The Armenian government approved on Wednesday a set of measures for this year which it hopes will help information technology (IT) remain the fastest-growing sector of Armenia’s economy.
Preliminary government estimates show output in the sector soaring by nearly 20 percent last year to $550 million, a figure equivalent to about 5 percent of Gross Domestic Product.
The Armenian IT industry comprising some 450 mostly small and medium-sized firms expanded by an average of 22 percent annually from 2008-2014. It currently employs about 15,000 people.
An annual plan of actions approved by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian’s cabinet is aimed at stimulating continued growth in the export-oriented sector. A statement by Abrahamian’s office said the government will look into challenges facing the sector, promote its achievements and seek to improve the quality of IT education in the country.
“The government will continue to consistently support the IT sector,” Abrahamian told reporters last week when he visited the Armenian subsidiary of Synopsys, one of the world’s leading microchip designers headquartered in California. He said the government is now working with IT executives on a comprehensive “national program” of supporting the hi-tech industry.
With some 750 employees, the Synopsys branch is the largest IT enterprise in Armenia. The company also runs a special computer science chair at the State Engineering University of Armenia (SEUA) using its curriculum and technical facilities.
The existence of the chair reflects the still inadequate quality of IT education at the SEUA and other Armenian universities, which IT experts and industry executives consider the main obstacle to faster growth of the sector.
In Abrahamian’s words, the government is now exploring the possibility of setting up a “third-generation technology university” on the basis of the Soviet-era SEUA. The premier expressed hope that Synopsys and other Western IT giants present in Armenia would contribute to its creation.
As part of the government efforts, the Armenian Ministry of Education introduced IT, microelectronics and telecommunication as mandatory subjects in five high schools last September. Ten more Armenian schools are due to have such courses starting from the next academic year.
The government also pushed through the parliament in December 2014 a bill offering significant tax breaks to new IT firms employing up to 30 people. According to the Ministry of Economy, 61 local startups qualified for the tax breaks in 2015.