By Atom Markarian
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian presided on Friday over the first meeting of a government council tasked with facilitating development of information technologies in Armenia. The body set by President Robert Kocharian on Monday brings together senior government officials and executives from private firms involved in one of the most dynamic sectors of the Armenian economy.
The council began its work by discussing legal incentives that will attract more foreign investment and encourage the existing IM companies to expand their operations. One of the measures it is likely to approve is a tax break on corporate profits spent on expansion and research.
The export-oriented sector, dominated by local subsidiaries of US and European software firms, currently employs some 2,500 specialists. Its net exports are estimated to have reached $20 million last.
According to Garegin Chukaszian of the Armenian Fund for Information Technologies, a local NGO, an investor-friendly policy by the authorities could result in tens of thousands of new jobs and have a great impact on the unemployment-stricken country. Chukaszian, a member of the council, also called on the government to implement a comprehensive program of “computer literacy” in schools.
Better prospects for finding a well-paid job have led to a drastic rise of public interest in the field. The number of applicants for computer science and electronics programs at Armenian universities has tripled over the past year, making them the most tightly contested in the entire system of higher education.
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told the commission that the European Union increasingly regards Armenia as a regional IT center, pointing to a regional IT conference the EU plans to hold in Yerevan in November.