portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting portland metro

arts and culture | economic justice | technology

Microsoft in Iraq: connecting the dots

Look to Jordan, Bechtel for Microsoft/Iraq connection
In my quest to find out why Microsoft is so interested in Iraq, I turned to Jordan. Iraq's next door neighbor has just put the finishing touches on a "framework partnership agreement" with Microsoft, begun last October, with the signing of an "enterprise licensing agreement."
 http://menafn.com/qn_news_story_s.asp?StoryId=40214
Here are some highlights:

-Microsoft will sponsor the training of up to 1,000 Jordan IT personnel in government--they will then spread out through the land and indoctrinate others

-an educational agreement will train 50,000 children in Jordan on basic computer skills through an "e-library" which will "clean sweep our entire educational system and introduce modern technologies for teaching," according to Mahmoud Khasawneh with Jordan's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (clean sweep is a good term)

-includes an intellectual property rights agreement

So with that agreement sealed up, Microsoft looks to Iraq, with a larger population and the potential to be a very rich country. Microsoft is already embedded with governments in Egypt and Lebanon, but you might imagine that Iraq would be the prize of all prizes in the region. I guess war ain't such a bad thing after all.

There's a recent interview in Slashdot with Adam Davidson, a writer who's been living in Baghdad for several months.  http://interviews.slashdot.org/interviews/04/02/021415224.shtml
He's written some good articles about emerging technology in Iraq, and about day to day life in general there. He's also one of the few Americans promoting the Iraq LUG (Linux Users Group, I think), which is just emerging and which is a threat to everything Microsoft is trying to do in Iraq. In his interview, Davidson says that the sole agent for M$ lives down the street from him (in Baghdad) and that M$ is having a hard time getting work done there--i.e. sealing deals with politicians, the CPA, etc... and "winning" contracts. The CPA is busy with other things and may not have time for M$ related issues. Davidson further points out that many people may end up using M$ in Iraq just by default, just because it's there. But the new Iraqi government that emerges may be opposed to signing deals with Western mega-corporations like M$.

That's too bad that M$ is having trouble in Iraq. But don't count them out yet--in the first article I mentioned there is a sentence at the end which reveals M$'s two-pronged strategy in Iraq:

"Microsoft has also placed focus on Iraq and has partnered with several companies in the war-torn nation, including Bechtel and HP to help rebuild the country's infrastructure."

This must be M$'s plan B, in case more direct efforts failed, or generated bad press, or both.

My challenge to anyone out there with Internet access is to uncover any deals between Bechtel and M$ in regard to Iraq, by doing research. Your reward will be that you can post the info here under the headline:

Bechtelsoft: e-solutions for Iraq

If anyone has info on Iraqi National Group for Computing vs. Microsoft, New York District Court, they should also post it. That is a tougher challenge though. The suit was filed Aug. 3 of last year, I don't know if it was Eastern or Northern district, so it would be hard finding the records.

One final note--the Iraq LUG has a website up and running, and you can give them advice or donate funds to them:
 http://linux-iraq.org