Business in the Middle East

Jordanʹs digital start-ups – innovation in Silicon Wadi

Young people in Jordan are increasingly turning to digital start-ups to improve their prospects, rather than relying on the countryʹs rigid labour market. Claudia Mende reports

Hello World Kids has moved. Workers are busy laying the final cables. You might be forgiven for associating Hello World Kids with candy and pink ribbons. Its founder, Hanan Khader, is however one of the most successful young women entrepreneurs in Jordan. Her company is located in the basement of one of the many multi-storey buildings in the King Hussein Business Park in Amman.

Fit for the digital future

Khader, in her late 30s, is a software developer and she is extremely busy. Nonetheless, she takes time between two meetings to discuss her ambitious goals. She wants to make Jordan’s young generation fit for the digital future. She is striving to promote digitisation in a region of the world that, for the most part, is still stuck in an analogue mode. Above all, she is aiming to improve the prospects of young women.

 

Hanan Khader (photo: private)
One of Jordan's most successful young entrepreneurs: Hanan Khader aims to make the young generation of Jordan fit for the digital future with her company Hello World Kids. She wants to promote digitisation in a region of the world that is still largely dominated by the analogue world. Above all, she is seeking to improve the prospects of young women

The idea for her company arose out of her disappointment in seeing the lack of computer skills being taught to her two daughters in school. Lessons consisted of no more than learning how to use a mouse. “Children today need to be learning programming the way they learn maths and reading,” says Khader. She sees these as basic skills that everyone in the modern world needs to master.

In 2015, she developed a simple, child-friendly programming language and a teaching plan for computer courses aimed at grades one through nine. She designed teaching materials in print and online form and submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Education for the school curriculum.

At this point in time, programming was not included in the curricula of public schools in Jordan. A few private schools were immediately impressed by the idea and, soon afterwards, the Ministry of Education in Amman was also convinced.

Five years later, Hello World Kids has already reached more than 50,000 school children throughout the country via workshops, private training seminars, and at school. The idea has caught on beyond the borders of Jordan. Authorities in Lebanon, Qatar, and Oman are also interested in the programme.

Amman – a hub for digital start-ups

Alongside Cairo, Beirut, and Tunis, the Jordanian capital of Amman is an important centre for digital start-ups in the Middle East. Offices line the roads of the King Hussein Business Park. Owing to the dynamic nature of the sector, it is impossible to put a figure on the number of start-ups currently in business.

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