Cyberabad Dreams ...


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spotlight on Hyderabad | image from Azgar Khan used according to terms of its CC license, see below for infoHow do you develop the skills in your workforce necessary to compete in dynamic, fast-moving sectors of the global economy?  I just returned from India, where I joined colleagues from Africa in a series of site visits, learning events and presentations in the Indian IT hubs of Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore in seeking answers to this (and related) questions.  More specifically, the trip provided a rich opportunity to learn more about the 'India success story' of the last 20 years in the areas of IT, IT-enabled services and business process outsourcing (BPO), gathering policy and practice lessons of potential relevance and application to Africa.  In many countries, including many African countries, proposals for the widespread introduction of computers in schools is explicitly tied to goals to develop so-called 'knowledge workers' to work in nascent IT industries. How explicit is this link in reality?

During the two-week visit to India, we participated in the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum, which brought together senior IT executives from India and around the world for presentations and agenda setting; visited what is possibly the world's largest call centre; learned about the development of the Indian School of Business, recently ranked as one of the top 25 business school's in the world by the Financial Times despite being on a decade old; toured Hi-Tec City, which launched the transformation of Hyderabad in 'Cyberabad'; explored the sprawling campus of Infosys in Bangalore (where the phrase 'the world is flat' was coined); was briefed on cutting-edge applications of ICTs in rural India by teams at Microsoft Research in Bangalore; and visited world-class institutions of higher education like the Indian Institute of Science (IISc, in Bangalore) and the new International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-Hyderbad).

One key point made repeatedly throughout the trip, by private companies, government officials and education institutions alike, was that ICT skills and employability are key drivers of this industry’s growth, but it is the simultaneous development and cultivation of the 'soft skills' that are the key differentiators for success.  India has no shortage of technical people competent in ICT-related disciplines.  What is more difficult to teach -- and identify -- are the 'soft'  communication, management, cultural adaptation and sensitivity skills that don't necessarily have anything to do with ICTs.  If this is indeed the case -- and it is not only Indian IT firms that are making this point -- a narrow focus on the large scale introduction of computers in many developers countries to teach basic (mechanical) ICT skills will only get you so far.  What we are talking about here, of course, are the so-called '21st century skills' that education policymakers love to expound on.  Watching workers stream into work at one of the the world's biggest call centres outside Mumbai, counting 42 buildings under construction from the roof of my hotel in Hyderabad to house IT professionals serving the outsourced needs of companies around the world ... these are much more persuasive testaments to the importance of the development of such skills than any policy document can be.

Note: The image used at the top of this blog post comes from Azgar Khan via Wikimedia Commons and is used according to the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license.


Michael Trucano

Global Lead for Innovation in Education, Sr. Education & Technology Policy Specialist

Join the Conversation

June 18, 2009

You are right and India is full of competent skilled workers. But it is personal character and interactive skills that are driving economy or any organization needs.

Japan as a whole country united after the Hiroshima bombing to build back the country together and it was that drive and passion that led them to build the country and not necessarily the physical capability that the country had to offer.


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Michael Trucano
June 18, 2009

Hi Azzam,
Thanks for your comment.
Indeed: One thing that this trip highlighted for participants was that ICT-enabled or -fueled development in India has been about much more than just 'ICT'. It is the 'soft skills' of the type that you mention that can be the determining factor of success (or failure) in this area. Technical competence is necessary, but not sufficient, for success.

Call Centers in the Philippines
January 21, 2010

This was a very pertinent post. India undoubtedly stands as the undisputed giant when it comes to IT resource outsourcing. BPO India is one of the popular business practices in today's competitive environment. India has gained worldwide recognition in the past few years as a hub of outsourcing activity, with hundreds of English-speaking students graduating from colleges and universities every year. Neighbouring China, on the other hand, is more known for its manufacturing prowess and has only recently sped up efforts to tap the services sector. -Jamie

Call Center Philippines
March 23, 2010

There is no surprise that India has emerged as the prime source for offshoring IT functions. Of those partaking in offshoring, 80% had done so to India in the past 6 months. Why? India has the right combination of cheap resources and strong technology infrastructure, so provides the right environment for offshoring. In addition India has a strongly invested in skilling the local population through their significant investment in computer institutes. This coupled with the fact that India has the largest English speaking population in the world has enabled India to become a powerhouse in the IT services sector, making it a prime location to offshore.