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Should governments and customers consider buying from regional IT companies?

One thing is for sure; if Asian governments are committed and serious about helping their local software industry, they have to buy more home-grown software products.

Many governments in Southeast Asia have setup agencies and associations to support and promote the local software industry. The Software Park and SIPA in Thailand, for instance, are government agencies, which were established to stimulate the development of the Thai software industry and promote the products created in Thailand.

But how strong can you push a product you are not using yourself? This question is not only valid for the domestic markets, but also on the international stage, as exports of ICT and especially software products are way up on the agenda of those agencies.

In most South East Asian countries, local governments are the big spenders on information and communication technology and if the “champions” are not buying local, how could they expect the private businesses or international markets to buy the products? So all the marketing efforts and development grants to local companies by the government agencies might result in nothing, if the governments, as the major investors in ICT, are not leading by example and buy the products they want to promote.



So, what is stopping them?
It is certainly not a lack of solutions or availability! Every country I have visited lately has their own, sometimes vibrant, software industry, which already has produced a wealth of products covering areas such as enterprise resource management (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), various operations support systems and other applications, which are commonly tendered by their governments. 

However, most requests for proposals or RFP’s published by the Southeast Asian governments specify requirements, which can only be met by mainstream players such as SAP, Oracle or Siebel, just to name a few.  Typical requirements in this context are over-the-top project references, often in US dollar terms, decades of experience and financial terms,
such as performance bonds and bid bonds.

Why is it that the entry barriers are so hard for local companies to meet?

I strongly believe we are looking at the fear of failure of the decision makers.

In most countries failing a major project is directly related to job security issues. Moreover, government officials are often not very well trained and have difficulties understanding technical requirements, project life-cycles and project dynamics, which further contribute to their fear. So, the overwhelming reason not to buy local solutions is the fear, which always has been a bad advisor and that has not been changed since the 70’s and 80’s, when the IBM’s of the world won almost every project.

The common excuse when a project failed then was: “What do you want? 

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