Low skill levels among Lao information and communication technology workers is contributing to a trade imbalance in the industry, according to an official from Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

The Ministry’s Department of Skill Development and Employment Director General Mr Phouvanh Chanthavong made the comment at the first meeting of the committee and sub-committees responsible for building national ICT labour skill standards, held yesterday in Vientiane.

“The skill development of ICT workers in this country has not met the growth of the industry, therefore we have faced a trade imbalance because we have imported much of our ICT services due to the low skill of domestic workers,” Mr Phouvanh said.

According to the director general, a study on IT Market and Outsourcing published in March 2011 showed the ICT industry in Laos is growing stably, with a trade volume at US$72 million in 2009 and US$92 million in 2010.

The growth is likely to continue over the next few years, with a 26 percent growth rate per year. Mr Phouvanh said despite the growth, the industry had challenges compared to Thailand and Vietnam because ICT service users relied heavily on providers from overseas.

A report from the Bank of the Lao PDR showed that 4.83 percent of the trade imbalance in 2011 came from the use of foreign ICT services, rising to 11 percent in 2012.

Mr Phouvanh also discussed the experience of Lao teams in recent ASEAN ICT skill competitions, with trainers confident in the lead-up to the events, only for contestants to reach the competitions and have no idea what they were up against.

He said more investment in ICT infrastructure, use of modern equipment and building capacity for ICT personnel is required because the sector has seen fast growth and high competition in recent years.

According to Mr Phouvanh, the average age of an ICT worker in Laos is 27, and 35 percent of workers have no previous experience in the industry.

He said the number of ICT experts remains very small in Laos, and education institutes did not have the modern teaching systems and courses to meet regional and international standards.

In consequence, graduates lacked practical experience and were generally of a lower quality, he said.

Ministry and business officials are considering creating national ICT standards after standards were set for the construction and housing and automobile industries this year.

Source: Vientiane Times
June 12, 2013