The Digital Opportunities Trust, which is backed by the Ministry of ICT and the government of Canada, offers technology training programs to young Jordanians.
The NGO’s President and CEO, Janet Longmore, hopes her newly reopened center in Sweileh, near Amman, will provide the next generation of entrepreneurs with the skills to compete on the global stage.
What have been your major successes in Jordan so far?
I think for Jordan, it is a country that has enabled collaborations between the private sector, the government, and civil society in a very powerful way. We’ve received extensive support from the private sector such as Cisco, Zain, Int@j and more. Here we have corporations that are coming in with expertise, resources, passion, and commitment. Through these partnerships, we have been able to really scale our impact. Additionally, the Jordanian youth have an inner entrepreneurial spirit, and what we’re seeing is the opportunity to unleash that. This spirit accelerates when they see that they have the support and learn what resources are available for them.
What do you think are some barriers facing youth entrepreneurship in Jordan and how can they be overcome?
I think one, and you can look at it as a barrier or an opportunity, is the development of critical skills. Some of the work we are doing is design thinking; understanding the real perspective from the users. This is a completely revamped way of looking at how you can set up a business. However, this is not being taught in universities or colleges. There seems to be a mismatch between the skills that people are learning and their ability to apply them to the real world. They’re still being trained for specific jobs, but those jobs are not there. The second challenge goes back to those skills and the need for mentorship. Every business has some kind of failure along the way. The issue here is who do you then reach out to when you do fail? It is necessary to learn about why you failed, and who can support you moving forward. Finally, I would say it’s the money. Banks talk a different language. However, youth are innovating by using crowdfunding and other sources of funding. That’s the power of being an entrepreneur, you have to be persistent, you have to innovate and think of different ways to get the resources to begin to build. Even though we are trying to initiate the pipeline here, there needs to be more investment going into these digital startups.
What are your plans for the future?
In Jordan, we will certainly be increasing our focus on women and girls. We will be scaling to the rest of the country through collaborations and partnerships. We also envision Jordan as a knowledge hub for the region. So, if we were to look at Jordan as a knowledge hub, our plan is to eventually facilitate our initiatives elsewhere throughout the region with the partners and knowledge gained here in the Kingdom.