Prospects of import substitution in IT: 2020–2021
Our experts participated in remote round table event where the perspectives of domestic software market were discussed.
1. How did the pandemic affect the import substitution process?
E.K.: In my opinion, the pandemic didn't have any direct effect on the import substitution process. It was sudden, but the import substitution process is ongoing and it was started a long time ago. This is an attempt to become fully independent of western software. At the same time, in current conditions the demand for software is rising rapidly because companies are shifting towards remote communications and electronic document flow en masse. Thus the software developers in our country have received a massive boost that will help them grow. If you look at it this way, then the pandemic has indeed affected the market: it stimulated its development and compelled it to produce more secure, more functional and more reliable products.
S.K.: The coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown that people didn't expect have stimulated the implementation of domestically developed solutions in different industries. However, under these new conditions, the speed of deployment and implementation is what matters the most. Which is why the specialists have often resorted to the options they were familiar with — the foreign options.
2. What are some of the issues the customer companies experience when transitioning to domestic software?
E.K.: Our company has been mostly using western software throughout its history, and it's still used extensively to this day. We do not yet have an education process in place that would teach people to work with domestic software. There is an unfulfilled need for support and updates for our domestic products. Some customers are afraid of transitioning to software solutions that are barely used and barely supported in the IT market. Many companies are hesitant to implement domestic software solutions because there aren't any examples of that software being successfully used.
S.K.: The transition to domestic solutions in itself is a very difficult process, same as implementation of any other operational information system. There are many factors at play, which is why the best way for an IT specialist to ascertain the applicability of a given solution option is to test it. There are a lot of high-quality domestic solutions. But there are also some "surprises" that can't be predicted by reading the technical documentation and discussing the project with the developer.
3. How can we resolve these issues? What depends on the developers, and what depends on the customers? What depends on the state?
E.K.: To resolve a sprawling issue such as universal transition to domestic software we need to have a complex approach instead of acting on separate directives. Software developers should provide more information and training for different support levels for their products: from sales and use to support and updating. The more specialists who can support domestic solutions there are in the market, the braver the customers will be when it comes to using them. Another important factor is the possibility to modify the software at a technical level to completely fulfil the customer's needs. The state should support the education establishments and control the education quality. Domestic software developers could also make good use of some tax breaks, pilot project subsidies, etc.
4. What is the role of free software in the import substitution process?
E.K.: Free software is rarely domestic. These are mostly western open-source solutions. I should note, however, that most domestic products have the western open-source software "under the hood". Could we still be talking about import substitution then?
S.K.: I am all for concsious choice of free software solutions. These technologies will often allow resolving IT issues, such as stepping away from proprietary western software, in the best possible way. At the same time, the company has to reach a certain level of maturity because it will have to learn to deal with specific issues of developing and using their own software — for most companies, that's just outside of their professional scope.
5. Are there interesting new releases among the domestic products in development?
E.K.: I think that certain projects under development in the robotics, AI and machine learning are really interesting. Some of them are already popping up on the domestic market. I don't want to name these products, but they're all in the Russian Software Registry. Our call centre solution, "STEP Telemarketing", is also on that list, by the way.
6. What are the trends in Russian software development for 2021?
E.K.: I don't think there is anything unique about our country when it comes to trends. Domestic developers are getting the hang of big data and implementation of machine learning algorithms, same as the rest of the world. Domestic BPNM systems, OSs and virtual environments are in high demand in various industries and spheres. The demand for software developers has tripled over the course of the last year, so I hope that in 2021 we'll see some spectacular and unique domestic products.
Source: «System Administrator» journal Issue no. 11 (216)