Iraq was at one point a rising star. Before the Iran-Iraq War, it had the highest GDP-per-capita of any country in the Middle East, comparable, as Jack Straw recently noted, to that of Malaysia and Portugal. As Dennis Halliday has noted, the situation has reversed amazingly quickly:
The situation in terms of malnutrition is no better. It’s running at least 30%, possibly higher. And much of that is chronic malnutrition, which as I said early, leads to mental and physical lack of development. We have acute malnutrition in Iraq today. You know in the 1980’s the main problem for doctors in terms of young children in Iraq was obesity. Iraq was so prosperous, the standard of living was so high, public health was so good. The quality of education was equally outstanding. The services provided by the Ba’th Party were so comprehensive, this was a country of great prosperity, comparable and better, richer than many of the Southern European countries of that time.
Given this, it seems strange to talk of the rebuilding of Iraq’s IT infrastructure. But this is something that will have to happen, if and when a peaceful solution comes to Iraq. (Peace, unfortunately is neither inevitable nor the default state of any society.)
This summer, in the MI capstone, we will be doing some exercises in visualizing future scenarios. As this Computerworld article notes, one area that needs a lot of imagination is how to return Iraq to the standard of living it enjoyed two decades ago. An my most optomistic, I would like to see Iraq become a center of culture and information technology. A working information infrastructure could help make that happen, perhaps.