Intel, the world's largest semiconductor company, is planning to build the first information technology education center in the volatile Gaza Strip.
The Intel Information Technology Center of Excellence is intended to provide IT training to Palestinians and stimulate development of high-tech industry in an area where half the labor force is unemployed. The center is being developed in conjunction with Washington, D.C.-based American Near East Refugee Aid and the Islamic University of Gaza.
"We don't want to discount the tension in the area ... but from our perspective, we view it as something that can have a positive impact," said Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy. "If you talk to the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, this is exactly the kind of thing they want. They want education, they want paths to improve the economic well-being of their citizens."
Intel has had a presence in Israel for more than three decades, but over the past few years has launched an initiative to also expand its investments in the Arab world.
The center is the company's first large project in the Palestinian territories, an area where American corporate involvement is rare.
It will be staffed primarily by Palestinians and will be located a couple of miles outside Gaza City in an area staked out to become a technology park with the Intel center as its anchor, said Peter Gubser, president of ANERA. Construction is expected to begin in about two months, with completion a year later.
The cost to build and equip the center will only be about $1 million, Gubser said, because a dollar goes a lot farther in the Middle East.
Though the security situation in Gaza is not good, Gubser believes the willingness of Intel to be an American corporate pioneer in the Gaza Strip may encourage other American corporations to follow.