By Misko Taleski
The Macedonia government is partnering with the country’s private sector and academia to employ more readily the country’s IT specialists, educate others and attract foreign investment, and the investment is bearing fruit.
“We are increasing the country’s capacity to produce IT specialists and fully develop the IT sector to fuel the economy,” IT and Public Administration Minister Ivo Ivanovski told SETimes.
The policy efforts, part of the ministry’s strategic plan 2012 through 2014, are also aimed at preventing a brain drain by using specific strategic projects.
They complement the investment and construction boom in Macedonia, which has more than doubled demand for IT specialists and employees versed in computer use, businesses say.
“We outsourced to a small IT firm to create our organisation’s website as well as assist us with Internet offerings and advertising. As the demand grew, we engaged other IT professionals,” Aleksandar Aleksiev, owner of the textile import firm Alzhar, told SETimes.
Introducing electronic banking had a big effect on the mode of how Alzhar — and most other firms — operate, having been amply encouraged and assisted by commercial banks, Aleksiev said.
“Just about all firms I know adopted their management and ways they conduct business. This in turn contributed to opening of many small and medium computer firms to assist them,” he added.
Ivanovski explained the quick pace of technological change necessitates frequent skills upgrades in virtually all areas — and the goal is not to leave anyone behind.
Last month, the government offered free introductory computer courses for 7,500 people in 22 towns tailored to assist business need as well as to entice citizens to use social media for personal use, including the elderly.
“It is in our interest for the citizens to increase their computer and communication technologies’ literacy because that is s criterion by which the EU as well as the UN conducts ratings,” Ivanovski said.
The plan envisions maintaining a sustainable IT sector via projects like e-Democracy and e-Education, as well as training and computer drives such as “a computer for every child”.
The latest drive to supply schools with computers netted 15,500 laptops for pupils and 5,500 for teachers.
The projects follow the initial efforts through which Macedonia become the first country to have Wi-Fi networks covering its entire territory.
The focus however is on training and networking, particularly with foreign organisations.
In September 2011, the new IT Faculty (FINKI) in Skopje opened its doors to new students, enrolling 650. Two months later, the Macedonian IT and Telecommunications Association hosted the Third International Scientific Conference for 120 innovators from 15 countries.
Officials at private IT educational institutions like Academy Alexandria say the increased demand and prospects for investment show promise.
“We are striving to teach not solely use of for social media networks but more for practical, work-related professional endeavors,” Alexandria director Aleksandar Marjanovic told SETimes.
To stay the course and become a regional leader necessitates properly integrating the IT professionals and, through them, attracting foreign investment, he said.
“Our academy co-operates closely with the ministries of information technology and education and we strive to build connections with organisations abroad and because we have qualified cadres to offer,” Marjanovic added.