by Policy Intern Patrycja Pajdak
On July 24th, the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center hosted a paper presentation and panel discussion titled “Post-Soviet Transformations: Opportunities for Growth Through the IT Sector”. President and Founder of StrategEast, Mr. Anatoly Motkin, introduced the strategic center and its mission to create closer working ties between political and business leaders in former Soviet countries and their peers in the US and Western Europe. The goal of the “Global Minds Initiative”, the current focus of the center, is to help these post-Soviet countries develop thriving IT sectors to aid their economic transitions and integration into the West. Ambassador John Herbst, Director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council and Mr. Arkadiy Dobkin, CEO and President of EPAM Systems, Inc., contributed to a discussion on this topic that was moderated by Assistant Director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, Ms. Emily Spak.
The panelists all shared the belief that developing the IT sector in this region can reap great benefits, creating high paying job and investment opportunities, helping to combat corruption, while also lessening vulnerability to regional challenges. The tech sector could help the countries in this post-Soviet region move from consumption to creation, create efficient and competitive markets in the region, and encourage the formation of a young generation of leaders. The IT sector proves to be one of the most transparent, especially in the Belarusian economy. It holds great promise for spreading values of transparency, accountability, and entrepreneurship. With that said, there is no prerequisite of large infrastructure for its growth but rather human capital is the most important ingredient. Major STEM talent already exists in the region and can be tapped into to assure the sector’s development and success.
It is, of course, essential to note the progress the countries in this region have already made in this industry and the incredible promise that future progress holds for Europe as a whole. By adopting e-voting and e-residence, while also inventing Skype, Estonia has become a tech pioneer, as Belarus has created a Hi-Tech Park employing nearly 30,000 and exporting $1 billion in products. “People do prefer to live in their home countries,” Mr. Anatoly Motkin importantly noted, and the promise of a growing, profitable industry is exactly what can prevent brain drain and assure these people stay to help develop their home countries further. For Poland, seeing growth in the economies and capabilities of regional neighbors is incredibly valuable, promoting competition and investment in the region while creating stronger allies to deter conflict into the future.