900,000 NEW JOBS, INVESTMENTS IN BILLIONS OF EUROS – A PICTURE OF THE ICT INDUSTRY IN EUROPE WITHIN THE NEXT SEVERAL YEARS!
KING ICT, the leading systems integrator in the region, held its ninth annual conference "Open Integrations Day”. The conference brought together more than 300 participants from the information science industry and others, as well as government and public administration, in order to exchange information, opinions, and messages dealing with the present moment in business.
After the introduction by KING ICT CEO Plamenko Barišić and the leader of the European Commission Representation in Croatia, Branko Baričević, a set of lectures and a round table demonstrated the importance and ambitions of the ICT industry in Europe .
Under the motto “THE GOAL IS ATTAINABLE” the conference was dedicated to the following question: what is the role and contribution of ICT technologies in sustainable economic growth?
The ICT industry has been highlighted as one of the four pillars of the National industrial strategy.
Economist of the Year Damir Novotny analysed what happened in the Croatian industry within the past years and remarked on the serious consequences brought about by the crisis. Having determined that the unemployment rate is almost unbearable and that the amount of debt is dangerous and reaching debt ceiling limits, Novotny emphasised that the growth rate predicted by the National Industrial Strategy is not ambitious enough. For the conference participants Novotny analysed the way in which Europe is returning to industry, noting that industry in its classical sense is complemented by new activities, skills, and products, as well as ever more advanced robotics. The structure of the European economy is shifting towards intelligent, sustainable growth, stated Novotny, drawing attention to the Croatian opportunities regarding the European Cohesion Funds.
Gerard de Graaf from the European Commission, CEO of DG CONNECT, spoke of Agenda 2020, the fundamental document of a digital Europe. His lecture also went back and forth on sustainable, intelligent growth, but it is completely clear in what direction Europe intends to go - into a digital age; within the next few years we can expect a strong increase in broadband internet users, as well as people with the skills necessary to develop the ICT industry. The Digital Agenda 2020 gives strong support to investments in research and innovation, from the laboratory to the market, putting small and medium businesses to the fore as well as the higher availability of capital.
Boris Žitnik, CEO of OMNIA Consult laid out an analysis of the greatest challenges presented to the ICT industry, and it served as an excellent introduction to the round table. Globally speaking, the crisis has ended, and IT consumption predictions are at about 3.1% to 5.5%. Croatian IT sector profits, after years of decline, are close to zero now. However, to give some credit to the resilience of the IT industry, it is worth mentioning that the top net exporters reported 15% growth in the turbulent year 2012. Boris Žitnik also spoke of market trends, from price wars on one hand to more demanding clients on the other, investment “only when absolutely necessary”, as well as the adapting and restructuring of IT companies that offer innovative products and new expertise if they wish to remain or, indeed, survive in the new conditions.
THE GOAL IS ATTAINABLE, BUT HOW?
Participating in the round table were Tomislav Radoš, advisor to the Minister of Economy in charge of creating the National Strategy for the Development of Croatian Industry by 2020, Vedran Mornar, professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing (FER), President of the National Council for Higher Education, Saša Cvetojević, entrepreneur in the health-care sector, mobile communications and in the distribution of consumer goods, “business angel”, and the founder of the first start-up incubator and co-working space in Zagreb.
Valuable contributions at the round table were made by the experience of Ivan Vidaković, regional manager of Microsoft in Croatia and Daniel Šimić of IBM, manager for Business Consulting, as well as Plamenko Barišić, CEO of KING ICT, the largest regional systems integrator.
In an interesting round-table conversation moderated by the chief editor of "Lider" Miodrag Šajatović, all the participants kept going back to the issue of education policy. The current education policy results in economists and jurists and not engineers joining the labour market, while the market, especially in the ICT industry, is in dire need of people with different knowledge and skills.
No matter what objections might be voiced against the National Industrial Strategy (and there will always be some, at least), the participants all agree on the fact that preparing such a document, after two decades, is a large accomplishment in its own right, while its author, Tomislav Radoš, emphasises the importance of its implementation in real-world scenarios.
Regarding the ICT industry, it was interesting to hear how it is changing at an astonishing speed, responding to the user needs who have to show an ever-increasing knowledge in order to efficiently transform their IT systems into tools for doing business. It is in this manner that the topic reverted to the initial question posed in various forms throughout the conference - is anyone interested in working in a market with 900,000 available jobs?