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Q&A: Eastern European tech - where it is, where it is going

(Image credit: Image Credit: Lviv IT Cluster)

What were the major themes of this year's show? (IT ARENA)

Traditionally IT Arena is divided into 3 streams: Business, Technology and Product. Therefore, we try to bring something interesting not only for CEOs and top management, but also for tech guys, business analysts and product managers. On top of that we showcase Ukrainian and foreign talent at the Startup Competition and Tech Expo. Not only the number of attendees from Ukraine and other countries keeps getting bigger every year, but also the quality gets better. This year, more than 90 outstanding speakers joined our conference, each of them experts in their fields. I think entrepreneurship, healthtech and AI were quite big in 2017. Also more startups have applied for our Startup Competition than ever before. I’m very proud to see all of these people in Lviv. Our event is getting worldwide attention, which is very special to us and our city. Lviv is slowly becoming a center for technology and the IT industry in CEE and we still have big plans and ideas for the future.

Is the Eastern European region getting enough investment in IT infrastructure?

In a few months, we are officially starting the construction of Innovation District IT Park here in Lviv. It’s a 10 hectare-project that is expected to become a place not only for comfortable working conditions and networking opportunities but will also a be hub for transforming new ideas into startups. The project will be finished in 2020, but already more than a half of office space has been booked by major Ukrainian software development companies. The IT Park is a project that proves that our local IT industry in not only ready to consume, but also to create new infrastructure for the city. We are working with local and international investors to make sure Lviv gets all conditions for a thriving business environment.

What effect do you think GDPR will have on Eastern European businesses?

GDPR means a start of the new age in data protection in regulation, the regulations that once used to be helpful, are now obligatory, with definite terms of use and penalties in case of disobedience. The enforcement of this law causes an impact even now - it makes all the businesses pay even more attention to data protection and information security. Many companies in Eastern European region spend significant amount of resources and efforts to establish Information Security Systems within their entities, pass certification and comply with new GDPR regulations.

If the Informational Management System, implemented by the companies from Eastern Europe, is ISO ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified, then GDPR compliance is much easier to achieve, as it means that company has certain internal procedures, has a clear understanding of the data storage and protection and has passed external audit.

Ukrainian software development companies, that have offices in the EU countries, like N-iX (with offices in Poland and Sweden), already work with adherence to data protection regulations and GDPR. Being a trustworthy software services providers, at N-iX  we already comply with all the existing regulations regarding data protection and information security. Taking into consideration the importance of protecting personal identifiable information (PII), sensitive personal information (SPI) and business sensitive information (BSI) N-iX has deployed, constantly monitors and improves the appropriate controls within its Information Security Management System and it is ISO ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified. GDPR has been announced a while ago, thus we prepared in advance to meet all the new regulations.

How worried should businesses in your region be about cyber security?

In my opinion the issue of cyber security can not be addressed as a concern of a particular region, taking into account the growing number of malicious incidents registered all over the world. The actions against cyber attacks should be enforced on different state levels, starting from government to medium and small-sized businesses. Regarding IT industry, I am confident that all the companies are doing their best in securing themselves from the cyber attacks and preventing other incidents that might occur. In outsourcing we work mainly with foreign clients, thus it is our obligation to guarantee the security of delivered products and data.

Concerning N-iX, we engage with reputable 3rd party software partners, our Information Security Management System is integrated into the overall company operations management, it is thoroughly and completely monitored. That is why even when Ukraine has been struck by a virus this spring, at N-iX we avoided the risks and kept working as usual. The data and infrastructure we work with is secured on all the levels.

Is the Eastern European region getting enough investment in IT infrastructure?

To be honest, the absolute majority of the investment in Ukraine is private. We strive to become trustworthy services partners, therefore, it is an absolute must for us to create a matching environment and infrastructure. I am quite sure that practically every IT company in Ukraine is investing significant amount of resources, both financial and talent, to cover the needs of their firms and more.

Also, when speaking of ensuring information security we should invest both in technical and administrative controls, like proper screening and training of personnel. People are considered to be the weakest link in security so we should put efforts to create the secure environment, which can not be ensured only by technical means, but with a great deal of communication and awareness.

What will be the major concerns of the Eastern Europe technology space in the next 12 months?

For one thing, the Eastern European technology space has grown significantly in recent years and our engineering talent attracts more and more businesses that want to establish partnerships with IT industry players of different size. For another, the Eastern European IT space still has to catch up with the world's major IT destinations. We’ve entered the market segment, where the cost is not the ultimate reason for choosing an IT partner, but the added value that company provides. Hence, I believe Eastern European vendors should continue focusing on the quality of services to attain the leading position on the global IT market. Another concern I think is keeping up with the tech innovations to be able to offer our partners cutting-edge IT services in such areas as AI and machine learning, data science, blockchain, VR, and others.

What can Eastern European businesses do to attract more investment in tech?

Work even harder and have the unified voice as IT destination. During the last IT Arena conference, which took place last month in Lviv we’ve heard opinions from quite a few international speakers that Ukraine does not put enough efforts into its promotion abroad. So that is one thing that we need to focus on. The second would be – constantly improve our knowledge through better education, broaden the expertise in multiple business domains. The third aspect, in my opinion, is to grow our businesses and engage with even more international customers and partners, so our services could speak for themselves. Sure, the investment climate, reforms in tax and legislature would help, too.

What areas in tech can the Eastern European region become a leader in?

Technology is not agriculture, where some plants can grow because of the climate whereas others can’t. Technology is universal, it’s programming languages, frameworks and approaches familiar to every professional. This fact makes geographical segmentation practically impossible. Of course, some cultural peculiarities are still possible, but even they vanish with the globalization. There are certain standards of doing business and if one wants to be successful, he or she has to follow them, no matter origin, language or history. Being Ukrainian company, N-iX successfully delivers services and solutions in AI, Big Data and Data Science, Virtual Reality, Mobility and enterprise systems, enabling digital transformation and bringing distinct value to our customers.

Stepan Veselovskyi, CEO, Lviv IT Cluster
Image Credit: Lviv IT Cluster

Stepan Veselovskyi is the CEO of Lviv IT Cluster.