Armenia’s information technology (IT) industry has been growing at double-digit rates and is now a major export-oriented sector of the domestic economy, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said on Friday, promising government support for its further growth.
Sarkisian said Armenian IT companies have become “comparable” to mining and metallurgical enterprises in terms of output and workforce involved. He spoke of some 300 such firms employing 7,000 mostly well-paid specialists and growing by 15-20 percent annually.
“Today our country generates 5 percent of global output in microchip development and design, which is a large share for us and a specialization where we have a comparative advantage,” he told an annual international conference in Yerevan that discussed ways of supporting the sector.
“All major companies of the world specializing in microchip design keep Armenia at the center of their attention. What is more, they send their specialists here for retraining,” added the premier.
IT industry executives say that the sector’s growth would have been even faster if the quality of education at the computer science and microelectronics departments of Armenian universities was adequate. They complain that many university graduates need to undergo further training before they can work for their companies.
“The primary expectation of the private sector is a continuous improvement of the education system and supply of qualified specialists to the IT sector,” Sarkisian acknowledged in his speech. He said his government will strive to ensure that as many as 2,000 university graduates are qualified enough to join the industry every year.
Sarkisian said that the U.S. government and IT giants like Microsoft are already assisting Armenia for that purpose. He pointed to the recent opening of a U.S.-funded IT lab at the Armenian State Engineering University.
According to the prime minister, the government will also try to foster the sector’s continued rapid growth through venture capital funds focused on high-tech industries. The Armenian authorities and the World Bank have set aside $3 million for the creation of the first such fund, he said.
According to government data, more than 100 Armenian IT firms have foreign owners. The largest of them are subsidiaries of U.S. software development companies such as Synopsis and National Instruments. Sarkisian called for more U.S. investments in the sector when he toured the Silicon Valley during a trip to the United States last year.