Interview with Eduard Manukyan, doctor, professor, founder of translator.am website
Mr. Manukyan, IT sphere was declared a priority in 2000. What do you think about it after 12 years? Specialists are now criticizing the idea to establish a Ministry of Information Technologies or Innovations. What do you need?
In general, the IT sphere in Armenia is very good. Today, internet gives huge possibilities for the development of the IT sphere. For example, students gather and import orders from abroad. Being here, you can form micro-companies. In an exam, two students showed they had elaborated a program for restaurants and now, sitting at home, they are serving three-four restaurants. Unlike other production branches which require immense funds, the IT sphere does not. My best students support their families by working in the IT sphere. But what is the reason this sphere has been so good for so long? Because there is no ministry which would hinder it with its inevitable and administrative intervention. Finally, our state has adopted “the state is a bad businessman” policy.
This sphere does not need such an administrative body, a ministry, it is just an attempt to hinder development. There is already the supportive board and I’m there.
Besides, there is this common phrase everyone uses – help the development of the sphere. Specialists are necessary for the development, the ministry of education and educational institutions need to handle this issue. While, half a million U.S. dollars are spent annually on the so-called help, while there is no result nor a report on what has been done. By opening a ministry they just aim to legalize such illegality which means to legalize the old “dirt” since being unable to provide a report on the spent budget, they establish a ministry.
The guarantee to the development of this sphere is its independence. It has developed so far because it has always been independent.
Mr. Manukyan, Enterprise Incubator Fund informs 200 private enterprises have joined their demand to establish an IT ministry. So, there aren’t so few companies.
I have talked to more or less big enterprises and they say they have not signed anything. I don’t know who signed. What a crazy person would wish to enter under an administrative system. Instead of reducing the number of ministries, we are doing the opposite.
Their statement runs that the establishment of a joint management system will boost the revelation of technological priorities in the state management, defense, education, health, security and other economic fields, while the joint and consistent management will ensure unprecedented technological and innovative achievements.
So is the government unaware of its priorities and it needs a ministry to help it? No ministry is needed for advice, it is needed to manage, while there is a prime minister’s board supporting the information technologies’ development, which was set up during Andranik Margaryan’s tenure. Besides, does it mean that our government is not effective and can’t outline the priorities so it needs a ministry? No, there are many competent people to decide the priorities and they only need some advice which can be done by the above-mentioned board.
What if the ministry is nevertheless set up? What are the threats to the IT sphere?
It will have repressive functions. If this small and midsize business is functioning without them, what are they coming to do? They will start demanding reports, there are thousands of ways to repress, they will demand bribes for not repressing. It will be a repressive tool hence it can’t boost development.
There are a lot of business trips and exhibitions.
Those responsible for the development of the sphere have held many expensive exhibitions and left on business trips but there are no results because not economists but IT specialists need to leave for trips to get acquainted with the newest means and methods to use them in their country.
Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan attaches importance to the development of the sphere. And I appreciate that internet is becoming cheaper and more accessible every year the number of users increases, so the development of the IT sphere is inevitable.
But what is his role in development? Maybe just the lack of a decision not to form a ministry?