7 December 2018

Meet the Palestinian tech entrepreneurs

tech entrepreneurship

New research concludes that the golden standard Silicon Valley model of Tech entrepreneurship is not universal applicable and consequently, different models are essential for entrepreneurs to succeed in different contexts. Two researchers have given a voice to the Palestinian Tech entrepreneurs, to nuance the global image of tech entrepreneurship.

Pernille Bjørn, Professor at DIKU, and Nina Boulus-Rødje, Assistant Professor at Roskilde University, have in the last four years studied Palestinian Tech entrepreneurs working out of Ramallah, West Bank. In the recently published article “Infrastructural Inaccessibility: Tech Entrepreneurs in Occupied Palestine”, they demonstrate how denied access to digital global platforms, payment gateways, and legal frameworks produce invisible digital barriers. These fundamental infrastructures allow Tech entrepreneurs in the US to be successful – but they are not accessible for all and this seriously limits tech entrepreneurs’ potential to succeed in creating a long-term sustainable tech industry.

- The dedication and resilience of Palestinian tech entrepreneurs continues to amaze me throughout the four years we have been visiting and interacting with the tech community in Ramallah. I hope that we, by giving voice to the Palestinian Tech entrepreneurs, are able to nuance the global image of tech entrepreneurship as well as the people living in occupied territories. In the media, we hear about the Palestinian activist or terrorist - we hope the public media will also tell the story about the Palestinian tech entrepreneurs, says Pernille Bjørn.

Why is it important?

The Silicon Valley model is celebrated and used as a template for tech entrepreneurship all around the world. However, it fails when being implemented in geographical context where certain infrastructures are not present - such as in occupied Palestine. We need to provide visibility for the Palestinian Tech entrepreneurs if we are to allow them the opportunity to succeed. 

So what is the motivation for investing so much time, effort, resources, and funds in Palestinian tech start-up companies? Tech innovation is seen as one of the only ways to build the Palestinian economy under the current political circumstances. Global tech companies have an opportunity to help this process. It is not a big technical issue, but simply to find designs that allow Palestinian tech entrepreneurs' visibility and access to the global digital platforms such as Google Maps and the iOS AppStore. If successful, the global tech platforms would be levelling the field and provide fundamental infrastructures for all, which we, in the global North, take for granted.

About the project

This study was supported by the three research projects ConflictIT, NexGSD and the newly initiated FESTEM. The paper was published in ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), Volume 25, Issue 5, October 2018.