‘’Change mindset’’ and ‘’show your potential!’’- IT to boost Armenia's economy
150 young people from the regions of Armenia got together with representatives of the government and international organisations to participate in the “Empowering Regions Through High Tech” conference in Gyumri on 17-18 of November 2017.
Gyumri, the second largest city of Armenia, widely known as a city of arts and crafts, bids to become the IT capital of Armenia with its technological center in the downtown and many locals obsessed with high tech.
“Many young people were a step away from migration but seeing that Gyumri Technological Center exists they have decided to stay and learn programming. Initially, nobody believed that this project would come true,” said Amalya Yeghoyan, the business development manager of Gyumri Technological Center.
Since the establishment, Gyumri Technological Center (GTC) has already created up to 200 workplaces with almost 100 beneficiary companies and educates 500 specialists annually. There are 25 local and international organizations located in the Center. The mayor of the city reaffirmed that it was challenging to build the technological center three years ago but now it is a reality driving the city into development.
“In 2014 when we were launching the Gyumri Technological Center, there were huge investments aimed at renovating this historical building, and it was a very risky investment as it may not had an impact. But young people of Gyumri proved that they have a potential,” said Samvel Balasanyan, the mayor of Gyumri.
The main goal of the conference was to promote economic development in the provinces of Armenia via analyzing international successful strategies for small cities and implement into our regions. Karen Karapetyan, the prime minister of Armenia, who was the honorary guest of the conference, zeroed in on boosting the economy of Armenia through technology emphasizing the active involvement of the regions in the process.
“We have set on developing high technologies in Armenia as the accelerator of our economy, the field has a huge potential of involving investments and export. At the same time, in the vision of empowering Armenia, regional development has a key importance, and without this, we will not have a good country. The mix of both can create a desirable result,” said prime minister Karapetyan.
The prime minister mentioned that the young people need to be skilled, innovative, and involved in the IT. IT sector of Armenia grows approximately 20 percent annually, which is ‘’booming’’ according to Matthias Kiesler, the Ambassador of Germany to the Republic of Armenia. He mentioned that the successful future of Armenia is through education recalling various research entities, institutions, universities, and technoparks in Gyumri and Vanadzor, the two largest cities of Armenia after Yerevan.
“Armenia, as Germany, cannot rely on natural resources. This might be at first sight a disadvantage but, in my view, it can be indeed a clear chance. Wherever Armenians lived, they were always known for their special emphasis on education, and I think Armenians can be very proud of this attitude. Education is, finally, the basis for any sustainable development”, said Ambassador Kiesler.
The Ambassador mentioned that the government of Germany is ready to support Armenia in accomplishing investment projects, emphasizing that the country is one of the largest investors in Armenia. The leading investor and economic partner of Armenia is the European Union and this was reconfirmed during the first nine months of this year with 25 percent increase in the trade turnover with European Union countries. Recently EU has granted 25 million Euros to Armenia for launching comprehensive digitalization system.
“I think the introduction of the e-government is something that is totally revolutionary in Armenia. People in Armenia do not know what is happening in e-governance. What is happening here, in Armenia, is not only good for Armenia; it is top of the lead worldwide. The transformation that Armenia is going through in e-governance in a couple of years will put Armenia not only on the map but on the top of the European countries in terms of e-governance”, said Hoa-Binh Adjemian, the head of cooperation for the EU Delegation to Armenia.
Digitalisation is an ongoing process in Shirak region as well. Arthur Khachatryan, the governor of Shirak, represented the launch of the map for tourists visiting Shirak region. The digital map is designed to help visitors to find the places of interest of the region much easier. Khachatryan thinks that “information technologies are the main locomotive of the country”, and confirms that such events are highly crucial for regions.
“We, of course, are happy that here we have Gyumri Technological Center which somehow gives an advantage to us over other regions but we are ready to share our experience. I hope this event will take place on a regular basis and in different regions of Armenia”, said Khachatryan.
The event took place in partnership with international organizations and Support to Small and Medium Enterprises Development of Armenia (SMEDA) project, which is co-funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by GIZ's Private Sector Development in South Caucasus Program. SMEDA is part of the EU4Business and EU4Innovation initiatives of the European Union. SMEDA focuses on small and medium enterprises in Armenia throughout the country including all the regions of Armenia.
“The companies in the regions are highly important. We have already talked about the big economic potential of education and economic strength of a country. Improving economic performance in the regions is what we try to do with our project. The focus is to improve design and management of economic clusters. When we speak about economic clusters, we mean incubators, we mean technoparks, technology centers here in Gyumri and in Vanadzor, we mean free economic zones in Armenia”, said Eva Naeher, SMEDA’s team leader.
Eva Naeher called for the young people to “show their potential” and “team up with their peers” who share their ideas as a key to scrape through in business.
“Group up and become stronger! If you are not alone, it is easier to attract investors and investment. There are many examples internationally when a single company did not manage to attract investors but when they joined up, they created something bigger they were known for, and they found partners. So, come together and show what you have,” she said.
Raffi Niziblian, the creative director of Deem Communications, a leading PR and Marketing agency which has recently been engaged in branding Gyumri, based on his work experience with the people of the regions thinks that locals, first of all, should change their mindset when doing business. He encourages to take the best from a project involved and develop skills to launch their own businesses in the future.
“They might think they just earn money and that is all but they should think that it is an experience for them and they can benefit from the failures and hardships and later invest into their businesses when ready,” said Niziblian.
Bagrat Yengibaryan, Director of Enterprise Incubator Foundation – one of the largest technology business incubators in the region – has a strong notion that decentralization of businesses from Yerevan and creation of the right business and IT environment in the regions is what will activate the economy in small cities of Armenia.
“15 years ago we developed a model trying to create (IT and business) environments in Armenia. I want to emphasize in Armenia meaning not to focus on Yerevan. There is a great amount of human potential squeezed in Yerevan. We have great potential not only in the cities but in the villages as well,” Yengibaryan said.
The main topics discussed during the first day of the conference like changing mindsets, creating successful entrepreneurship, and development of the regions were practiced on the second day during various workshop with the participating young people.
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