“Real challenges call for real solutions”. This is the motto prevailing in the laboratories of the technology giant Oracle, where inventive intelligences are brought together to develop unprecedented solutions to the great challenges of our world. “Le Matin”, exclusively, went to visit the “Oracle Lab” in Casablanca, newly inaugurated, and meet the managers and the team of this R&D sanctuary located in Morocco. Once the access door security device is unlocked, you step straight into a future-oriented world where energies are released to give shape to the most inventive ideas.
From Java solutions to Internet of Things and blockchain, to integrated industry solutions addressing the most complex business processes across a wide range of industries, Oracle is everywhere! Banking and insurance, communication, engineering and construction, health, life sciences, utilities, etc. There is no sector where Oracle is not present. Through its powerful innovation dynamic induced by its nine “Labs” spread around the world, of which the Casablanca site is now a part, this champion of on-demand software is positioned as an absolute reference in terms of industrial research aimed at to create technologies that can radically change existing computing paradigms.
Oracle in Morocco since 1998
Oracle’s presence in Morocco dates back to 1998, says El Houssine Oucouc, Oracle’s general manager for North Africa. This presence focused on commercial activity and support for Oracle’s local partners, whether banks, telecommunications operators or government services. But for years, due to the capacities shown by its nationals in terms of advanced research, the Kingdom has aroused the interest of this super firm from Silicon Valley. The strategic orientations adopted by Morocco, particularly in terms of sustainable development, industrial and digital transition and investment support, have played in favor of Oracle’s establishment in Morocco.
We are not in a logic of outsourcing
The Casablanca Nearshore Oracle Lab is far from being part of a logic of subcontracting, even first-rate. “The Moroccan pole is involved in the same way as the other poles in advanced research, by taking on high-risk, uncertain or difficult to approach projects within a product development organization”, explains Hassan Chafi, vice – president in charge of the “Advanced research & development” division. This native of the United States, having grown up in Morocco between Casablanca and Marrakech, tells us that during his school years in Morocco, he realized how his colleagues were particularly ingenious. And it is precisely this abundance of talent in Morocco that prompted Oracle officials to seriously consider setting up an R&D division in the Kingdom. “In recent years, we have been busy studying the potential of the country, obtaining skills and examining whether these are qualified enough to meet our R&D needs,” he explains. “Our CEO was in Morocco on May 16-17, her first trip to Africa, and was impressed, to use her own words, by what she saw,” Mr. Chafi said, noting that Ms. Safra Ada Catz had a double objective: that of reporting with Moroccan officials on the enormous benefit that emerges from cooperation between States, especially after the signing of the Abraham Accords, and that of seeing for herself all the propensity to work together, the energy and the abundance of talent in this country.
The Casablanca Lab involved in all Oracle projects
The Moroccan team is required to work on all Oracle projects, particularly those involving artificial intelligence and machine learning. She will work on projects to increase the accuracy of solutions for governments and businesses to manage their cash flow, for example, detect all types of fraud, including fraud related to online advertising, says Mr. Chafi. Recently, he says, this team helped detect the context-spoofing malware “KissFraud”, which uses the “ghost site” technique (or “phantom site”, a malicious site with infringing content created specifically for ad fraud purposes).
This team is also working on the design of new cloud services, in particular a solution to autonomously correct security problems in applications. Similarly, continues Mr. Chafi, this team contributes to the relational database management system “Oracle Database”, which is Oracle’s flagship product. “So the message I want to give is that this team is involved in all aspects and all technologies and there is no limit to what they can accomplish,” says the head of Oracle.
Diverse and varied profiles
In terms of profiles, Mr. Chafi says, the intention is to appeal to anyone able to take part in one of Oracle’s projects relating to artificial intelligence, machine learning, basic systems data, operating systems (here we have people working on Oracle Linux), Java and the next generation of Java language, and cloud services. Oracle is one of the few companies to offer a complete range of products and services covering all levels. “This is why we are looking for computer specialists, computer engineers, but also atypical profiles such as those who do not have a diploma and who are currently undergoing training at the 1337 school”, explains Mr. Chafi, pointing out that the quality of the training provided by this school has pleasantly surprised them and they are committed to collaborating closely in order to align the skills of its graduates with the needs of Oracle. The same goes for the vice-president of the “Advanced research & Development” division, Pascal Sero, who confirms that in terms of research and development, it is necessary to have recourse to several types of profiles: holders of doctorates and masters to 1337 graduates who have no degree at the base.
A first-class partnership with UM6P
The partnership with the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) is obvious given the means that this establishment makes available to researchers. “By its vocation, its means and its partnerships, the UM6P acts as a national flagship and the establishment of an Oracle Lab in Morocco takes on its full scope thanks to a partnership of this level”, underlines Mr. Oucouc. Also, observes the general manager of Oracle for North Africa, this institution just like the OCP Group have a vision which joins that of Oracle: to detect skills beyond the Rabat-Casablanca axis. The Group’s strategy to open coding schools across the Kingdom goes hand in hand with Oracle’s goals of finding talent where it is. This point of view is shared by Mr. Sero who finds that what characterizes the UM6P and that its leaders have a clear vision of what they want to do and the means used to achieve their objectives are very important. For his part, Mr. Chafi stresses that profiles such as that of Rachid Guerraoui, professor at UM6P, and collaborator of the Oracle Lab in Zurich, attest to the strategic nature of this type of partnership with UM6P. Thanks to this professor, several Moroccan collaborators, including some from UM6P, have joined the Oracle Lab in Zurich, says Mr. Chafi.
A planned collaboration with all Moroccan universities and higher institutes
In addition to this strategic partnership with UM6P, Oracle Morocco intends to collaborate with all Moroccan schools and universities. “We are collaborating with the Mohammedia School of Engineers and we plan to extend this collaboration to other schools and universities,” Chafi says. Oracle Morocco also intends to support universities in the creation and development of their IT courses by providing curricula, according to Mr. Sero, and resources, according to Mr. Chafi. “It is in our interest that the number of talents emanating from these universities increases and we see ourselves as directly involved in the development of these fields and therefore as partners in supporting these schools and universities by providing them with free cloud credits so that they can provide training to their students using the latest technologies.
Aims also for Africa
By setting up in Morocco, Oracle is also turning to Africa. This computer giant wants to take advantage of Morocco’s position as a gateway to Africa and its influence on the continent thanks to the sustained action of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, a precursor of South-South cooperation. Echoing the words of Mostafa Terrab, Pascal Sero stresses that Africa must be seen as the solution and not the problem and that Oracle, like what can be done in the regions of the Kingdom, also intends to invest in Africa in search of talent.
From the fight against Covid to the preservation of bees, Oracle is where it counts
To illustrate the omnipresence of Oracle, Hassan Chafi does not hesitate to make use of this formula: “If Oracle were to disappear one day, it is as if you suddenly found yourself plunged into darkness after having known the light !” Oracle is a key player and its solutions are ubiquitous, says Mr. Chafi, pointing out that in the context of the fight against Covid, Oracle technology has been used in clinical trials of anti-Covid vaccines. “This is why I am so proud to be part of this structure,” he rejoices. Backing up Mr. Chafi’s remarks, Mr. Oucouc maintains that Oracle is a pioneer that acts to find solutions to the major problems in the world. Currently, and faced with the problem of the collapse of bee colonies, Oracle has developed a solution which is in the experimental phase to alleviate this worrying situation on a global scale.
Ghita Mezzour: a symbol
During the visit of the CEO of Oracle to the premises of the UM6P in Benguerir, the example of the young minister delegate in charge of the digital transition and the reform of the administration, Ghita Mezzour, was particularly mentioned for highlighting how Morocco abounds in skills in computer engineering. “I believe that the next generation of IT talent will come from the South, from Africa in particular, and more specifically from Morocco. If you go to the best computer engineering schools in France, Moroccans are the second largest community after the French. If you go to Switzerland, Moroccans form the third community after the Swiss and the French, and Ghita Mezzour was one of them! declared Professor Rachid Guerraoui during his speech.