Openings in Nordic Countries for IT Labour

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This is the last in a four-part series pertaining to Sri Lanka’s Information and Communication-Business Process Management (IT-BPM) Sector. It’s based on a joint Sri Lanka Association for Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM)-Norwegian study of this sector and was released on SLASSCOM’s website on 5 May 2022.

While the first article gave, a broad outline  of Sri Lanka’s IT-BMP sector, the second included the possibility of the sector moving beyond the Western Province, the  third explored opportunitie in the Norwegian market and this the last in this series of articles, includes exploring opportunities in the Nordic market as a whole.

“Norway has a requirement for skilled IT labour, while Sri Lanka has taken initiatives to develop digital literacy and skilled workforce to match,” a recent report said.

The document titled ‘Norway – Sri Lanka Tech Industry Climate for Collaboration, Sourcing and Business Report 2022’ released on the SLASSCOM website on 5 May 2022, further said that this could indicate potential for a great strategic partnership that would assist both countries in achieving their national targets.

To bridge the skills gap, the Norway IT Industry is promoting a revision of tax codes which would incentivise companies to recruit IT talent from outside the country. The tax benefits hope to encourage recruitment of eligible foreign talent into the country, it said.

“Nordic businesses on the whole are looking to outsource their services to bridge existing gaps,” the document said. Nordic companies looking for expansion opportunities, reach out to outsourcing destinations for IT BPM services, hoping to cater to market competency gaps, the report said.

Stockholm

Stockholm is only second to Silicon Valley by harbouring the second highest number of tech companies per capita. The region of Gothenburg is in dire need of ICT competence, and the Sri Lankan Embassy in Stockholm has been pushing to market one of the growing Tech-hubs in the world, Colombo, Sri Lanka to cater to this requirement, the document said.

The Geneva based ITC (International Trade Centre) too, has been aiding the Sri Lankan tech sector. ITC is campaigning the sector through meetings organised in Stockholm, it said.

Subsequent to knowledge sessions held in Sri Lanka, Swedish counterparts are starting to interact with Sri Lankan companies, with more deals in the pipeline. Website and app design services are core services extended to Swedish companies in sectors ranging from insurance and advertising to mobile gaming and media streaming, the report said.

Prior to facilitating the matching of Sri Lankan service providers with promising Swedish counterparts, ITC conducted training on export marketing, how to do business in Sweden and compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

 In this connection, The Digital Outsourcing Services Matchmaking Event was organised by ITC within the framework of the EU-Sri Lanka Trade Related Assistance Project funded by the EU. Seven Sri Lankan companies and twenty Swedish firms participated in the event. Collaboration with Sri Lankan ICT companies proved to be successful for multiple Swedish companies including: Nelly.com which has been working with Calcey Sri Lanka since 2017.

Nelly engaged an extended team of software engineers at Calcey to work alongside its in-house software development design teams. Calcey’s team has helped to upgrade a range of software products and platforms, working closely with the Nelly team to support them during periods of high activity such as Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season, it said. Calcey developed Nelly’s m-commerce mobile app and is now responsible for all of Nelly’s new mobile app development projects, the document said.

In related developments, IFS’Sri Lankan operational team comprising over a thousand employees is an integral part of Industrial and Financial Systems’ (IFS) global operations, enabling IFS to become an industry leader. Operations in Sri Lanka are assured to continue to play a key role as the company accelerates the growth and success of IFS moving forward, it added.

Enhancing economic cooperation, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) signed three memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with the government of Finland on digitalisation among other industry development schemes including health and education as well, the report said.

Investment and technology partnerships

Finnish Government officials aim to enhance cooperation among the two countries encouraging investment and technology partnerships such as accelerating commercial and industrial exchanges, encouraging business partnerships and joint ventures between enterprises, facilitating technology development via the MoUs signed, it said.

Meanwhile, Denmark is predicting a long-term deficiency of IT / IT service professionals over the next several decades. The Danish Government foresees a short fall of 19,000 IT specialists by 2030 amongst gaps for other professional vacancies in tech, the report said.

High tech is identified as a growth sector along with other sectors including agriculture, energy, finance, health, and retail. Denmark has evolved to become the global R&D hub of many tech giants such as Microsoft, Google and Nokia. The Danish National Government has implemented an aggressive digital growth strategy focused on establishing Denmark as an international digital hub. The European Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (ECCSL) in collaboration with the Embassy of Denmark in New Delhi, organised an online event titled ‘Virtual Business and Investment Networking: Sri Lanka-Denmark 2021,’ giving Sri Lankan companies the opportunity to meet individually with potential Danish partners, suppliers and investors, it said

Vis-à-vis emerging technologies in Denmark, Sri Lanka providers can cater to audio and sound technology, robotics, wireless and mobile technology, software development, security and encryption, business solution development and Government solutions, the document said.

Sri Lankans reliability, quality of work and timeliness

 In other developments, the document said that Norwegian investors cited that they preferred long- term relationships over shortterm benefits and look for values and trust amongst the countries / businesses they choose to work in; they commented on Sri Lankans reliability, quality of work and timeliness. The value creation produced by many Sri Lankan companies has resulted in expansion, it said.

“Sri Lanka as a country represents a huge growth potential and creates massive job opportunities for thousands of talented IT workers in Sri Lanka,” Dag Honningsvåg, Chairman 99X (Norway) said.

Internet access in Sri Lanka has been rising successfully, showing improving rates of digitalisation in the sector. Telecommunication providers have been working to improve internet speeds with the hope of enhancing the digital presence of Sri Lankans. Increasing mobile subscriptions and fixed broadband connections have further allowed Sri Lanka to increase its global presence through digitalisation, the report said.

Meanwhile, Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) efforts are underway to increase 4G access to 100 per cent of the population by 2022. Further, analysts also placed Sri Lanka to have the second cheapest broadband package in Asia and top 10 in the world with an average package costing $ 0.38, it said.

 Sri Lanka also becomes the first in South Asia to trial 5G technology. Mobile network providers Mobitel, Dialog and Airtel initiated the move by conducting test runs that recorded the fastest ever network speeds within the region. Proposals to commercialise 5G schemes are underway as Dialog Axiata has already repurposed 20 per cent of its LTE antennas for 5G compatibility, the report said.

The Information Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) has implemented numerous projects to set the ICT agenda through a series of comprehensive supply and demand side activities. This announced proposal included installing a network of over 500 rural telecentres, proposing a least-cost subsidy scheme to create and operate a fibre framework in the country’s rural areas, development of eGovernment applications across Government institutions, working on improving ICT skills to citizens and promoting investment in BPO which will drive the demand for high-speed connectivity, it said.

IT parks are equipped to facilitate businesses in technology and science domains. Sri Lanka has several established IT parks and plans are underway to construct more in the near future

Trace Expert City

Trace expert city, Maradana is a derelict 18th Century British warehouse building complex. Trace Expert city facilitates 50 global brands and is home to companies like WSO2, Calcey, CodeGen, Orange and the London Stock Exchange Group. The complex foresees three main phases of development.

Phase 1 includes the 13 bays of British period warehouses amassing an area roughly of 30,000 square feet and a single-story building, which is completed in a later period of the Tripoli Market Square. The development of Phase 2 involves new construction and renovations of the existing British period buildings of an area of roughly 400,000 square feet. Phase 3 involves the construction of a high-rise building spanning around 35 floors with the ability to accommodate rentable office space of approx. 500,000 square feet, it said.

Orion City

Orion City – is a concept for a self-sufficient IT park located in Colombo that offers end-to-end IT based infrastructure solutions at one location. The tech park houses BPO and service industry companies along side the IT companies.  Non IT related companies can focus on their core businesses while having ancillary support, maintenance and services within the same compound. The IT park is well equipped to maintain high standards of operations, the report said. Infrastructure constitutes a high-capacity in-house power plant fed from two different locations guaranteeing an uninterrupted supply of power to the park with minimal voltage fluctuations. In addition, the park is equipped with ‘backup’ generators to face eventualities.

Under the Government Policy Framework, the Ministry of Technology, along with the ICTA proposed to set up five technology parks in Sri Lanka with 5G facilities. The national budget of 2021 allocated and approved approximately $50 million (Rs10 billion) for the cause.

Galle Techno park

The Galle Techno park with ongoing construction and development has the following advantages: A development area of 30 acres with state-of-the-art office complexes 2,000 direct and many more indirect employment opportunities, uninterrupted power supply, two-hour drive from the commercial capital of the island; Colombo and  5G technology.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan Government in collaboration with the industry is promoting a change to the multitude of graduates with an emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The technology stream introduced to the national A/Level curriculum in 2017 is expected to contribute additional digital skill capacity from 2021 onwards. The Government’s launch of programmes such as the ‘10,000 IT graduates’ programme via the Open University of Sri Lanka is expected to further contribute to the workforce from 2022 onwards, the document said.

Around 60 per cent of the current IT workforce in Sri Lanka is involved in business analysis, software engineering and quality assurance, it further said.                        

(Concluded)

By Paneetha Ameresekere