Over 200 companies from 11 coutnries all over the world, participated in the trade show, displaying products ranging from the state of the art to the latest computer magazines. Leading business sponsors this year included Microsoft Egypt, IBM, Sun Microsystems, MobiNil, Xerox, and the Egyptian Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology. The COMDEX exhibition, along with the COMDEX Shopper, a separate event for consumers held parallel to the exhibtion, were organised under the auspices of Prime Minister Atef Ebeid. The organisers, IIR Exhibitions of Dubai, said an agreement pledging support and participation has been made for the next five years between COMDEX Egypt and the Egyptian Software and Hardware Associations.
The dynamics of conducting business electronically within the Middle East was the dominant theme of the conference. Electronic commerce was in the spotlight at a full-day session devoted to e-business under the title of "The soul of e-business." Sponsored by IBM, the seminar allowed participants to explore such issues as e-commerce security and the latest solutions for a safe transition into an e-business environment.
At COMDEX, Novell, the world leading supplier of Internet infrastructure software, announced the introduction of its new Arabic version of GroupWise 5.5. According to Gavin Struthers, regional general manager for Novell Middle East, "We encourage those companies interested in e-business opportunities to fully explore all the elements involved in investing in secure, reliable and manageable netwroks as the foundation of their e-business strategy." First launched in Arabic in 1995, GroupWise was the only Arabic software package to offer users e-mail scheduling, claendars and task management via a single interface. "The availability of Arabic GroupWise 5.5 illustrates our commitment to the region, and is part of our efforts to provide our customers with the most advanced tools and the greatest amount of flexibility in how they implement and use them," Struthers said.
The effort to Arabise the Internet showed much progress at the COMDEX exhibition. A new company, Internationalised Domain Names System (i-DNS), a US-based provider of multilingual Internet solutions, announced its latest Internet solution for Arabic-based web sites. Lo Pang Hee, chief operating officer of i-DNS, stated, "For the first time in Egypt, and soon in the Arab world, companies and interested individuals will be able to create their web sites using domain names written in Arab characters." He added that his company has chosen Egypt as its launch platform to the Middle East because of its strategic position. "For too long, the Internet has been the domain of English speakers, thus, limiting the Internet usage for Arab users. Now, with new technology provided by i-DNS, the Internet can be used in as many as 55 languages as well," Hee said. Recently, i-DNS entered a commercial relationship with Link Egypt and Internet Egypt.
During the exhibition, Egypt's first on-line recruiters, CareerEgypt.com, displayed their services to job seekers and employers. Ayman Malak, senior recruitment consultant at the company, said,"Job seekers log into our Internet site where they will be required to submit their resumes by filling our on-line application free of charge. As for employers, they can access our site to add their job listings and then search for prospective employees in our resume database after they have subscribed for a minimal quarterly, semi-annual or annual fee." The company launched its www.careeregypt.com site earlier this year with the aim of ameliorating the unemployment problem using the latest in information technology.
Enhancing the skill level of the local market was the main concern of the Microsoft. During COMDEx, Microsoft provided 16 training sessions to those interested in pursuing technical careers. Kareem Ramadan, a Microsoft manager, said," Our objective is to raise the technical skills of those working the Egyptian IT field to increase their competitiveness in the global market."
Although the main focus of COMDEX was Arabising e-business, the religious possibilities of the brave new technological world did not escape the attention of many visitors. The booths housing Arabic software did a brisk business in the latest electronic version of the Qur'an, Hadith (Prophet Mohamed's pronouncements) and religious interpretations. Thus the promotion of Arabic within cyberspace will ensure that the process of globalisation is not synonymous with cultural homogenisation.