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

corporate dominance | technology

Microsoft giving Iraq some "consultancy"

Tracking a monster in the Arabian desert
Are you going to Iraq Procurement 2004 this November? Neither am I, it's in Jordan and I'm worried that I'll be "roughed up" when I try to get back in the US.

But Microsoft is an official "iraq supplier" at this new business convention, one of the dozens that have been held since Saddam was overthrown.

According to this site, Microsoft is supporting Iraq "primarily through consultancy." No word yet on what exactly that means--it seems that MS Office would be pretty far down on the list of priorities for many Iraqis.

In a Forbes.com article last February, it was reported that the work Microsoft was doing in Iraq was "largely nonprofit."

In this article from last January, it was reported that Microsoft had "partnered with several companies in the war-torn nation, including Bechtel and HP to help rebuild the country's infrastructure."
It's strange, because I've never been able to find an actual contract that Microsoft had with any company, like Bechtel, or with the CPA or any of the Iraqi ministries. The only explanation is that there was a national security issue somehow, but that doesn't seem likely.

But the information from different articles is somewhat contradictory itself.

The Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Hayat reported on May 2, 2003 that the Arabian Microsoft Company was targeting Iraqi information technology infrastructure development contracts. The company was also planning to market its IT products and services in Iraq. The Server Systems Marketing Manager of the company, Mazen Abu Saleh, announced that his company was seeking to penetrate into the Iraqi markets, particularly after conditions stabilized there. (source: Infotrac Onefile--I couldn't find a Google link to this story, or archived on the newspaper's site)

This was LESS THAN ONE MONTH after Saddam's regime had been overthrown. What were these guys thinking!? Given, this was not Redmond, but an office somewhere in Saudi Arabia, but one imagines there was a corporate manifesto of some kind that trickled down. Also, with Microsoft's unique product line and business style, the introduction of its products means that the "customer" would be locked into it forever, so it doesn't really matter which Microsoft office declared its intentions first.

When researching for an article about Microsoft, I found out that in November 2002 the company hired a director of homeland security for its Microsoft Federal division. His name--Thomas Richey, a former US Coast Guard commander, and senior policy advisor to John Kerry at the time. Did they know something that nobody else did back then, or is it just coincidence?

Their efforts paid off in a big way in June 2003 when the Department of Homeland Security gave Microsoft a $90 million contract for server and desktop software for 140,000 users. That was two days after the US Army awarded the company a six-year, $470 million contract, its biggest contract ever.