By Ruba Anabtawi
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
In 2008, Imad Ammouri left behind the comforts of America to return home to Palestine. He established the first Palestinian computer company Ibtikar that made microprocessors and personal computers. He was struck with polio after being given a contaminated vaccine in 1967. When he was in high school computers came onto the scene and that is when he discovered his love of technology. He used his paralysis as a method of empowerment. It allowed him to concentrate fully and develop his talents in technology. His love for the field and his condition encouraged him to pursue a career in the field. He went to Bir Zeit University in 1986 his studies were interrupted with the activities of the first Intifada. Imad went to the United States to continue his studies. There he completed a bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Computer Science. IBM hired him and worked with them until his return to Palestine.
Horizons had the great honor to interview Imad:
When did you return home?
I came back in 2008 and I honestly did not find the condition of the country encouraging. The condition of the country since I had left, without a doubt, had deteriorated. The biggest reason for the decline was the occupation. The decline was in education among the young, personal relationships and the disappearance of a volunteer culture. Civilization must move forward and in Palestine, it does not. I came to a reality that motivated me to start “Ibtikar”
Why “Ibtikar” Innovation?
“Ibtikar” entrepreneur and creativity in 2010. With the aid of the intellectual Hashem Alkhatib who was a physics teacher at the Umma college. His extensive knowledge in electronics and my business experience from America helped to establish this company. We then expanded to include five engineers to the team –three of them from Palestine and two from China. We worked on producing computer kit that are now made in China under Palestinian supervision.
Why did you choose the name “Ibtikar” innovation?
Innovation is the distinction for our age. All organizations and companies that do not innovate will create their own end. An example is the company Nokia they did not innovate or keep up with the times. Apple and Samsung put an end to Nokia with their new ideas. Innovation is in the foundations of our company
What are microprocessors and microcomputers that are in the cases?
It is the specialized study of computers. These microcomputers are in every electric device microwaves, refrigerators, and washers. Microprocessors are programmed with software to detect all information in its surroundings sound, temperature, and touch.
What are challenges you have faced?
Overtaking the challenges are part of the enjoyment. You must have faith and a will to succeed. Our first challenge was the occupation. The occupation made the of aptitude certificate the first condition before we could launch our projects and import our goods from China.
How have your products been accepted?
Locally, we have been able to cooperate with 100 local private and UNRWA schools with our product. We have won First prize for the Most innovative technology product in the Mediterranean countries for our CPU last January. For three years in a row we won awards in Finland for our creativity and originality and in France we won an award for our training process.
What is the importance of your device at the school level?
Our kit has been simplified to begin with children from the fourth grade. Other technology/computer kits begin with programs at the middle school level. We start with younger ages because they have unlimited capacity for learning and lots of energy. Coordinating with the school we use the kits in summer programs to teach them to the students.
Are your company’s products environmentally friendly?
Yes they are. Our first prize we received from Intel Palestine competition was for a chip that can be placed in a water tank to track water usage. The chip detects when there is a shortage of water in the tank and sends a signal to the washer to cease running to conserve water. The West Bank has a continuous problem of water shortage and interruptions. I also developed another chip for the water tank. It detects the level of contamination in the water specifically when there is dirt mixed in the water. The chip’s sensors then send the polluted/contaminated water to the garden or yard.
But most important of our inventions is the electricity-free and refrigerant free refrigerator. The refrigerator eliminates the use of ammonia and freon gases that destroy the ozone. We have innovated and are developing the idea with a gifted student. The refrigerator works with a series of chips that cool by using the electric current to cool the air. The cooler can be taken charged and taken anywhere; It is the most environmentally friendly refrigerator on the market.
Have you received any patents on your inventions?
Yes, we have. We have patents on our computer kit even though there are similar kits in the world ours is the most compatible for young beginners. French experts recommended by as the only kit to be used for children.”Ibtikar” amazed the French with our capacity to invent under the constraints of occupation.
During your cooperation with the creative minds in Palestinian society where are they and are they plenty?
Without a doubt, there are tens of scholarly projects coming from the creative sector of Palestine and I have met them. They have worked with “Ibtikar”. There is a lack of formal planning in the Palestinian community and by those responsible to embrace and cultivate our creative sector.
Have you accomplished your dreams?
Thank God, yes I have. I have achieved the Arab dream and the American dream. I made something out of nothing
Is there anything to look forward to in “Ibtikar” inventions?
Yes our kit It is going to be the best tool in developing young minds
Translated by: Kefah Abukhdeir