Developing an ICT Future

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The government of Brunei has highlighted the need to develop the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector to meet the needs of employers as well as to diversify the country's economy. The current number of ICT professionals working in the sultanate is insufficient to meet the forecast demand for the next five to ten years.

In line with the government's efforts to make ICT a key engine of growth and diversify the economy, a number of projects are being implemented in an attempt to increase the supply of IT professionals.

At an IT seminar in November 2006, Yusoff Hamid, deputy minister of communications, said, "The in-country talent pipeline for IT professionals is insufficient to meet the forecast demand [...] We need certified IT training centres of international standards within Brunei Darussalam to produce IT-certified personnel, trainers and other major IT professionals. Having the right IT-literate workforce may boost our capability and competitiveness in meeting the challenges of globalisation."

KPF Comserve, a leading local IT-telecom company has formed a strategic partnership with SAP, a global provider of business software, to build a training facility in Brunei. The two will create a programme to give people in the country the opportunity to develop the skills and expertise needed in the ICT sector and fill the hundreds of vacancies available in the industry.

SAP has a customer base of 38,000 in the sultanate while KPF Comserve's clientele includes the ministry of defence and Brunei Shell Petroleum, a joint venture between the government and Royal Dutch Shell. With the jobs available within the sector, the ICT training programme will facilitate employment by giving Bruneians a marketable degree that will have national and international recognition. International firms such as Microsoft, Nokia, Airbus, IBM and BMW are just a number of giants enlisting the skills of SAP certified consultants.

Universiti Brunei Darussalam and the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam have shown interest in the training programme, which will be up and running by the second half of the year. The goal is to attract young entry-level professionals into the industry as well as create a network focussing on knowledge sharing between industry leaders. This in turn should facilitate business between communities and nation members in the region.

The Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) is also taking steps to promote the national ICT sector at the grassroots level by encouraging technological ventures among small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). To do this, BEDB has introduced an initiative to implement an I-Centre that will serve as a platform for existing businesses and start ups to access the facilities they need to promote themselves and penetrate the market further.

"The establishment of the I-Centre is part of the BEDB strategy to encourage and develop Brunei with young people and small businesses who have good ideas in ICT and software development. Through the I-Centre, we hope to sow the seeds for a Brunei ICT industry that is internationally competitive," said Timothy Ong, chairman of the BEDB.

The centre is expected to be fully operational in August and will house 16 offices, meeting rooms, a conference room, lecture theatre and exhibition area.

Not only SMEs and start up companies are investing in ICT ventures. Well-established companies in Brunei are reassessing their technological resources in order to keep up with neighbouring countries like Singapore, Malaysia and China.

Haji Marsad, chief operating officer of DST Group, the country's leading mobile cellular provider, told OBG, "We see significant growth in the ICT area as a telecoms provider because telecommunications is now facing pressure on its traditional lines of business, such as voice revenues. Our future direction will be to address this. We need to look at our strategy and see how we can develop our ICT capabilities to meet technological demands."

Brunei is hoping to move in the same direction as Canada and the US in developing its ICT industries and increasing internet penetration. For this to happen, the government will be focussing on building up human capital and talent to supply the ICT sector.

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