Bassem El-Wazir is an IT professional and thought leader with a passion for innovation and entrepreneurship. With a proud history of accomplishments, leadership, and mastery of the digital and information systems landscape, he is also committed to making a positive impact every day. El-Wazir has been an active member and a co-founder of IT and community associations, business alliances, forums, think tanks and is also a dedicated advocate of freedom, human rights, and our environment.

El-Wazir has recently launched “Tech Trendy”, an initiative aiming to support Palestinian youth in Lebanese refugee camps. He answers questions on the idea behind the initiative, the process and its impact, also highlighting key points on how to well-equip Palestinian youth towards success. El-Wazir discusses the dominating presence of Palestinians in the IT and business sector globally, but also sheds light on the obstacles young Palestinians face under the restrictive Lebanese law. 

What is the idea behind the initiative? Explain the process.
The idea behind the initiative is to empower Palestinian youth in refugee camps with knowledge and skills that enable them to create a better future using information technology and digital transformation as a means to improving their lives and taking control of their own future.

Participants expressed their interest by filling out a registration form and joining our WhatsApp and Facebook pages. Almost all of the invitations were shared through word of mouth amidst Palestinian refugee students at Lebanese universities. The WhatsApp group was used for direct communication where we share announcements, invitation to meetings, updates and technology related news that are trending in the domain of technology and digital transformation. Dates for webinars, events and training courses are all shared in a calendar.

Participants also filled out a survey which enables us to classify them according to interest and knowledge levels & skills in the IT domain. They are later on invited to a one-on-one discussion to align with program objectives, expectations and commitment. 

The average age of the participants is 22. The ratio of females to males is 41:59. 

What impact does the initiative aim to have and what impact has it achieved thus far?
The impact we aim to have is to motivate the youth by spreading awareness and knowledge related to new technologies and digital transformation based on trends of the Fourth Industrial Revaluation (such as robotics, analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, internet of things,  blockchain, virtual & augmented reality, etc.)

We are also conducting conversations with the participating youth. Many need counselling and a sense of direction, mentorship but also someone to simply talk to. 

Webinars with experts and inspiring people in the fields of entrepreneurship, venture capital, digital marketing & branding, programming, digital security, software engineering, & other technology is also a way to spark interest and spread knowledge. We aim to be guested by well-respected entrepreneurs in the region such as Fadi Ghandour, Joy Ajlouny, Rami Al-Karmi and many others in the pipeline.

Furthermore, it is important to introduce participants to new modern skills, both technical & soft that are needed in today’s marketplace by also identifying the gaps and how to fill them. With the assistance of the latest technologies and IT skills, youth chart a new course in their lives and build networks of partnerships and industry friends. This all contributes to the impactful change and success of the initiative. 

In addition, participants have been put on a fast track of intensive training program in various technology domains such as digital security, web & mobile application development, cloud services, etc. Most importantly leading to the creation of job opportunities for new graduates from the training programs. 

What support do young Palestinians need in order to succeed?
Palestinian youth are in need of learning opportunities including coaching, mentorship and internship opportunities with technology or business companies. This includes access to Internet and computers, networking with potential employers outside Lebanon as outsourcing resources.

Fundamentally, opportunities for Palestinian youth are unlocked through work permits in Lebanon.

Which roll do you hope for Palestinians to have in the IT och business sector?
It’s important to highlight that Lebanese law prohibits Palestinians from employment in Lebanon. This fact is adding a mounting pressure on the youth who are facing social and economic challenges, especially with the pandemic and the devastation of the Lebanese economy. Therefore, our initiative calls upon these youth to shape their own future by using technology and developing technical and personal skills that are needed globally.

We believe that the pandemic is an opportunity for Palestinian youths to shine and prove that they are capable of delivering and competing on international level as developers and IT service providers. Today the new normal for employees around the world is to work remotely and from home. Therefore, it no longer matters which country you are residing in, as long as you can deliver projects and services. All you need is a good Internet connection, a computer and most importantly; the will to change your life for the better.

Palestinian programmers and service providers from the refugee camps in Lebanon can have a better advantage than anyone else in the world, if given the proper attention, support and opportunity.

Interview & Article conducted by Deemah Abdelkader.
Interview & Article conducted by Deemah Abdelkader.