To understand that purpose, we need to take a trip back through time, and explore the history of what technology can do for people.
Phase one: The Jordan Computer Center
The first iteration of what we now know as Eastnets started in 1984 and lasted until 1990. When I came back from the US, I was inspired by the idea of the democratization of technology to launch what was then called the Jordan Computer Center. I was motivated by the notion that anyone, whoever they are, can harness the power of personal computers.
I wanted to give Jordanians the same chance to buy computers as the Americans I had seen in Florida — and, in this way, connect to each other and the rest of the world. When my showroom business faced competition from my former partners, I switched to distributing the pioneering Sakhr MSX Arab-English edutainment console. Again, this was about giving young Jordanians the chance to learn English, the international lingua franca, and thereby acquire the skills they needed to converse in the world around them.
Every now and then, even after all these years, I encounter people who come up to me and say how much they treasured their Sahkr MSX console — and how much of a role it played in their early life. This really gives me a thrill.
Phase two: Eastern Networks
The second evolutionary phase spanned from 1991-2008. After the first Gulf War, which triggered the collapse of my computer business, I created what was, on the face of it, a completely different one: a business built around linking banks to central networks.
At first, there were small deals that revolved around phone banking. The breakthrough came when I started providing banks with access to SWIFT. This allowed banks to offer banking services to more people — and it allowed me to continue with my mission to connect more people to the global economy. Over the next few years, the idea of financial inclusion was a powerful driver for what first became Eastern Networks, and later: Eastnets. I was able to expand the business beyond Jordan, turning it into a multi-regional company.
During this period, Eastnets connected many relatively poor countries – including Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen – to SWIFT and, through this, to the global economy. But there was also the occupied Palestine.
During the 1990s, after the signing of the Oslo Accords, which paved the way for Palestinian self-rule, I was heavily involved in the preparations for establishing an independent state, advising on its financial and banking requirements.
But these efforts ended with the second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, which drew criticism from around the world. So I was left to ponder how best I could help the cause. My opportunity came in the mid-2000s; I put the Palestinian central bank on SWIFT and gave the territories their own distinct digital identity: PS.
Phase three: Eastnets
The third phase started in 2008, and although the business has evolved considerably since then, it has broadly retained the same broad vision.
It was in 2008 that Eastnets acquired SIDE International and, with one big leap, became what I call an IP company — a company with its own intellectual property. Suddenly, we were able to offer banks a range of Anti-Money Laundering and other services that would protect them and their customers.
In the past 15 years, cyber-crime has grown exponentially. The digital tools designed to connect people have been weaponized by financial hackers, criminals, and state-backed operatives. So, just as we have always tried to give people the tools that they need to connect with each other and to participate in the global economy, we now also try to safeguard them when they use those tools.
Jordan Computer Center, Eastern Networks, Eastnets — the name may have changed over the years, but the company’s central mission hasn’t.
For nearly 40 years, it has focused on giving people the tools to connect with each other and to participate in the global economy, and this common purpose has driven the approach to charitable work, too.
Two Brown Envelopes: How To Shrug Off Setbacks, Bounce Back From Failure And Build A Global Business, written by Eastnets CEO, Hazem Mulhim, is out soon.
Hazem Mulhim, Eastnets CEO
Hazem is the Founder and CEO of Eastnets. With a career spanning 35 years in international markets, his acute vision and industry insight helped Eastnets build a 750-strong client base and secure multiple prestigious international awards, including recognition for its leadership in a global compliance industry vertical.