I attended Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain last week. For those not familiar, MWC is one of the largest tech tradeshows in the world with something like 12,000 exhibitors spread across 9 halls at the Fira Barcelona. Though the show is ostensibly focused on mobile technology, a large percentage of exhibitors don’t really have a direct link to mobile and thus in many ways, this show was just like the scores of others I have attended. There was however one aspect that caught my attention: The truly global nature of the show.
I understand why the term “World” is used in the title because people from all corners of the globe attended and exhibited at MWC. As expected, there were large numbers of Americans, Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Western Europeans. Huawei, for example, had at least 4 different booths that I visited, and I didn’t even get to every corner of the show. None of that surprised me, but I was a bit taken aback when I stumbled upon the Tunisian technology area. The Tunisian Export Promotion Center (a government entity) provided space for some 23 companies (mostly startups) to showcase their technology offerings to an international audience.
I had to dust-off my geographical knowledge to recall exactly where Tunisia was located (in North Africa between Algeria and Libya) and certainly had no idea the scope of tech companies that are there. Just walking around this area and chatting with a few folks I discovered the offerings were no different than I might find in the US. There were companies focused on blockchain, mobile apps, smart cities, IoT, cloud, augmented reality, big data, artificial intelligence and more. The Tunisians seem to have all the latest tech buzz words covered, but they were not the only ones. I spent some time in the Jordan booth as well. There were at least 10 companies there and some nice photos of tourist sites in Jordan. I talked to one gentleman from a company called Integrated Technology Group (ITG) and expressed my surprise to see Jordanian companies at MWC and he gave me that “you uninformed American” look. He wasn’t wrong, on this point, I really was an uninformed American: But not anymore!
In retrospect, all of this should not surprise anyone, because there is no reason high technology shouldn’t be everywhere. The barriers to entry in software development are relatively low. To succeed you need a computer, Internet connection, logical mind, determination, and some imagination. No one country or group of people has a monopoly on these mental traits and in the modern world, a computer and Internet connection are rapidly becoming a commodity which should usher in even more global innovation. I wonder which new country booths I will stumble upon next year at MWC 2020? Anyone care to hazard a guess?