Information and communication technologies offer numerous significant opportunities for an investment and promotion of the Republic of Srpska. Certain steps in the digitalization process have already been made, but much remains to be done. Currently, educated personnel in this area mostly works for foreign global companies, or even immigrates to other countries for better business offers and higher wages.
The advantage of the Republic of Srpska in this area is quality staff that has the knowledge and competencies to respond the most challenging tasks.
Defining the legal framework governing this area would make it easier for domestic and foreign investors to run their business in the Republic of Srpska. Furthermore, it is necessary to train and educate employees for working on new software and hardware solutions.
Digitization of business sector, and following global trends in this area, leads to the economic development and overall progress in the society, and its’ potential is confirmed by the fact that this industry has a significant share in the total gross domestic product and that it also records continuous export growth.
There are 450 companies in the ICT sector operating in the Republic of Srpska. Although the potential in this area is high, these companies account for only 5% of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s gross domestic product.
IT companies in the Republic of Srpska are mainly focused on cooperation with large global corporations and mostly export their services.
Digital transformation in various fields, such as economy, healthcare, judiciary, education and the like, directly leads to economic progress and development, but also it influences the development of society as a whole. In that sense, the Republic of Srpska should follow the global trends.
In the past few decades, we have witnessed a significant increase in the use of information and communication technologies. Networked computers, e-mail, internet, databases, World Wide Web services, electronic publications, online forum lists and e-conferences, digital bookstores and online search engines are just some of the trends that have influenced our work and everyday lives.
In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend in the Republic of Srpska toward the introduction of electronic commerce, electronic documents and the facilitation of administrative procedures. It is necessary to regulate this area in legal terms and to establish strong cooperation of competent institutions with business sector.
IT companies in the Republic of Srpska are relatively new companies and are mainly engaged in the primary business, but not in the defining legal regulations. Within the legislation of the Republic of Srpska, no specific legal regulations governing the IT industry have been defined, and it is necessary to define strategies and policies for the development of this field. This would entail precise measures and involvement of the competent institutions, and would directly affect the improvement of the education system, the facilitation of business for companies and the stimulation of youth employment in this sector.
It is estimated that the Republic of Srpska suffers daily losses due to the lack of skilled labor for the needs of the software industry. The Association of Software Industry Companies Bit Alliance (BiH) estimates that there is an urgent need for 6.000 software engineers, developers and other experts from the export-oriented software industry in BiH. Experts believe that their engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina would generate more than 540 million BAM of profit annually.
Domestic software companies extensively work for international companies and export their software solutions. Adequately educated staff, improved infrastructure and stimulating business environment are needed to further develop this industry. Public institutions at all levels of government have a role to play in this development. There is a great opportunity for investment in this sector, both by domestic and foreign investors. Also, adequate education and engagement of educated staff would prevent the current trend of young people leaving the region for the employment in other countries.
The project “Innovation and Digitization in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in BiH” is currently underway, implemented by the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Srpska in cooperation with the Innovation Center of Banja Luka and the German Society for International Cooperation GIZ. The primary objective of the project, implemented at this stage from March 2019 to September 2021, is to provide support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in BiH to enhance their innovation capacity through the use of digital technologies. Through the activities that will enhance SMEs’ understanding of the opportunities arising from digitally based business innovations, the aim is to improve the availability of appropriate support for businesses sector in this area and to strengthen the cooperation of SMEs with relevant policy makers, public sector representatives and research institutions.
The strategic goal of developed economies in the world is their sustainability in the new global world order, based on a long-term planning which imply the implementation of solutions created by the IT industry. Such great success was only recorded in countries that reformed and utilized their existing workforce in a timely manner and immediately set up software companies followed by using personal computers in all social spheres. This includes permanent education of users and employees, development of new software tools, flexible study programs and work plans at universities that can produce a sufficient number of professionals, expansion of the Internet, development of telecommunications systems, building their own network resources in companies and the application of the most common MS platform – an operating system that recognizes one communication language and MS suite of business applications.
IT experts constantly need to keep up to date with knowledge and trends that are changing at an incredible pace. In addition to formal education, there are numerous opportunities for non-formal education through courses, seminars and workshops. Since 2012, a Swiss government project “MarketMakers” has been implemented in BiH. The project is designed to support the solution of sustainable and functional employment of young people in four private sector industries: IT, agriculture, tourism and export-oriented business services.
Within the “MarketMakers” project, the Swiss Government-funded Pilot Project on the Financial Mechanism for Financing IT Training with Delayed Repayment, a mechanism to support the implementation of programming and information technology training has been prepared. The trainings are intended for young unemployed people who wish to acquire practical and highly required knowledge in the field of programming and information technology, and do not have the money to pay for such training by themselves.
The project is also supported by the Employment Service of the Republic of Srpska with the aim of successful launching a new support mechanism for unemployed youth.
The largest umbrella organization in BiH’s IT industry is the Bit Alliance that gathers 58 largest IT companies with more than 3.000 employees. The organization has been operating since 2014 and aims to develop numerous opportunities in the IT industry market, while facing various obstacles that slow its growth. Within the Bit Alliance, trainings for young people are organized through numerous programs and projects, such as Bit Lab, in cooperation with universities, schools, associations and other domestic and foreign organizations that deal with information technologies.
In order to support the development of positive business environment for further growth of the IT industry in BiH, the Bit Alliance is constantly working to address the two biggest problems that the IT industry is facing on a daily basis – the lack of skilled personnel and the poorly developed infrastructure in the IT industry, accompanied by a lack of development incentive and support.
The Republic of Srpska has a good foundation for the development of IT industry. It is important to note that the software industry has a significant share in total gross domestic product and that it also recorded an increase in exports. Remuneration in this area is 50% above the average in RS, and more than half of employees are under 35 years old.
The first step would be the education and professional training of the staff, which requires cooperation with universities, schools, associations and various organizations dealing with information technology. It is necessary to train the labour force according to the needs of the market – the situation is such that the experts in the field of IT sector find employment in their chosen profession almost immediately after graduation. The existing education plans and programs in this field need to be revised and adapted to contemporary needs, as this is the area where changes are happening at an incredible pace.
It is also important to provide adequate working conditions that would be sufficient motive for the educated staff to remain in the Republic of Srpska. This should be done systematically and some measures to address this issue have already been taken by the Government of RS.
Institutional support, finantial incentives, subventions, tax exemptions - all aim to build better business environment for you.
The Republic of Srpska is rich in natural and other significant resources that represent great potential for each investor. No matter the industry.
Position is important. Good connection with the rest of Europe makes it much easier to build a business in the Republic of Srpska.
Investors in the Republic of Srpska have an equal position as the residents. Aside from that, they have many more valuable benefits.
Tourism is a growing industry. The Republic of Srpska is an attractive location for tourists and yearly-growing numbers confirm this statement.
The workforce is a significant factor of success and one of the biggest advantages of growing a business in the Republic of Srpska.