Changing mindset brings tech changes to Iraq, Kurdistan Region: panel

Panel discussion hosted by Five One Labs as a part of Global Entrepreneurship Week in Sulaimani on November 19, 2019 (NRT Digital Media/Winthrop Rodgers)

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SULAIMANI — Technology is increasingly playing a role in the everyday lives of people in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region and harnessing it is one way to develop a successful business, a group of entrepreneurs explained during a panel discussion in Sulaimani on Tuesday (November 19).

“The mindset [today] is not the mindset of five years ago,” said Karzan Fadhil, who works as IT Manager for Asiahawala. “People are now using technology for their everyday tasks.”

Fadhil was speaking on a panel organized by local start-up incubator Five One Labs, alongside Co-founder of Fastwares Yadgar Merani and General Manager of Click Iraq Avin Qadir. The event was one of several organized by the incubator to mark Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Qadir said that up until recently she had to work hard to convince people of the value of digital marketing, but now things have changed to where online visibility is not only a requirement, but there is competition between companies offering digital advertising services.

Merani, whose company runs Lezzoo Eats, said that currently there is not much local competition within the start-up ecosystem, meaning that the market is wide open for local business people to find their niche.

The competition that does come is often from companies outside Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, which is not necessarily a drawback, he argued.

“Competition is good,” Merani said, since it pushes local start-ups to improve the services that they offer customers.

Nevertheless, there are many challenges that remain to starting a business in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region that uses new technology.

All three mentioned that the governments in Baghdad and Erbil could do more to remove barriers for businesses and investment by making registration easier, simplifying regulations, and improving data.

“The government should be paying more attention to this sector because there in a revolution going on” in entrepreneurship and technology, Qadir said.

Qadir said she saw the role played by technology in terms larger than merely a more efficient way of reaching customers.

“Technology is making Iraq more stable and modern,” she said, adding that adopting it in everyday processes would help to tie the country more closely into the global economy and, perhaps, help to move it away from dependence on the hydrocarbon sector.

“Now is a time of huge change. That’s why having this conversation now is so important,” said Co-Founder and Executive Director of Five One Labs Alice Bosley.

(NRT Digital Media)