Iraq’s technology and startup sector has seen an increase in investments in Iraqi tech startups, and growing interest from local and international companies in the sector.
Hawler Information Technology Exhibition (HITEX) is an annual exhibition hosted in Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan. Influenced and inspired by Dubai’s yearly GITEX summit, HITEX best exemplifies the growth and progress of the tech sector as the exhibition grew from a local tech show, to the biggest tech exhibition in the country.
HITEX was established in June 2019 by two Iraqi tech visionaries, Frarhang Bradosty and Raber Kareem. Their goal was to promote technology and entrepreneurship in the region. The exhibition proved to be an astounding success, establishing its own organising company, Redeagle, and attracting support from the Kurdish government. The event has become a platform for technology companies to communicate, collaborate, and provide tech enthusiasts in the region with an opportunity to get to know the latest technological advancements and trends in the world.
We’ll be explaining the role that HITEX plays in progressing the Iraqi tech scene and the unique opportunities it can provide.
Showcasing Iraqi Tech
In its long history, Iraq has been known for its bright minds and talented people. From inventing the first writing system during the Sumer civilization, to Baghdad becoming the scientific centre of the world in the Abbasid period, and in modern times, talented Iraqis such as architect Zaha Hadid and poet Muhammad Mahdi al-Jawahiri. There are plentiful reasons to believe that the innovative spirit is still present in the country and needs to be rediscovered and supported.
Despite this, Iraq is a country that is often misunderstood. Due to the conflict and instability in the region, many people only know about Iraq from what they see in the news. This can lead to misconceptions and stereotypes about the country and its people. Exhibitions are a great way to showcase innovation taking place in Iraq and challenge these prevailing narratives about the country. By connecting both inside and outside investment to Iraqi innovation, we can change common conceptions about Iraq. HITEX provides the platform to do just that where it connects innovators with tech enthusiasts to promote local products and attract interest from the wider SWANA region.
The event also includes the HITEX Future Stars program, a competition that provides entrepreneurs with financial rewards and incentives to start their businesses or to partner with each other and investors.
HITEX 2021 attracted almost 65,000 people over three days. Such interest from the public can be attributed to the following factors:
- An increase in technological skills required by the private sector (partly caused by the high unemployment rate and competitive job market)
- Increased usage of technological terms by the media and social media has created a buzz about technology
- Educational institutions are focusing more on integrating technology into the education process, encouraging students to learn more about technology
HITEX declares that it was established to create a digital Iraq that utilises the advancements of technology to improve the standard of living, education, and economic situation of its citizens. Transforming any country digitally requires a bilateral approach from the population and the government.
On the population side, it requires the inclusion of technology into educational institutions and workplaces so that it becomes a part of everyday life. This will also generate awareness on the benefits of technology, and how it offers increased productivity, prosperity, and opportunity. Bradosty and Kareem pride themselves on making HITEX not just a space for doing business, but for learning so that the public can familiarise themselves with technological advancements happening in the country.
Iraq Ranks 143 out of 193 in the world in e-government development according to United Nation statistics; a fact that prevents the Iraqi government and public from leveraging the convenience and reliability of technology in governmental processes. The Iraqi government, especially the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), are aware of this deficiency and have shown interest in HITEX and similar exhibitions to promote the idea of a digital government. This was evident by the heavy participation of the KRG’s top leadership in HITEX 2021 where the Prime Minister and Vice Prime Minister actively participated in events.
Technology helps us to reduce corruption and improve the people’s routineMasrour Barzani, Prime Minister of Kurdistan Region
The world’s experience has told us that the era of writing, pens and papers for government and business has expired. Events like HITEX are very beneficial! Thanks to the HITEX organizersQubad Talabani, Deputy Prime Minister of Kurdistan Region
Building upon the success of HITEX 2021, this year’s exhibition promises to be the biggest and most technologically advanced of its type in Iraq, especially with the ease of Covid-19 restrictions and the economy’s recovery.
HITEX will be held from 27th to 30th June 2022, in partnership with the Rwanga Foundation, a leading youth development NGO in Northern Iraq. The event is expected to hit record numbers of visitors and participants, with this year’s slogan being ‘Your Gateway for Digitalization’.
The event organisers promise a range of activities and tech shows that will make the exhibition both a business opportunity and a knowledge pool. The following activities have been announced so far:
HITEX Future Stars
HITEX Future Stars is an annual competition that highlights local projects and startups. Financial support is provided to the top three ideas, which are selected by a committee consisting of founders and business experts.
During HITEX 2021, 33 entrepreneurs participated and pitched their ideas. This year, applications are facilitated by the Rwanga Foundation’s Invest My Idea platform, promising more financial support and development for the participating entrepreneurs.
HITEX Conference is an open platform to talk about challenges, opportunities and trends in the Iraqi tech industry. Our favourite panel was about “women building a career in technology”, which hosted an amazing group of Iraqi women including Basima Abdulrahman, Founder & CEO of Kesk, Randi Barznji, Professor of entrepreneurship at AUIS, and Nareen Farhad, Tech Hub Manager at WorkWell Iraq.
This year’s conference is expected to be bigger with interesting topics and discussions about Iraqi tech and business. Panels will be held across the three days of the event with recordings available on the HITEX YouTube Channel.
Technology should be fun and entertaining, which is why HITEX has a dedicated section for gaming and entertainment. HITEX 2022’s gaming section is sponsored by INFINIX, a global mobile phone maker with popularity in the Iraqi market due to its affordable prices and high-performance products.
The exhibition will hold game competitions and free game sessions for visitors. Games will include FIFA, Player Unknown Battlegrounds, and many more, along with Virtual Reality games making a debut.
What to Expect
An event at the scale of HITEX has a lot to offer to the Iraqi tech scene. The variety of participants and events that will be showcased have the potential for deepening your knowledge about the tech scene and forming partnerships and business connections.
HITEX 2022 tickets are only available online here.
For exhibitors, the registration form can be found here.