E Development Seminar Begins in Yerevan

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–An international seminar–entitled "E-Development in Europe and Central Asia" began in Yerevan on January 28. The seminar is organized by the Armenian foreign affairs ministry–World Bank–the European Union and the Armenian Information Technologies Fund (ITF). Beside Armenian officials and officials from Armenia-based international and diplomatic organizations–there were 25 other participants from 15 different countries.

ITF Chairman Tigran Chugaszian said the seminar was a preliminary event for another major international conference to be held in Yerevan on April 12-18–which will look into the particularities of E-Development in the South Caucasus.

An official from the trade and industry ministry said they were expecting representatives from Azerbaijan to also participate. "However–we believe they will be participating in the conference slated for April," he said.

World Bank resident representative Owaise Saadat said the E-Development was a critical tool of the "knowledge economy," and that the Bank was trying to support as part of its poverty alleviation and social inclusion agenda.

Saadat also said the World Bank was concerned that developing countries face a risk of a growing knowledge divide with respect to developed countries–as they invest much less on the production of knowledge. Compared to OECD countries which invest on average 5 percent of the GDP on knowledge related activities–in less developed countries this investment averages about 1 percent. Also–the institutional infrastructures are not sufficiently developed in developing countries to allow them to take advantage of the emerging economic opportunities.

However–Armenia is fortunate because it already has a relatively good knowledge base and a tradition of skilled IT workers. The Armenian government has recently adopted a decision on development of the IT sector as a high priority development activity. In recognition of this priority–the World Bank has assisted the government in preparing an IT Plan and has also approved a $5 million "Learning and Innovation IN Incubator" project to improve the infrastructure and upgrade skills of small and medium size IT firms.

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