India's IT success can be 'replicated' in other countries

India's "amazing" use of information technology outsourcing to jump-start its entire economy is a model that can also work elsewhere in the world, according to technologists from India, who spoke this week at a conference at the UN.

UNITED NATIONS (BetaNews) - "Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, and colleagues," said one of the speakers from India, Prahbat Sharma, addressing investors and other attendees at a conference called "United Nations Meets Web 2.0 and ICT Entrepreneurs."

"India's story in IT was somewhat unexpected," Sharma said. "It is an amazing story."

In 2008, the IT industry continued $50 billion to India's economy, an amount expected to double to more than $100 billion by 2110, said the next speaker, Lalit Dhingra, president of NIIT (National Institute of Information Technology).

"But it was not even half [of $50 billion] in 2002," Dhingra added.

Along the way, India's IT boomed has spawned phenomental growth in other areas of the economy, too, including transportation, logistics, finance, and retail.
A few years ago, for example, India had only a handful of airlines. "Now, we have 16 of them," he said.

"This has been a very successful model for us so far, [and] it can be replicated in a lot of other countries," according to the president of NIIT, an IT training and software development firm in the private sector.

What's responsible for India's economic success story? "Excellent IT training," Dhingra said.

In most sections of the country, computer skills are now part of the public school curriculum from grades one through twelve. But beyond that, high school graduates can receive specialized IT training through organizations such as NIIT.

With NIIT, he said, India has adapted the Western model of hospital/medical school to the IT field. In fact, many NIIT students are hired directly by NIIT's labs upon graduation, whereas others ger jobs with private IT firms, as well as in the IT departments of companies in other industries.

India now has 200 companies with ISO 9001 ratings, and 15 of these are at level 5, the top ranking. NIIT training has grown so ubiquitous in India that "NIIT is now a generic term, in much the same way that a photocopy is called a 'Xerox,'" Sharma told the audience.

Going to school to study IT is now referred to as "doing a NIIT," elaborated Sharma, explaining that "NIIT" is pronounced like "knit."

NIIT has already worked on replicating the model the countries of Bangladesh and China, according to Dhingra. One country in Latin America showed strong interest a few years ago in following India's approach. "But nobody took responsibility [for the effort]." Dhingra said.

Yet Dhingra acknowledged that India's turnaround is still "fueled by outsourcing" IT services for companies in North America and Europe.

Dhingra also admitted that India's model faces some challenges. For one thing, demand is so strong for IT talent in India that job attrition is rampant, especially at senior levels. In addition, although lower costs were one of the factors that initially attracted the IT outsourcing market to India, IT salaries in India are continuing to grow fast.

Under questioning from a panel of investors, also on hand at the conference, Dhingra also said that in some parts of India -- particularly very rural areas -- education in computer skills isn't keeping pace yet with the rest of the nation.

"Electricity is not yet available in some of the distant areas," according to Dhingra. "But soon, all of the schools will have computers."

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