PM Margarian Pushes for Development of Armenia’s IT Sector at UN Information Society Summit

By Paul Chaderjian

TUNIS–Armenia’s delegation to the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) began with Prime Minister Andranik Margarian attending the opening session–which was hosted by Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Also speaking was United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Tens of thousands of Information Technology specialists–nearly 200 heads of state and hundreds of corporations and non-governmental agencies are participating in the three-day WSIS conference. On the agenda for the delegates and participants is addressing how everyone in the world can have access to the information superhighway–who controls the internet–and how to allocate enough resources to the Internet and information technology to secure a better humanity.

After the opening session–Margarian was interviewed by a Tunisian television network. The reporter asked the Prime Minister to express his thoughts about President Ben Ali’s speech and his perspective on what were the most important themes being addresses by the WSIS.

After the interview–the Prime Minister met with Craig Barrett–Chairman of the Board of the Intel Corporation. William Siu–Vice President of Platform Development at Intel–demonstrated the latest wireless technologies that are able to provide connectivity to anyone within a 2 kilometer radius. The Prime Minister expressed interest in the new WiMax technology and suggested Intel use Armenia to test the product. Siu said he would take the Prime Minister up on the offer and would soon visit Armenia with Intel’s Vice President of Emerging Technologies–Shane Wall.

Intel’s Armenian representative–Armen Grigoryan–was also at the meeting and told the media about Armenia’s Intel notebook computer production facility. For the past one-and-a-half years–Armenian IT specialists have been designing notebook and laptop computers for Intel and producing them for global consumption.

Before joining more than 200 heads of state at a formal banquet–the Armenian delegation attended a presentation by Garegin Chugaszian–president of Armenia’s ITE company. ITE was awarded the World Summit 2005 Grand Jury prize for the world’s best cultural DVD multimedia project. "Aram Khachaturian: The Life and Works" was chosen from tens of thousands of other entries as the world’s best. Another project from ITE–the interactive CD-ROM "Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923" was recognized by the World Summit Award 2005 Grand Jury as one of the top 10 products in the e-learning category.

The second day of the Summit began by Prime Minister Andranik Margarian chairing one of conference sessions. Margarian then delivered a speech to the conference addressing Armenia’s successes in the information technology sector.

Margarian stressed that Armenia has traditionally been a pioneer in the creation and dissemination of Information Technology. He said that in recent years–IT in Armenia has been declared an economic priority by the Armenian government. IT output in the Republic has reached 1.7% of GDP in 2004–which is a figure that would be typical of a country with a developed IT industry. Margarian said that thanks to public-private partnerships–Armenia has enjoyed a considerable increase in investmen’s into the IT sector. He said new courses and curriculum have been introduced to schools and universities–and regional-scale training centers have been established–such as the radio frequency identification (RFID) laboratories.

To support the development of the IT sector–an Information Technology was established in Armenia in 2001. The Council includes representatives of all the stakeholders–including the respective ministries–private companies–and scientific and non-governmental organizations. With World Bank support–the Armenian government has been implementing a Business Incubation Project in the IT sector–which has been a major incentive to SME development and the formation of venture capital.

The Prime Minister added that effective collaboration between Armenia and its diaspora is worth a special mention as a success story in this area. "I would also like to highlight the success of Armenian specialists in the World Summit Award Global Contests. During both the Geneva and Tunisia phases of the Summit–Armenian specialists were among the winners of the following awards: for the ‘Space Weather Aerie’ CD–award in Best of 2003 e-Science category; for the ‘Aram Khachaturian: Life and Work’ CD–award in Best of 2005 in e-Culture category; and for the ‘Armenian Genocide–1915-1923′ CD–the Special Mention 2005 in the e-Learning category," said Margarian.

"Armenia does not view ICT as merely a branch of industry; rather–she perceives it as an effective tool that can drive the growth of other sectors domestically–enhance the effectiveness and transparency of governance–improve access to public services–and boost the country’s competitiveness and economic productivity," said the Prime Minister. "Recognizing the importance of building a knowledge economy and developing systems of governance–education–culture–and health–the Armenian government plans to elaborate a National Strategy for Information Society Development–which we will surely implement as a means of eradicating poverty in line with our concerns and the Millennium Declaration."

Margarian then reiterated Armenia’s commitment to take an active part in implementing resolutions passed by the WSIS.

The speech was followed by the Prime Minister meeting with senior management from Sun Microsystems. The Prime Minister said it is very important for him to further the cooperation of Armenia with Sun Microsystems–a leading IT company. He discussed with the senior leaders of the company future prospects for cooperation. Since the JAVA programming language–which was developed by Sun Microsystems–is one of the most effective and most popular in the world–Margarian suggested that Sun Microsystems consider creating a regional JAVA training center in Armenia.

Margarian said developing a regional education center would be successful–citing the success Sun Microsystems has had with Armenia’s Enterprise Incubator Fund in open source programming and training courses. He suggested that the center’s activities could focus on the training for and application of a full range of JAVA technology and other technology and solutions used by Sun Microsystems.

The Prime Minister and Sun Microsystems managers also talked about the possibility of creating a research and development center–which would cover radio frequency identification (RFID)–radio physics–electronics and communications technologies. Margarian said potential project partners could include the Yerevan Communication Means Research Institute–the Enterprise Incubator Fund–the Radio Physics and Electronic Institute–Yerevan State University–the Armenian State Engineering University and others.

During the meeting–the Prime Minister and Sun Microsystems representatives also discussed the possibilities for developing open source coding software and other concrete research and development projects that would be of interest to both Armenian and Sun Microsystems. The summit will adjourn with the approval of a final document.

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