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Egypt stakes its claim as an outsourcing centre.

Egypt stakes its claim as an outsourcing centre

If Vodafone customers in Glasgow, Scotland, or Glenorchy, New Zealand, have a problem with their mobile, it will be answered by a call-centre operator in the Egyptian city of Giza.

The 1,800 employees at Vodafone International Services not only support Vodafone mobile users across the world but also aim to pick up potential technical problems before they become evident to users. In addition, the company is seeking to expand the number of non-Vodafone clients it services. They currently make up 5% of the centre's workload but the aim is to expand this to 50%.

In Volume 15, Issue 8 of Supply Management, published in May 2010, Chynoweth reports that the availability of large numbers of graduates trained in call-centre skills - the result of close collaboration between the Egyptian Industry Development Agency and the universities - is a key advantage for companies looking to set up in Egypt rather than the more established outsourcing locations in India or China. The Egyptian government also offers tax breaks to new entrants. Microsoft, Oracle and Intel are among the companies to have been attracted by such advantages.

But despite the government's efforts, Chynoweth warns that there are still areas to improve. First, there are too few middle managers. Vodafone does not even try to recruit them in Egypt, but 'grows' its own. Secondly, project management in the country is weak. Thirdly, Egypt's anti-corruption laws are under-used and need to be strengthened. Finally, parts of the country's infrastructure are poor.

Consulting and IT-services companies in India have advised Egypt on how to become an attractive location for foreign firms, and now Egypt is itself offering advice to other African countries. 'Businesses wanting to get into the next hot spot at the start could watch to see what happens in other parts of Africa,' the author concludes.

In Australia as in Egypt, close collaboration between universities and industry is reaping rewards in terms of employment. In Information Age's, April 2010 issue, Straw describes a partnership between IBM, the University of Ballarat, the city of Ballarat and the Victoria state government to set up an IT services centre at the University of Ballarat Technology Park - one of the most advanced in regional Australia, which provides its tenants with high-quality fibre-optic and network facilities specifically designed to support information-technology companies and the ICT functions of major corporations.

The new building, home to 300 employees, joined IBM's existing 800-employee delivery centre as delivery hub for IBM's Global Technology Services (GTS) business. It provides IBM clients with such innovative information-technology services as remote technical support, e-security, business processing, information-technology support and consulting for IBM's global operations, servicing clients across Australia, Europe, the Asia-Pacific and the USA.

By focusing on regional Victoria, and partnering the university, IBM also continues to create educational and employment opportunities for young information-technology specialists among the population of Ballarat. For nine years, IBM Australia has taken part in the university's Bachelor of Information Technology course by offering second-year students an 'earn-as-you-learn' placement as part of their studies.

Straw reveals that the Victoria government views investment in the services centre as an important aspect of regional development. The author contends that the University of Ballarat's Graduate School of Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences may not have grown to be one of the largest in Australia without IBM's presence on the technology park.