Norwegian tech executive talks about doing business in Ukraine
While most businesses are put off by instability in Ukraine, Norway’s Itera isn’t one of them.
The company, one of Scandinavia’s leading tech players, headquartered in Oslo, came to Ukraine amid the 2008 global economic crisis to open a research and development center.
Itera’s center in Kyiv, which is active in consulting, software design, development and other information technology services, also survived last year’s turbulence in good shape.
“Before I met with the key shareholder at Itera, he had already visited seven countries in Eastern Europe, looking for a place where it would be possible to open new research and development centers,” says Igor Mendzebrovski, Itera’s executive vice president of global outsourcing.
Ukraine came out on top. The Kyiv office employs 120 out of the 500 employees Itera has globally. Most of the Ukrainian team works on orders from clients around the world.
However, Mendzebrovski said that while Ukrainian tech specialists are good, they can’t compete with those from India, he says. Indian companies can do more cheaply. India’s tech industry employs two million, while Ukrainian tech companies employ just over 50,000 people.
Many talented Ukrainian tech specialists have already left Ukraine in search of higher salaries and higher living standards abroad.
But many like Itera are staying put, even though Mendzebrovski doesn’t see the IT sector as being the basis of a future economic recovery in Ukraine.
More fundamental problems have to be tackled first, he says, among them Ukraine’s flawed educational system.
As a co-author of the Ukrainian national educational standards and curricula for software engineering, Mendzebrovski believes that high quality education is the foundation for Ukraine’s development.
“Even ballet dancers should know mathematics and physics. Then we will have a technological breakthrough in the country,” he said. “A shop assistant who has a higher education is a recipe for success. She might not be using it in the right way, but her attitude to her child will be much better. In the future she will make her child go and get a higher education as well.”