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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IS BETTING ON INVESTMENT AND HIGH QUALITY TO EMERGE FROM THE CRISIS
The Italian Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector suffered in the early part of this year, much like the rest of the world, but it is heading towards recovery, thanks to high specialisation and investments in human capital. These are the findings of the latest report presented by Assinform, the Italian Association of Information and Communication Technology Companies, concerning the first half of 2009.
As a whole, the ICT market, which accounts for 30,347 million Euros, suffered a loss of 4.5% in the first half of 2009. This was a continuation of the downturn that began in the first half of 2008 in connection with the International crisis, when, after years of growth, the market shrunk by 0.6%. While telecommunications decreased by 2.5% compared to the same period in 2008, it is the IT market that is suffering the most: a 9% decline, with a turnover that dropped from 10,049 million to 9,142 million Euros. The clearest slowdown in the IT field is in the hardware division, where sales show a 15.7% decrease, and PCs have reversed their upward march for the first time in 30 years.
Italian ICT, with 97,000 businesses and 390,000 employees, forms one of the country’s most significant industrial realities and one of the leading Information Technology (IT) sectors in Europe. It is the fourth largest producer of high added-value, corresponding to 2.8% of the GNP, and the economic sector with the highest number of graduate employees in Italy, at 30% of its workforce, with the highest ratio of human capital per unit of production. At present, the companies in the sector are aiming above all to “conserve their human capital,” affirms Assinform’s president, Paolo Angelucci, “which is the sector's greatest asset and whose training requires a considerable commitment of time and money.”
To overcome the crisis, they are looking towards investments: “The role of the banks will be essential,” said Angelucci, “and we are asking them to increase credit for innovation. We need to support, on the one hand, the IT companies that are committed to retaining their employees, and on the other, the industrial and service companies that plan to invest in IT.” From Assinform’s analysis of the period in question, it appears that the number of companies who have included the development of new IT projects in their budgets has increased by 25%. “These businesses should not be abandoned,” stresses the Assinform president, “because they represent a driving force for recovery. Moreover,” Angelucci explains, “it is necessary, at the institutional level, to speed up the public funding already allocated by government, and then aim at a better use of the resources already available for training. There are also two further low cost-intensity proposals. One of them is to create incentives for firms that specialise in trade-in deals for old software. The other is a request to the government to proceed with the financing, already announced by the Minister of Industry, for the Industria 2015 IT project, which is designed to improve the quality and competitiveness of Italian-made technology.” If the crisis did not spare ICT, it is nevertheless clear that it is a sector with all the requirements for a vigorous recovery. And there is an important result that goes against the market trend and encourages optimism: broadband internet access has increased by 12.2% in comparison to the first half of 2008, with a total number of users that has surpassed 12 million units.