Surpassing software solutions of high quality
Minsk-based High-Tech Park among largest in Central and Eastern Europe
By Vladimir Samoilov
According to the Gartner analytical company, the High-Tech Park has contributed to Belarus’ joining the top 30 countries in the field of offshore programming. Moreover, its six companies are now among the top hundred best suppliers of IT services.
Last year, the Park’s exports of software and related services generated $370.5m and, in 2013, around $500m is expected (accounting for 30 percent of Belarus’ payment balance) — believes the Director of the High-Tech Park’s Administration, Valery Tsepkalo. At present, the Park has 125 residents — including companies from Russia, Ukraine and other CIS states, in addition to Holland, Germany and France.
The High-Tech Park was established on September 22nd, 2005 — in line with a decree from the Belarusian President. Beforehand, Mr. Tsepkalo (once the Presidential Aide and Belarus’ Ambassador to the USA) proposed arguments confirming that the country’s IT branch needed substantial tax privileges and other preferences, while high tech companies required their own special territory. Of course, in Soviet times, Belarus was a ‘Silicon Valley’ — developing and producing lamp computer machines. At present, the Park’s success is evident and no more proof is needed.
Other states within the CIS are keen to repeat Belarus’ IT success, leading to the High-Tech Park liaising with many countries, rendering consulting services to Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Azerbaijan, helping them establish their own IT industry. Special ties connect it to Russia — in particular, to its Skolkovo Foundation. A year ago, Mr. Tsepkalo attended the Russia-Belarus-Skolkovo: Single Innovative Space conference; he noted that, despite Skolkovo’s diverse activity, its co-operation with the Belarusian High-Tech Park (which focuses exclusively on IT projects) could be a success. Belarusians enjoy advantages in this respect, since modern scientific studies are impossible without information technologies and this branch is speedily developing here.
The major problem for Belarus in matching the level of a ‘European India’ regarding software development is lack of personnel; although, last year, IT salaries reached almost Br12m (around $1,400 — triple that of average salaries countrywide), Belarus lacks qualified professionals. The High-Tech Park’s residents have agreed not to drain away staff from each other and programmers’ salaries are resulting in raising products’ prime cost. It’s much more promising to train specialists locally and, with this in mind, Park residents are building close ties with Belarus’ higher educational establishments. The Belarusian State University and the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radio-electronics run six chairs linked to the Park while senior schoolchildren are annually invited to the Day of Knowledge at the High-Tech Park, aiming to attract them to the IT industry.