ameer K. in Iraq writes:

I like to thank USA about this program. It will be so useful and it will help to establish many projects in Iraq.

sadeq G.
|
Iraq
May 12, 2010

Sadeq A.G. in Iraq writes:

We are just 6 in the first program and sorry there is no women but for the coming program which will be on may there will be women on it so don't worry.

Wael W.
|
Iraq
May 12, 2010

Wael W. in Iraq wries:

@ O.C.:

I am one of the second interns group which will be in the U.S. on the 23rd of this month, and from my experience I could say that the program is not to be blamed for not having women in it, since I know two of the girls who applied for the program, both of which chose not to come even with one of them being offered an interview with a company even after she quit, while the rest of us are still waiting for one!.

so all in all, yes women are missing on the first & second rounds of this program, but its not fair to blame the people who are running this program for it, because its simply not their fault! and no one can say that they're not trying.

Regards

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 12, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Wael, Sadeq,

I did a nine month internship in a professional recording studio back in 92-93 and that was the only way I could get into the music buisiness and hope to get a job in the technical production end of things.

Wasn't easy in that I was still working construction to pay the bills and support the family at the same time, all the while my better half complained that I was doing this for free..."on spec" as it were, with no certainty of getting hired on.

The reason I was and spent 7 years working there is simply this....become like a sponge, absorb everything you experience, it is all one learning process.

Become essential to the folks you intern for and they'll find it hard not to hire you at the end of it in offering you a payed position.

The "perks", or the "bennies" as benefits are often refered to in American slang are in the professional associations you make, and they tend to last as long as friendships do if they are nutured in the same manner.

I worked with a lot of famous musicians, and I can assure you of two things about wealth and fame.

Money don't buy happiness, and fame is fleeting.

And I don't suppose I need to tell you that there are folks in this world who like Saddam thought, "Why be famous when I can be infamous?"

So do good work, and your reputation will open the doors and your talent will take you as far as you want to go.

Welcome to America.

John P.
|
Greece
May 12, 2010

John P. in Greece writes:

I will attempt to offer a view about this American-Iraqi program, using an e.g. from Afghanistan. To: whoever implies that U.S. make discriminations between men and women…

The first time, after millions of years with no “lives” and rights, that Afghan women voted for their future (only recently they became equal- they became citizens- they dream of real freedom) happened AFTER U.S.A. offered them a democratic spirit, ideas and solutions to the territory.

Some guys who commented on the “other” direction reminded me of a Greek saying, I’ll try to translate:

“They OFFERED someone a donkey (for free), but before delivery he was attempting to "see" its teeth” –in order to understand if it’s old or young…

THE PROGRAM IS GREAT!

Next time, the program may have 10 women and no men.. Who knows?

What I see, though, is that Iraq and Afghanistan changed. They are getting BETTER and BETTER each day!

Thank God to whom?
:
U.S.A.

OysterCracker
|
United States
May 13, 2010

O.C. in USA writes:

I think the program is a good idea and if two women dropped out that says to me that they need more support and encouragement to attend. It's like someone asking you to marry them. For a woman this can be a very frightening adventure. Maybe if the women knew they were going to a protected place where American Iraqi women could support and encourage them. It might be too big of a leap for them.They should find out what their resistance is and try to mould the program so that it best fits their needs.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 13, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ O.C., Why do you simply assume the worst?

You have nothing other to go on than what the participants have told you themselves about this "human rights" issue you've conjured up to question this process of internship programming.

I don't hear you calling for equal representation for men when the US invites a gathering of Muslim women to discuss breaking through glass ceilings in their society.

I mean, there are reasons folks like Sec Clinton are focused on women's issues, it's just that this program isn't the place to go looking for gender inequality.

Especially when you've been politely informed no such dysfunctionality exists in the selection process.

And I don't think a lack of encouragement is something worthy to be factored into all of this.

So don't continue to imply that this is the case.

Casting aspersions is bad form if you have nothing to back it up with.

---

@ John in Greece,

The phrase "Never look a gift horse in the mouth." sound familiar? Ah, if you really want to understand this "wild West" terminology, I suggest you take in a movie called "Two mules for Sister Sarah." with Clint Eastwood. I think it will put everything in perspective. (chuckle).

Flavius
|
Virginia, USA
May 13, 2010

Flavius in Virginia writes:

I for one think it was good for O.C. to ask the question, even though I understand the reasons why it upset some people. And I think it was great that many of the interns responded. And it was within O.C.'s right to reply to those responses.

As for why he simply assumes the worst, well, that accusation could be made of a lot of people, couldn't it?

Finally, O.C., don't forget the immortal words of one of our great posters:

"folks do a pretty good job of discrediting themselves without my help, but please don't try and play the moralistic pollyanna on this blog."

I believe the term is "hoisted on his own petard."

Have a blessed day.

OysterCracker
|
United States
May 13, 2010

O.C. in U.S.A. writes:

@ Flavius,

As you asked of me, I will ask of you to refer to my correct gender. If the end game is to get Iraqi's to implement a more democratic, equal society then women should make up at least 50% of that equation. I'm just here to remind all of you folks about your own policies.

Flavius
|
Virginia, USA
May 13, 2010

Flavius in Virginia writes:

Oops! Sorry!

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 13, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Flavius, despite your trying to hoist my petard for whatever reason, and despite a great deal of dualism and dysfunctionality I percieve in the world ( and occasionally offer a thought on improvement), If I wern't an optimist I wouldn't bother to try and change things for the better.

Let me know if you still have a problem with that.

And please don't insult OC by comparing him to the subject of that part of that contextual application you quoted, OC's not an idiot.

Just assuming there's a problem when there isn't one.

As you are, with me personally.

OysterCracker
|
United States
May 13, 2010

O.C. in U.S.A. writes:

Eric from New Mexico with cactuses and other irritating things, I'm not casting aspersions just keeping the State Department's eye on the goal.

Is this a blog or the State Department's mutual admiration club?

John P.
|
Greece
May 14, 2010

John P. in Greece writes:

@ O.C. in U.S.A.

I do not disagree with your concept dear O.C. I only disagree with your mathematical orientation. We all love women and believe in equality (of all people in general).
Women or men, black or white, etc.

50% of America’s success was build of women and their inspiration, courage and strength, offered to nation’s families, during very difficult times. Moreover, when U.S. was trying to build the country. And they did it!

Feminism in Philosophy (of equality), begun in the New World and still U.S. is the pioneer, trying to make this idea a global value...and it goes.

I love that you are fighting for women’s rights through your writing. I really appreciate this. And I am sure you know that such healthy conversations make our world better.

I do not know about the specific “insinuations”, or the issue, or the “accusations”. That's probably not the point of my post. But, believe me, you should reconsider the mathematical part. This is even more important than the evaluation of this program.

There is no 50%-50% percentage that can work for all programs, projects, or call it however you like. However, this is not discrimination. This mathematical orientation on the discrimination issue can become both discriminational and the worst.. dangerous.

e.g.1. John P. is the Director of NASA [(Al’s voice: God help us) LOL)]. My mission is to find a 7 member crew that can fly our “bird” to the moon. Nevertheless, they must be: pilots, experts in biology, chemistry and under 32 years of age (I told you, it’s just an example). I have only 2 women and 5 men with such CVs. Or, I have 2 men and 5 women with CVs that have the required prerequisites. Do you think that I would abandon the program on the ground that I do not have a 50%-50% equality between men and women? No! This would be catastrophic for the scope. The “flight must go on”! e.g.2. You have to run an Intel station in middle Africa. Will you hire a 50% white-50% black staff in order to satisfy the non-discrimination mathematical assumption, or you’ll just go ahead with the “job”? After all, you need black people there. This does not mean that you make discriminations. I mean, all these are elementary..

Please don’t misunderstand me. It’s great to read you here. I attempted to give a “perspective” on how we must protect what you are fighting for.

@ Eric in New Mexico:

Precisely Bro! That’s exactly what I meant concerning the “horse”.

Best Regards!

OysterCracker
|
United States
May 14, 2010

O.C. in U.S.A. writes:

The reason why its difficult to find 50% of women is that men have been favored all these years.......exactly my point, Poindexter! (LOL) You have to start somewhere. It might as well be now. What are we waiting for?

.

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