Belarus is building a reputation as an international information technology hub to rival India and China, drawing on its highly skilled workforce, low labour costs and close proximity to its markets in Europe and the USA.
“If you take into consideration quality as
well as cost, the country is very competitive with India and other Asian countries.”
Karl Robb, President, European Operations, EPAM Systems
Software development and outsourcing is a major part of Belarus’ IT sector, with over 80% of software exported, three-quarters going to Europe and the USA. Recently Belarus has given the sector a boost through the creation of a High Technology Park, in the mould of similar schemes in India, to foster innovative, rapidly-growing and fast-moving technology firms.
Unlike in India, there are no ownership restrictions on IT firms, and Belarus’ universities are turning out 16,000 engineers a year, with many expert in computing technology.
International companies that already take advantage of Belarus’ strong IT capability include Thomson Reuters, IBM and Hewlett Packard. In recognition of the country’s IT potential, Microsoft launched its BizSpark Program, an international initiative to help start-up companies grow, in Belarus in 2009.
“Belarus is one of the world centres for
offshore software developments."
Vladimir Vassilevsky, Uniter investment consultancy
The government is also encouraging further foreign investment in R&D and new products. It expects to add biotechnology, nanotechnology and green technology to the corporate activities of the Hi-Tech Park.
The telecommunications sector in Belarus has already seen substantial foreign investment and acquisition but remains an emerging market, with plenty of potential, particularly in broadband internet, cable television and mobile phone services.
Probably the most-rapidly growing part of the telecommunications market in Belarus in recent years has been mobile communications, with a spate of foreign investments. Telekom Austria and Turkcell both entered the market during 2007-08 and own two of the largest mobile phone service providers in the country.
As of September 2009, there were 8.87 million mobile subscribers in the country, up 10% on 2008 and accounting for around 92% of the population.