“Inventory” of IT resources, efficient education, and we can turn the world over. Hovik Musayelyan

Yerkir.am interviewed Hovik Musayelyan, Director of “Synopsys Armenia” about the current situation, challenges and strategies of IT sector.
Q: Mr. Musayelyan, IT sector is considered one of the relatively fast growing branches in Armenia. How do you evaluate its current state, if compared with global developments? Do we keep pace or do we “run” behind the developments?
A: When we talk about the development of the IT sector, the competitive advantages we have, we should always specify what sector of IT we are talking about. In particular, if we are talking about the design of microelectronic circuits, we have obvious advantages here: two of the three world giants have their own R&D centers in Armenia, while the other branches of this field enjoy relative success.
Various international standards determine the country’s rank within the ICT sector. For instance, the annual report of the World Economic Forum in Davos, a serious document per which one can conclude about the competitive opportunities, challenges etc. a country has.
In any case, I think the situation has changed in Armenia after the formation of the new government. The Prime Minister does not merely make statements that the development of IT sector is very important for our economy, but also regularly holds meetings with different target groups of the IT sector. I am glad to note that those meetings with the Prime Minister do not carry formal character, rather, he is trying to understand what is going on in this sector, and what problems there are.
The Prime Minister’s statement – “let‘s turn the world over” soars everywhere. It was perceived differently. I understand it the following way: though the economic situation is not favorable and we have limited financial resources, we should understand that we need leaping developments, we need to target our competitive advantages, generating even seemingly impossible projects to ensure our spot in the world.
Q: Do you think paths “from words to action” loom?
A: During the discussions the Prime Minister constantly repeats to put the action plan on the table – with the responsible person/s and exact timelines.
Q: Mr. Musayelyan, do you think the penetration of IT into the secondary education will give results in the future? Do you think it may guarantee “the revolution of the world?”
A: This is an important issue. Indeed, if we talk about the development of the sphere, rapid and leaping developments, then it is hardly possible without education. There are two options in this regard: either through short-term educational programs or through long-term ones: by providing quality education.
I am in favor of the second approach, since I believe that only through applying extraordinary models of cooperation of universities with private companies, the labor market will be replenished with qualified and demanded candidates for private sector. Now, there is a lack of 3 to 4 thousand quality specialists. If we resolve this issue soon, it will also ensure the entry of transnational corporations to Armenia, thus increasing the number of those companies. At this stage, they do not come to Armenia, as they see that the local companies lack quality specialists. If they come, they must start “stealing candidates” and the system will collapse.
The pupils of short-term educational programs gain knowledge by participating in the works of laboratory groups. And some companies can offer them jobs. This program is very important to develop the pupils’ creative thinking, although it does not intend to “turn the world over.”
Q: Do quality specialists prefer to immigrate to having a job with a high salary? Please share your observations in this regard.
A: I strongly believe that very few Armenian students who get education in their respective professional fields in accordance with international standards and are proposed to work at local companies after graduating from the university, emigrate. Not because they prefer to work only in their homeland, but they get a chance to keep their families on a decent level through working in leading global companies with high salaries. So, there is no need to immigrate. In my opinion, immigration is the aftermath of work scarcity. Now we are talking about quality education, successful career and high salary in Armenia.
Q: All the leaders of previous governments have declared that they highlight the development of the IT sphere, that they recognize it as the priority sector, that they will do the possible to promote it. In this context, to what extent were the promises of those prime ministers fulfilled?
A: It is already 15 years that I am in this sector, and indeed, all the prime ministers were saying that the IT sector is very important. There have been numerous forums, meetings and discussions. prior to this government, the ongoing IT were being resolved, the strategic approaches by governments were not precisely set. Last year the government decided to promote start-ups by giving tax privileges for 3 years, which was an important decision. Now I see consistency in the current government in the development of the IT sector.
Q: But this government has a life of only 6 months, is it worth having long-term hopes in terms of IT development?
A: I think that Karen Karapetyan will remain in his position for a long time. as far as I know him, I will say that he is not the man who would agree to take the prime minister’s office for several months, come and be burdened with such a responsible job day and night at the expense of his health. I am sure that he will stay for a long time if no force majeure happens. The interview was done before the 16th convention of the Republican party of Armenia. The RA President had not yet declared that in case of the victory of the Republican party of Armenia in parliamentary elections, the government would again be led by Karen Karapetyan- ed./.
Q: Is there an exact task for the development of this sector?
A: First, we should implement a precise “inventory” of the humane and materialistic resources we have. The inventory should be conducted in Diaspora, since this is where we have techno-oriented, human resources, many are unaware about this. After the “Inventory”, research should be conducted, and only then it will be possible to determine the vectors of the sector, the direction Armenia should select, develop a roadmap. I think that this “inventory” has not been done so far. These processes should kick off immediately.
Q: We have noticed that members of the executive board are also interested to cooperate with the IT sector, such as the Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Culture. Do you think the extended integration of the IT sector and the ministries is feasible?
A: IT sphere deals with all ministries, it should be used as a tool for all branches of the economy, which will contribute to the productivity of those sectors. The sphere of defense, of course, is very important. Recently the minister of defense has announced that IT educational centers will be established in military units, and I am sure that many private companies are willing to support our army.
Q: Per the Prime Minister’s recommendation, IT sector will have 15 representatives at the Armenian embassies of various countries worldwide. What can they do for this sector?
A: It is difficult to say the efficiency this concept may have. At a first glance, this idea is acknowledged, but there are so many questions. Who are those 15 representatives? They should be experienced professionals and specialists of IT sector. How should IT representative align work with the Ambassador? Will the departmental conflict of interests be a challenge? It is hard to say; the time will show.”
Q: IT World Congress will be held in Armenia in 2019. Will Armenia be able to introduce itself decently and attract the representatives of different countries?
A: Since the Prime Minister has already made the statement “let’s turn the world over,” we must work, adopt new approaches and new perspectives, consolidate the sphere and government resources, and that is the time we may record positive results, which, I am sure, will also be evaluated by the global ICT community.
ED: We would like to note that during the meetings with Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, Hovik Musayelyan has suggested to begin “Start-up” movement in Armenia, i.e when different platforms and spheres of economy virtual start-ups are created, that is to say, companies that are not yet registered, are not in tax field, but can present business plans. This will make the nation more creative, contribute to the community to come out of “laziness”, start thinking and transform the ideas into business plans, which will be the focus of potential investors and venture funds.
Interview by Melania Melkumyan

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