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The road to high tech: Building the local IT services industry

Thursday, November 1, 2012


As we cling desperately to a culture of dependence on energy and government, the world marches on to a beat of efficiency, functionality and towards a tendency to explore solutions for the betterment of human life. Has our reliance on oil and gas for so long inhibited T&T’s participation and growth on the international technology stage?
The global software and services market surpassed US$2.35 trillion in 2010, according to research from MarketLine. Market growth is expected at seven per cent yearly to US$3.31 trillion by 2015. While the global oil and gas exploration and production industry, which is in a mature stage of its life cycle and showing signs of decline, is expected to generate revenue of US$4.37 trillion in 2012.
As a rule, when customers purchase many of the software and hardware technologies mentioned below, the services element of revenue (cost to implement and support) is greater and, in many instances, as high as 70 percent of the total “software and services” revenue. These software and service deals also, most times, come with high profit margin recurrent revenue through ongoing support contracts.
The MarketLine Report highlights the following Key IT Software/Services Market Segments (Sources: Global Industry Analysts and TechNavio, in US dollars):
• The world cloud computing services industry is expected to reach US$127 billion in 2017. 
• The world infrastructure-as-a-service industry is forecast to record 28 per cent yearly growth between 2010 and 2014. 
• The world IT integration market is expected to reach almost US$340 billion in 2017. 
• The world data center infrastructure management software market is expected to expand by more than 30 per cent between 2010 and 2014. 
• The world enterprise server virtualisation industry is forecast to exceed 30 per cent yearly growth between 2010 and 2014
• The world global 3D animation software market will exceed 17 per cent early growth between 2010 and 2014.
• The global content management software market is expected to reach almost US$13 billion by 2017.
The report also indicates that India’s software market grew to almost US$2.5 billion in 2010 and is expecting 14 per cent yearly growth up to US$4.5 billion by 2015. Over the past decades, the world continually looks on as India’s many initiatives for human capital development successfully transforms industry after industry in the services arena. T&T is currently light years away from benefiting from any of the forecasted high growth areas in the global software and services industry. But do we at least understand the impacts of global progress on us? And are we planning adequately and with the appropriate sense of urgency?
Focus on talent
 In June, the T&T Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) launched the strategy, “T&T: Exploring Opportunities in the Global IT Services Market.” The TTCSI led the project, which was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank’s Trade and Investment Unit to develop a strategic plan for the local ICT off-shoring services sector. 
The strategy was developed by Tholons, who provide globalisation and investment advisory services and recognised that countries’ choice to import T&T’s services relies on our “inherent delivery components namely talent, cost, infrastructure, and service delivery maturity”.
The Tholons’ report also recognises that “with regards to talent, countries tertiary graduates and the predominant expertise available within the labour pool play a crucial factor as human capital is the fundamental consideration for the development of a services outsourcing industry”. 
They go on to stress that the ability to optimise our talent capabilities will ultimately determine success for T&T’s out-sourcing industry. During the consultancy, the importance of public-private partnerships was stressed. Recognising the work already being done by InvesTT (formerly e-TecK), the Tholons study recommended close collaboration between InvesTT, UTT and the TTCSI to ensure the industry would be brought to life by the proper planning and appropriate development of the country’s human resource. 
The decision to focus on building talent can be justified by the following statement from Jeremy Liew, managing director of Lightspeed Venture Partners, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley: “There is still no better place in the world than the Bay Area to start a company because of the density and absolute number of top engineering, design and product management talent.”
While there’s no disputing that Silicon Valley and surrounding areas lead the world in this space, a recent report from the Centre for an Urban Future stated that almost 500 startups in New York received investment between 2007 and 2011. While startup capital funding dropped by ten per cent across the US, it grew by 32 per cent in New York during that same time. 
For the first time, New York is earning its tech credentials in the geek world, with serious technology players like Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn having opened offices in the state, creating an upsurge of high-tech talent. The changes in NY’s service development strategy are credited by some for the current startup success compared to the prior batch of tech startups more than ten years ago.
Since T&T’s high tech incubation plans were hatched almost ten years ago, should we try to learn from New York’s mistakes? And ensure we can sweeten the pot enough to attract the right large high tech companies? If we’re able to achieve this feat, we must also remember the need to, through policy, incentives and other measures, maintain the positive input of foreign investor companies operating locally with regard to creating competency and building our human capital. 
Creative outsourcing services
A recommendation was made in the Tholons’ report to increase focus on creative outsourcing services which include animation and video game development. 
Motion Capture Animation Creating the Lizard
The drive towards developing animation competency is currently centred on initiatives from animation software makers’ Toon Boom. There was no mention in the report of focus on the other key players in this space including; Autodesk, Adobe Systems Inc, Side Effects Software, Smith Micro Software and MAXON.
In the global animation industry, various complex tools have emerged over the past decades for the different stages of animation, including; Modelling, Texturing, Rigging, Animating and lighting. The average expert animator, whose services can be easily exported, is versed in a combination of tools that range from Adobe Photoshop, Flash, digital marketing or publishing suites to Autodesk Maya and 3d Max and Unity 3d, a robust, free video game development platform that includes development of social media and mobile games.
3D animation image
Other 2d animation tools like Toon Boom, Claymation Studio and Animation Workshop are geared towards the consumer markets and may be a good place to start in attracting non-technical persons into the field of animation. 
Success is dependent on our ability to quickly move to more complex competencies and platforms like 3D Film animation, video game development, advanced CGI, motion capture and photo realistic animation. These are examples of skills that are in high demand globally and will provide higher revenues to optimise our limited human resource capital.
2D Animation Image
Toon Boom recently setup an animation school in India, training students in 1,500 schools and 50 animation studios. Joan Vogelesang, the president and chief executive officer of Toon Boom, is currently leading efforts to promote the T&T industry by meeting government representatives and has also recently joined e-TecK as an adviser.
The idea in my view is brilliant to help trigger T&T’s animation industry. The success of this initiative, however, relies on our ability to diligently develop the right partnerships to help grow competency towards more complex animation technologies, and utilise the linkages in skill sets to build out services in web animation, film special effects and social, mobile and other video game development platforms.
The skill sets required are similar across multiple disciplines, so, for example, a graduate could start off doing graphics design for advertising campaigns and Web sites and move, through a range of learning paths, to working on 3D animated film at Disney or become an entrepreneur and create the next online steel pan-learning application.
We have a history of collaborating and competing through nationwide systems of inventiveness and innovation in the creative sector, can we now translate this flare into global success in relevant and lucrative industries? The number of IT jobs in New York has risen 30 per cent since 2007 leading many global players to take notice of the Big Apple state’s reinvention and subsequent execution of its plan to increase service revenue.
Damian Ramsajan Managing director, Meridius Business Solutions, and a doctoral researcher.


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