5 Steps to Creating a Tech Industry for the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

Using Software Development as way of Creating a Tech Industry for the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and breaking their chains of isolation is a must. We propose that it is a great form of economic development and well suited for the political situation.  iTechnology.am is a technology and business publication, why focus on the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic? Since the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine crisis broke out, commentators have kept themselves busy discussing the possible ripple effects on several “frozen conflicts” in Russia’s near abroad. South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, and Transnistria in Moldova and Nagorno-Karabakh— all of which have been involved in conflicts at some point throughout the past couple of decades. [** Editor's Note : We have decided not to cover the history, reasons and effects of the conflicts. We will simple provide links for Wikipedia for people to gain a better understanding]

One of the primary challenges facing  Karabakh is creating a modern tech industry. This is critical for the future of the republic for both the economy and society. Setting Ideas in Motion, should push forward ideas and that is what I am doing here. I have outlined five steps to in creating a tech Industry for the Nagorno-Karabakh Republicbecome a reality…

Step 1. Understand what Software Development can provide Nagorno-Karabakh

First there must be an understanding and acknowledgment with the business and government leaders of the benefits of developing a tech industry. There are three simple points

    1. Software Development has the greatest Return on Investment
    2. A strong tech industry has enormous economic Impact even with a few people
    3. Software allows physical borders to become unimportant

Step 2. Pick an area of software and focus

Most people think of the software industry as very general and any programer can switch between companies and job. But this is not the case. It is much more like the medical profession. Would you want an Pediatrist [foot doctor] doing the work of a Cardiologist [heart doctor]. In my opinion the focus should be on mobile App development. The current international average wage for experienced App developer is $10,000 per year. With a GDP per capita of around $3000, this is be a HUGE increase. In the past, iTechnology.am has selected LiveCode as the best tool Armenia and I think the same for Karabakh. For a detailed explanation, be sure to read a LiveCode presentation to the United Nations, which I gave last year. But if Java or Objective C was selected, that would be fine - just focus so the selected programers can become well skilled and experts. This is most important. Training in general programing skill will not get you where you need to be. In today’s world, specialization is important.

Step 3. Link Education and Job Opportunities are the Key

Even if a flood of opportunities were available today for Nagorno-Karabakh companies, there would be a very small pool of qualified commercial software developers available to work in these companies. Tech education is a major problem around the world that  schools, governments and private companies are trying to address. I believe that this is where the focus for Karabakh should be. Once you have selected the area of focus, then setup specialized training centers. You can do this in universities, but speciality training centers would provide the best results. There are already several good examples of mixing software education and jobs already in Armenia.

Ijevan Mobile Programming Center: A startup initiative called Mobile Programming Center (MPC) Ijevan, where students learn about various aspects of information technologies, from networking basics to programming, opened in Ijevan, the administrative capital of the Tavush Region. The center is located at the local branch of Yerevan State University. The center is the brainchild of Areg Petrosyan, who is studying at the Armenian State University of Economics. The idea came to him after accessing the needs of the community in strengthening knowledge for career advancement. Areg started a partnership with Instigate CJSC, a private engineering film employing software developers, which provides lecturers to MPC. Yerevan State donated 20 computers to get the initiative going. After students complete their studies at MPC, Areg will work with Instigate and other potential partners to land them jobs, thereby encouraging them to stay in their community. The intent is to open an IT company eventually.

 

Gyumri Information Technology Center [GITC]: Since 2005, the goal of GITC is to promote the development of programming and technology in Gyumri and the Northern Armenia. By focusing on local education and local start-up development, GITC has been able to decentralize the IT industry from the capital city of Yerevan to the north of Armenia. They have wonderful objectives to prepare specialists with the skills demanded by the current IT market and to promote employment and business development by creating attractive conditions and terms for international and local investment. They have also developed GTech, an extension of the school that focused on commercial software development and acts as a startup incubator.

 

Step 4. Reach out and create a mentor council

Even after the students are trained, the entrepreneurs will need mentors to assist and provide guidance. This is a common mistake, even in Europe and the US. Proper attention must be focused on helping the start-ups grow to maturity. The most common form of this is the creation of an incubator with offices and staff to help. There already is the IT Development Center in Stepanakert, and a center in the works by the government. But, just opening a building with office will simply not produce results. These startups will require involved mentors. I believe that there are many experienced Armenian IT professional who will volunteer to  see this become a reality. One idea would be to co-operate with the newly created HIVE Network.

Step 5. Open a Sales and Marketing firm in Europe or the United States

These startup firms are going to experience immediate issues such as receiving payments, the Apple App store, creating a proper marketing and PR campaign. Many of these issues can be avoided by working with a representative holding company. This firm will do all of the sales, marketing, brand building and business development. These are the current three areas which Armenian firms are facing. It is important to understand that the most critical issues facing Armenian start-ups is not technical or financial, but more business issues. I am sure there are seasoned IT executives how would be willing to lend a helping hand in getting this firm setup.