On a global scale, Belarus and the Ukraine belong to those countries which are home to the highest number of talented computer scientists. The branch is booming. Take the keywords data security, geographical and intercultural proximity, availability and costs: Belarus in particular offers ideal conditions for western businesses and bridges the gap between east and west.
One thing is certain, for most countries previously belonging to the Soviet Union the communist legacy implies one thing: a burden. Derelict factories, crumbling infrastructure, inefficient agriculture – the former Soviet republics are lagging behind in many respects. Yet Belarus, for example, is home to outstanding mathematicians and engineers. Their customers live mainly in Europe and the USA, where IT specialists are in short supply and are expensive. That is why these countries are looking at ways of tapping into the talent pool in Eastern Europe more effectively.
IT exports increase by a factor of 20
Soviet science traditionally focused on natural sciences such as mathematics or physics. Many universities have retained this specialisation and adapted it to the requirements of the modern world. For years, universities between Minsk and Vladivostok have been among the best in the world when it comes to computer science. At the recent computer programming Olympics in Rapid City, USA, four universities from this area landed in the Top 10. The governments in these countries have long since recognised the potential. Just recently, the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko declared that he intended turning his country into an “IT locomotive”. Last year, the value of the IT services exported from this Eastern European country hit the billion US dollar mark, increasing by a factor of 20 in the past ten years.
East European businesses with global ambitions
On a world-wide scale, the Ukraine and Belarus are largely underestimated as a source of talent. The number of IT specialists increases every year. Around 40,000 Belarusians are employed in the branch at present. The government estimates that this figure will double by the end of the decade.
Problem-solving instead of soul-destroying contract work
Russia could well fall behind in the field of outsourcing. Not just because the salaries in Moscow, St. Petersburg or Tomsk are higher than in Brest, Minsk or Kharkiv. “We have often found that western customers are concerned about their data and that is why they don’t want to employ development teams located in Russia”, explained a member of staff of an international software provider which has its head office in Russia.
Belarus acts as a link
Therefore, the largest, key player in the field of outsourcing could well become Belarus. It is almost 12 years since President Lukashenko founded the so-called High Tech Park, in order to create optimum conditions for software forges. This involves a virtual economic area, covering the entire country. IT companies which become part of this economic area enjoy generous tax relief. In the meantime, more than 150 companies with about 30,000 employees are registered here.
For example the Swiss company g4, with head office in Cham, has specialised in establishing cost-efficient software development teams in Belarus. Its customers are located primarily in Switzerland, Germany, England and Israel. g4’s team of experts has long-term experience in establishing and managing software development teams, in recruiting highly qualified IT personnel and in project implementation.
Belarusian software is now well-known beyond the borders of the country, thanks to such products as Viber, Tinder, Target process, World of Tanks and many others. Other promising applications are to be found in the field of Industry 4.0, such as software for so-called predictive maintenance. This involves data being provided by a factory machine park to predict when each machine requires maintenance.
The great advantage of Eastern Europe is its cultural proximity to customers in the west. “If you use developers in Asia, you will often find that the companies do just what the customer orders, without ever saying no”, explained the CEO of g4, Paul Binkert. His teams are encouraged to inform the customers about the latest options instead of just programming mindlessly.
Digitalisation in Belarus
In the global index of the International Telecommunication Union (IKT) for 2016, Belarus is the most highly developed country within the Eurasian Economic Union (internal market with customs union comprised of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia). In March 2016 Belarus adopted a policy for the development of information technology. Not only is the country endeavouring to establish a joint market within the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), but it is also trying to join forces with the digital market in the EU.
Belarus is also involved in the EU4 digital network. This aims to develop a platform for e-commerce, e-health and e-logistics which can be extended from the digital area of the EU to include the digital community of eastern partner countries. This would make Belarus the interface of the digital markets of the EEU and the EU.