CAIRO: An enthusiastic Wael Fakhrany, Google’s regional manager of Egypt and North Africa, had one message for what he calls the “brilliant” youth of the Arab world: “Push yourself.”
“The field is growing at a phenomenal speed, the internet in this region is on fire,” Fakhrany told Daily News Egypt.
At the inauguration of Google’s Student Ambassador Training program on Monday, which included 73 handpicked college students from all over the region to represent Google in universities across the region, Google highlighted their confidence in the region’s youth.
The program, which is part of Google’s commitment to empower the Middle East and North Africa’s academic community, aims to provide knowledge, tools, and infrastructure to help these students reach their full potential.
Furthermore, this September, Google plans to launch an experimental training program to help developers and business in Egypt, making it the first country in the region to test out the program.
Sebastian Clement, Google’s Outreach Program Manager, told DNE that the program, which is yet to be announced, will bring together public and private universities, businesses, as well as IT companies in order to develop new applications and ideas that will challenge and thus enhance the country’s developers and programmers.
“These are all youth with amazing creativity and unbelievable capabilities who feel that they can change the world,” said Noha Salem, university relations manager of Google MENA. “And, in fact they do have the ability to change the world.”
The idea behind the ambassador program is to challenge the students by encouraging them to get creative and develop ideas and organize events that will allow them to introduce Google’s various products and services to their colleagues at their respective university campuses.
This week is the group’s training and introductory, which is taking place at the German University in Cairo. After the week is over, the students will all go to their respective universities to start the ambassador program, which lasts for academic year.
The first session on Monday brought together all 73 of the talented IT and engineering students from 33 universities in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Algeria, and Egypt.
Rasha Abu Samra, a 20-year-old Management Information Systems senior from Saudi Arabia’s King Saud University and participant in the program, said she is anxious to return to her university in order to begin helping her colleagues.
“We have a lot of students with small businesses at my university and Google has amazing products that can help these small businesses,” she said.
Abu Samra, who was gleaming with fervor to start working right away, hinted that she might have plans to create an application for Android.
She also said that she hopes to apply for a full-time career Google after she graduates this year.
“Working for Google would be an honor,” she added.
Despite the lack of resources available to youth in the Arab world, Fakhrany pointed out that they could have everything and more by enhancing their talents through practice.
The only way they would be able to achieve this is by “getting their hands dirty,” he said.
“I went to Ain Shams here in Cairo, a public university, we barely had desks, windows were broken sometimes and we’d be freezing in the classroom, but so what, I was a college student,” said Fakhrany. “I did it and I even got a scholarship to help me further my studies at the end.”
Referring to the revolutions igniting across the region, Fakhrany added that the region’s youth already proved they could do amazing things.
He also encouraged them to stay and take part in the development of IT, which is currently booming in the region.
“It is not a great idea for web developers or programmers to go where internet usage is growing at 1 percent, versus here in the region where it is growing at 40 percent,” Fakhrany told DNE.
“Take Sherif Nasser, for example, who created the website Nefsak that allows users to shop through 19,000 different products and has sold 250,000 products so far; it’s an amazing success story.”
According to Fakhrany, Nefsak.com, who EFG Hermes just bought a 20 percent share in for LE 10 million, is set to become the region’s version of Amazon.com and it only took its developer two and a half years to achieve it all.
However, he wanted to make sure young people realized that when it comes to developing yourself, you should not rely on solely on talent as it is “overrated,” he said.
“My message to the region’s youth is you can do it, you are not just born with talent, you have to exert effort, and when you do that, you’ll have the potential to achieve so much more,” he stressed.
The program’s ambassadors were selected based on several criteria including their familiarity with technology, their desire to highlight Google’s innovations, as well as their commitment to making a difference in their universities.
Thirty percent of the participants of the program are females, as encouraging females to enter the field of IT and engineering is also among Google’s priorities.
In fact, the company offers a €7,000 for females studying IT or engineering who wish to apply.
In 2010, Google was the fastest growing company in the world when it came to research and development expenses, spending over $140,000 per employee on research and development every year.