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April 3, 2011


"Meeting with the President Sargsyan was Unprecedented",

say leaders of the Armenian IT industry


Breakfast With President - UITE

Members of Union of the Information Technology Enterprises
meet with  President  Serzh Sargsyan
By Gourgen Khazhakian
On Saturday, April 2 a working breakfast of the RA President Serzh Sargsyan with the Heads of the Union of Information Technology Enterprises of Armenia (UITE) member companies was held at the Yerevan Armenia Marriott Hotel. The Highlights correspondent asked to tell more details of this event important not only for sector, but also for the entire economy and society of the country, the meeting participant, long time member of the IT Development Support Council under the RA Prime Minister (ITDSC), Founding Director of the Unicomp CJSC Armen Baldryan.
Breakfast With President - UITE

April 2, 2011. RA President - ICT leaders working breakfast

Mr Baldryan, however, first of all told us prehistory of this breakfast.

During a New Year reception for Armenian businessmen hosted by President Serzh Sargsyan, he and his fellow leading IT managers shared with the President some ideas and suggestions for further development of the sphere, the essence of which is following: We live in an age of rapid changes, various redivisions in both politics and economy, and, as the history proves, it is in such post-crisis moments that small countries having no rich natural resources, like Armenia, have a chance for good "jump" in their development, - due to the rapid penetration into freed "niches" in the world markets. According to him, very good examples are Ireland, Israel, Taiwan, which have committed such a "leap" mainly due to hi-tech / ICT. "Drawing a parallel with these countries, we just said to the Head of the State we are confident that Armenia's best "tool" for such a breakthrough is the ICT-industry, and I will not hesitate to say that we were pleasantly surprised that Mr President, having listened carefully us, expressed readiness to receive ICT representatives to thoroughly discuss all the issues, "- said Mr Baldryan.

UITE - President Sargsyan

December 24, 2010.  promising to meet
with the IT leaders. Left from President: Armen Baldryan,
Karen Vardanyan, UITE Director, Hovik Musayelyan
In his words, President of Armenia "has kept his promise",and on April 2 his working breakfast with the UITE members was held. Armen Baldryan says: "Running ahead for a while, I'll tell you that this meeting with President Serzh Sargsyan was in some extent unprecedented one, especially in the sense that after a working breakfast Mr President said he was ready to meet with us, IT managers, every two-three months. "
So what issues were discussed at that working breakfast?
According to our interlocutor, the first, and perhaps the main attention was the need to create aseparate state body responsible for the ICT sector, for instance, a Ministry.
According to Mr Baldryan, the problem lies in the fact that ICT, as an important  "tool" for all other spheres of the economy, and society - in general, need centralized,coordinated policy.
President of Armenia, replying suggestions from ICT specialists, offered to submit to his consideration detailed document containing serious grounds for such a need, -in having a Ministry, pointing out that this is a serious question, and, therefore, needs detailed analysys and elaboration.
We, in turn, asked Mr Baldryan "to reveal" the main points of such grounds.

As he said, the No.1 of them is the fact that information technology and relevant infrastructure simply can not function separately from each other, as it is currently in Armenia. "Currently IT are managed by the Ministry of Economy, communications and infrastructure - by the Ministry of Communications and Transport, and some questions are responsibility of Public Utilities Regulatory Committee, but the changes in our sector occur very quickly, so that often only a procedure of approval of this or another thing takes so much time, which significantly impeding solution of a problem crucial for ICT development",-says Mr Baldryan. According to him, it is also a problem that in each of the mentioned government agencies there are only 2-3 people in charge for ICT.

Here two questions might rise: first, whether Armenian IT sector has volumes sufficient for having a separate Ministry, and, secondly, whether there might no fear that such an agency would turn soon to another bureaucratic body, alas,impeding the development of this prioritary area of economy?
Respondingthe first question, Armen Baldryan says: "Well, firstly, the volume of the IT industry of RA is not too small for our country (2010 turnover only in software production and services amounted to about  $150 million which means more than 15 percent increase compared with 2009 - G.Kh.), and, secondly, there is very important prospect here: at the times when the average salary of an ICT specialist two times higher than in the country in general, our area is called up to contribute significantly to shaping the middle class in Armenia,-people with higher incomes". In regard of concerns about possible "bureaucratization"of such ICT Ministry, a counter argument of Armen Baldryan is the following: if in such a body they will have highly-skilled specialists, everything will be okay, and the private IT-sector is ready to make its contribution in training of that personnel.
Another key challenge the industry faces is professional education, since, according to the ICT experts, there is a noticeable "gap" between demand and supply of specialists, particularly, in qualitative terms.
And, to solve this problem, on behalf of his colleagues, Director of the Enterprises Incubator Foundation (EIF) Bagrat Yengibaryan made a suggestion to take under patronage of the UITE one of the universities in terms of curriculum development and organizationof educational process in order to start releasing world-class IT professionals in the short times,working in the domestic market as well as getting orders from foreign companies (the so-called "outsourcing").
And here private ICT sector expect from the state primarily moral and organizational support,and they themselves are ready to make financial contribution, and support from various donors might be expected, in particular, by providing grants.

According to Armen Baldryan, President Serzh Sargsyan responded quiet positively to such a proposal, stressing that the country's leadership welcomes such kind of are one of the top priorities of theArmenian State. On this, Mr Baldryan informed The Highlights correspondent that due to joint efforts of his company, Unicomp and the EIF a training center was established recently, - to enable Armenian IT-specialists to improve their qualifications in accordance with the highest standards without going abroad.

young_specialists

Training of young specialists has always been important for
Unicomp Founding Director Armen Badryan

As to the issue of the country's support from the Government, on this crucial problem their views expressed our interlocutor as wellas the Head of the "Nork" Information Center Hayk Chobanyan.
In particular, Mr Baldryan cited the example of Taiwan's leadership who has contributed significantly to ensure banks to give to the hightech/ICT companies low-interest loans, which were also long-termones, as the investmentin this sector are repaid only in 3-4 years. According to leading IT managers of Armenia, their area needs to have equal conditions for competition,and a good example here is IT related industry-telecommunications, in which, thanks to measures taken by the state, the conditions for equal competition have been created, which resulte devident improvement, for example, last year alone, Internet prices fell in eight times.
Upon the request of the UITE, President of Armenia instructed the RA Economy Minister TigranDavtyan being present at the working breakfast to develop ASAP package of documents regulatingin a clearcut way the use of the socalled "dual codes", which meaning lies in the delimitation of products used solely for civil purposes from those which can be used formilitary purposes, especially in the countries to which the RA pledged not to supply such equipment due to signed international treaties. Armen Baldryan stressed that during the working breakfast with the RA President an evident trend of improvement of the business climatein Armenia over the past year was mentioned, and all the interested parties - the leadership of the state, the government, businesses themselves must strive not only to maintain this trend, but to do everything for its reinforcement.
The breakfast participants told to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the RA Armed Forces President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan about their just-yesterday meeting with the leadership and command staff of the RA Ministry of Defense. According to Mr Baldryan, this important event was an outcome of their meeting with the Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan held on the initiative of the UITE some two weeks earlier, after which Minister Ohanyan decided to hold a second meeting -this time with the generals and officers of the Defense Ministry, during which it was decided to establish a joint commission.
UITE - Armed Forces collaboration is expected to include: IT-training ofArmenian officers, application of IT-governance in Armed Forces, as well as information technology use in the development of military technology, for example, the use of robotics in the mine clearing, or/and unmanned aircrafts. Mr Baldryan reported that at present two employees of RA Ministry of Defense - by the way, free of charge, are trained in Unicomp in the "network security" subject and that his company, like many other companies of the sector, is willing to continue, on a regular basis, such trainings for military personnel.
According to Armen Baldryan,at present establishing of special computer classes at the military units in order to make soldiers and sergeants able to obtain relevant knowledge that they could use on the completion of service, in civic life, is being discussed.
During the meeting at the Defense Ministry it was also noted that it would be expedient to use the skills of IT-specialists, called up to the Armenian Army, in theareas connected to the use of information technology in the Armed Forces.
As Armen Baldryan said, President Serzh Sargsyan re-affirmed that the country's leadership considers information/communication technology industry as a priority, and that there is no alternative to the development of high-tech industries as the cornerstone of knowledge-based economy, especially if taking into account Armenia's neighborhood, and, as it was already noted, has expressed readiness to meet regularly with reps of the ICT sphere (which, to note, even in the times of crisis, and the last year also, has been registering double-digit growth (15.6% in 2010), with a turnover amounting to 2% of GDP (which is higher than even in some of the developed countries -G.Kh. ), for a thorough discussion of the achievements,challenges and emerging problems of the industry. (See alsoThe Highlights March 28 issue,-interview with UITE Director Karen Vardanyan).
As Director of Synopsys Armenia, member of the Public Council under the RA President Dr Hovik Musayelyan said your correspondent, in very short time the agreements reached with President of Armenia will give real results.

According to Armen Baldryan, the current moment is really crucial for the Armenian IT, and the members of the Community are mere obliged to submit to the Head of the State detailed and carefully thought grounds for their suggestions made during the meeting with President Serzh Sargsyan.

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