News:Argos:Eastern Europe: The next silicon valley?

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One key to driving healthier economies in the countries of Eastern Europe, particularly in the former Soviet republics, could be significant investments in Web 2.0 development. Could Eastern Europe foster its own Silicon Valley?

(...) countries in Eastern Europe are also turning to IT as a way to upgrade their economies. During the UN's Web 2.0 conference, representatives of Hungary, Belarus, and Croatia talked up government and private sector initiatives that have helped to lure the likes of Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and SAP to either outsource services from or set up shop on Eastern European turf.

Like Rachkov, Dunja Jurica of Croatia and Dr. Janos Harskuti of Hungary also pointed to highly educated workforces, relatively low cost structures compared to other countries, and reliable government support as some of the advantages they're enjoying as they grow IT businesses in their counties, even though their levels of IT industry penetration vary from one country to the next.

(...) Jurica is chairwoman of the board for Croatia's Information Systems and Information Technologies Support Agency (....) explained [that] her country has "1,300 IT companies with 10,000 employees (and) 140 telecom companies with 13,000 employees."

(...) Although most of the IT companies are small "niche" software development houses, larger employers in Croatia include two geographic information systems (GIS) companies -- Geofoto and GISdata -- as well as Recro, IN2, and M San Group.

North American and European countries with substantial investments in Croatia include IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, Ericsson, SAP, Cisco Systems, and Siemens, according to Jurica.

One recent deployment in Croatia won an award at a Cisco conference in Barcelona, Spain for "best distance learning" application. The application is designed to make "staying on the islands" a more appealing prospect for families with young children who are concerned over educational opportunities, she told the attendees.

The country has been putting in a big effort over the past few years to "simplify all the things that IT has to do with government," according to Jurica. One such initiative, dubbed the "eCroatia Program," has components that include eGoverment, eEducation, and eJustice.

Another initiative, HitroReax, "looks at redundancies to simplify administrative procedures" for electronic business. "Different ministries have (followed) different approaches," she elaborated.

The government is also building a public information government portal called MojaUprava. "Everybody knows, 'I should first go to the portal,'" Jurica said. "It is based on best practices in the UK and Hong Kong."




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