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Your Laptop Can Stay Home
New Israeli-Palestinian venture breaks down barriers
Yehonathan Tommer (tommery06)     Print Article 
Published 2009-07-21 10:40 (KST)   
I'm not cyber savvy. But as an Internet user, who depends for a livelihood working with a proper functioning personal computer, up-to-date word processing, anti-virus programs and Internet connection, Gh.o.st grabbed my imagination.

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ronym for Global Hosting Operating System, Gh.o.st, offers what its British-Israeli founding innovator Zvi Schreiber describes as a "virtual computing environment, wholly available on an Internet web page."

'Virtual Computing Environment' with Fewer Administrative Hassles

This means I can leave my laptop with all my files and programs at home. I can go to any computer in a school or university library, office space or press room with an Internet connection, log in to my personal desktop on Gh.o.st and access all my files. What's more, I can open my word processing program and resume work on an article, a piece of translation or the page of the chapter of the book I am writing at exactly the same line where I left off an hour ago, a day ago or a longer.

The desktop has a system that takes its applications and browser from the web. It operates in 20 languages and transition between languages is at the click of a key.

What's more, forget the worries of backing up files, which many of us routinely forget and then experience the trauma of a stolen laptop and unrecoverable files. On Gh.os.t, every file has three backups safely stored on Amazon.com data center server. If a live file is corrupted it is immediately replaced on line by a released backup, Shreiber assures.

Subscription is free, though a future minimal charge is likely. Meanwhile the service is being financed by 40 percent of advertising revenue from Google, Amazon and such; and by a percentage cut from sales with on site shop vendors.

Of course, Gh.o.st cannot replace the PC. Subscribers who want to work from home or in an Internet cafe, corridor or shopping mall will still need a traditional computer and screen after logging onto their web page.

Israeli-Palestinian venture

The start-up which already has over 200,000 mainly American, European and Asian subscribers, was officially launched last week by former British Prime Minister and Middle East Quartet emissary Tony Blair on Mount Gilo, a no-man's part of East Jerusalem outside the Israeli built security fence not far from Bethlehem.

The company is officially registered in the British Virgin Islands has been operating since 2006. A skeleton Israeli office directed by Schreiber is located in the town of Modiin between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Its Palestinian subsidiary and R&D center is directed by the start-up's marketing communications manager Montasser Abed Latif. It is located in the West Bank town of Ramallah and employs 30 IT professional Palestinian West Bankers trained in West Bank, Jordanian and Egyptian universities.

Schreiber and his Palestinian colleagues communicate mostly via cell phones and electronic video conferencing. Face to face meetings are rare. Israeli security restrictions prevent Israeli citizens from entering the Palestinian territories and Israeli travel permits are not readily or regularly approved for Palestinians seeking entry to Israel.

Hence, the symbolic name chosen for the company. Digital technology, unlike imported and exported goods, has no physical barriers. But also like ghosts it can pass unrestricted through walls, under them or over them and emerge unscathed.

At the same time, Schreiber saw his venture start-up with Palestinian professionals as a personal contribution to breaking down the deepening social and political barriers dividing Israelis and Palestinians. "People who work together have a better understanding of each other and this can promote dialogue and eventually help to solve wider national conflicts," he says. "We only live 50 km apart but its amazing how little we know about each other." "Ramallah has a small but excellent software industry," Schreiber said. "The relationship is working very smoothly and creatively."

The relationship is one among equals, says Schreiber. Unlike numerous cooperative business ventures of the previous decade following the euphoric days of the Oslo agreement, Israelis outsourced work to Palestinians, often perpetuating their economic supremacy. The take home pay for Gh.o.st's Palestinian employees is fairly relative to salaries earned in the territories and they have stock options when the company goes public or is sold.

He would have liked to bring in Gazan professionals as well. But the Internet infrastructure in the Gaza Strip is highly censored. Business collaboration is still sensitive and controversial for Israelis and Palestinians alike and hard for them to justify it to their own communities.

Even so, Abed Latif is optimistic and sees no problem in collaborating with Israelis. "We can proudly say Palestinians are producers of software and not importers of technology. Gh.o.st insources Palestinian computer engineers which creates jobs and skills. We are contributing to building up the Palestinian economy."

©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Yehonathan Tommer

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