What is the motivation for this initiative?
The Information Technology sector has a number of characteristics that differentiate it from all other economic activities. However, because it is a relatively new economic activity, information available on the sector itself is rather limited.
The most traditional source of information is based on the analysis of governmental databases containing, for example, companies’ tax returns or other information they provide on a mandatory basis. These kinds of databases allow obtaining data on the evolution of revenues and employment in the sector.
Another source of information that has been developed thanks to the efforts of official statistics agencies around the world is the result of the program "Information Society". This program has been running under the auspices of the United Nations, for almost two decades now. The indicators produced by these sources focus on the integration of technological infrastructure into the day-to-day of societies in each country, measuring for example, the number of Internet users, computers per hundred inhabitants and/or households, percentage of schools with Internet access, etc.
A third source of information, widely used by major global players in the sector of Information and Communication Technology, consists of companies specializing in market research for the sector. The goal of these global ICT companies is to sell their products worldwide; hence, these market research institutions focus their work on the consumer market, rather than on the ITC industry itself. When the "local" ITC companies are addressed by this kind of research, there is usually a global player interested in expanding its network of partners. In this case, research just addresses ITC companies who fit the profile of partners the global player is looking for. This procedure obviously does not build representative samples of the reality of each country, but only those that are convenient for the sponsoring global companies.
We conclude, therefore, that there is a need to develop systematic and detailed studies about the ICT industry itself, to allow, for example, that a particular company or country can perform benchmarking in relation to the rest of the companies in its country, in other countries or among companies with similar offers.
For how long has this initiative been developing?
This initiative arose from a decision of the Board of Assespro in Brazil, in 2010. Noting that some countries had already initiated a process of developing such kind of studies locally (but emerged without any coordination, hurting comparability with data from other countries), they worked throughout the year 2011 for a solution to harmonize data between countries.
In 2012, the first concrete experience with data collection from ITC companies began. The initiative was called "Assespro’s Census of the IT Sector - 2012 Edition": at that time, 360 companies from 19 Brazilian states participated. Analysis published as results were based on data from 285 companies (disqualify the remaining 21% for certain errors, for example, by not having completed the questionnaire or because of inconsistencies in the answers).
Since 2013 the “Census” is carried out simultaneously in all countries affiliated to ALETI. Besides the larger number of countries involved, this expansion demanded the ability to conduct the initiative in different languages simultaneously.
In 2013, more than 800 companies from 17 countries participated, while in 2014 this number grew to almost 1,300 companies from 19 countries.
2015 marks the first expansion experience outside the Ibero-American region.
Exactly who is involved?
The aim of the Census is to study the companies that produce and/or sell products and services related to Information Technology and Communications for third parties. Companies that only develop ICT products or services for their internal use (called clients or users by ICT companies) are not part of the universe of the initiative.
Which are the benefits to participating countries and entities?
- Evaluation of Public Policies: this initiative provides data to assess public policies proposed or being implemented by governments of each country for the ICT sector. Having international comparability, this prevents rulers from "navigating" in an atmosphere of decisions based only on opinions or data restricted to a single country.
- Institutional Prestige: Participating associations become spokespersons for data relating to other countries, hence gaining in prestige locally.
- Wealth of information: The wealth of information produced by this initiative, apart from generating a rich and unprecedented content to be worked with the public (e.g. via the press), also attracts various types of institutions of to the associations’ relationship network.
- High Quality Information: When using trade associations as a mechanism to access companies, the contact point falls unto those professionals linking businesses with associations, which are in more than 90% officers of first rank inside their companies (based on measurements done through the first editions of the initiative).
No research using traditional market research institutes’ techniques would reach such a high percentage of participation of senior executives.
- Cope with academic demands: it is common for academic researchers to seek out for partnerships with association to conduct their research. Directing this type of demand systematically to members ends up wearing the tool out: participation rates fall consistently by fatigue. Academics can be served with the existing data or, worst case, their proposed questions can be incorporated into the Census questionnaire.
What are the benefits for participating companies?
Participating companies are the first to receive the results, allowing them privileged access to fresh market data.
Optionally, participating companies can authorize the use of the information they contribute to the generation of business opportunities, both for local market demands and international alliances, both commercial as well as research and development initiatives.
Which countries/associations participated in 2014?
In 2014, the initiative had the participation of 1,280 companies from 19 countries that are ALETI members, thanks to the efforts of these associations/organizations:
ACTI - Chilean Association of Information Technology Companies
AESOFT - Ecuadorian Software Association
AHTI - Honduran Association of Information Technology
AMETIC - Association of Electronics, Information Technology, Telecommunications and Digital Content (Spain)
AMITI - Mexican Industry Association of Information Technology
ANETIE - Associação Nacional das Empresas das Tecnologias de Informação e Electrónica (Portugal)
APESOFT - Peruvian Association of Software Producers
ASETI - Salvadoran Association of Information Technology Companies
ASSESPRO - Federação das Associações de Empresas Brasileiras de Tecnologia da Informação (Brazil)
CAMARATIC - Dominican Chamber of Information Technology and Communication
CAMTIC - Chamber of Information and Communication Technologies (Costa Rica)
CANIETI - National Chamber of Electronics, Telecommunications and Information Technology (Mexico)
CAPATEC - Panamanian Chamber of Information Technology and Telecommunications
CASATIC - Salvadoran Chamber of Information Technology and Communications
CAVEDATOS - Venezuelan Chamber of Business Information Technology
CBTI - Bolivian Chamber of Information Technology
CESSI - Chamber of Software and Computer Services of Argentina
CISOFT - Paraguayan Chamber of Software Industry
Cuti - Uruguayan Chamber of Information Technology
FEDESOFT - Colombian Federation of the Software Industry
GECHS - Trade Association of Chilean Software Development Companies
SOFEX - Guatemala Softwares Commission
Which associations regard this initiative as official data?
In Brazil, since 2013, this initiative has been chosen as the only systematic data collection undertaken with local companies.
In 2014, Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay made the same decision.
Which new countries can participate in 2015?
In this year 2015, participation in the initiative is open to any country, in any region of the planet.
Initial negotiations for the participation of organizations representing the ICT industry for Armenia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cuba, Egypt, Slovenia, Macedonia, Nigeria, Romania and Taiwan, among others, have already occurred.
Which are the issues investigated?
In order for the census data effectively allow to understand the reality of companies in the ICT Sector in depth, the number of issues addressed in the questionnaire is significant. Each of the topics described below corresponds to a block of few questions:
Geographic distribution: the country where the company is located (in the case of companies established in various countries, each subsidiary participates independently), states (or provinces/departments) where companies’ headquarters and branches are located;
Commercial Offer: details of the Information Technology and Communications products and services that the company makes available to its clients;
Technology Platforms: since every company ICT depends on technologies developed by other companies, we analyze the types of environments/operating systems, database managers and programming languages used, as well as integration of the commercial offer with products from global companies;
Target Market: details about types of customers (including the customers’ economic sector as well as their approximate size);
Human Resources: number of professionals specializing in ICT and other areas of the company (sales, marketing, etc.), education (graduate, postgraduate and professional certification); recruitment and turnover, idle personnel and repressed demands; investment in training;
Business Strategies: participation in associations and social organizations, business certification, protection of intellectual property, joint ventures and alliances, usage of SLAs, geographical expansion of business and average earnings;
Internationalization: volume and variation in exports, channels used for exports, own offices abroad;
Innovation: innovation strategies, interaction with customers and universities, knowledge management, purchase and sale of intellectual property, use and availability of open technologies, revenue sharing and impact on profits;
Research and Development: number of professionals and amount invested into current and future research topics to be addressed by companies; and
Finance: Sources of capital already used by companies, sources of capital to be used in the medium term, amount of capital already used, company approximate revenues and variation.
Among these issues, none can be classified as less important, making it difficult to simplify the questionnaire (which is a common demand by those who come to know the initiative for the first time).
What are the costs of participation?
In case an initiative like this was contracted with a global market research company, the cost of its implementation would be at least half a million American dollars.
As trade associations, mostly formed voluntarily by companies, are not capable of dealing with costs like these, 'sponsors' have been sought for the process.
Currently, the Web-based data collection is sponsored by the company SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com), based in Luxembourg. SurveyMonkey is the largest enterprise worldwide dedicated to data collection over the Web.
The company MBI (www.mbi.com.br), located in Brazil, helps out with the preparation of the questionnaire on the Web, plus the extraction and graphical evaluation of the collected data. MBI works in similar studies for the IT Sector since 1990. Thus, associations involved in the initiative have to commit efforts to disseminate the initiative to its members and/or companies in their country or region, as well as monitor progress to achieve the desired level of participation. In most cases, this effort takes place through already available resources and partnerships (e.g. association’s staff, news agencies and their websites).
How is data collection performed?
To encourage ICT companies to participate, the participating organizations develop communication campaigns/publicity through the media and other means of communication available (e.g. email, social networks, specific events, telemarketing, etc.).
Experience shows that the participation rate is directly proportional to the efforts of the leaders of each association to convince their members to participate.
This effort should motivate companies to enter a page on the Web to answer the Census questions, which are essentially the same for all participating countries.
Thus, the effort of each of the participating associations has no relation to the size of the questionnaire.
In order to allow for a precise follow-up, during the period of data collection secure webpages are made available so that each association can see, in realtime, which companies in their country or region have already answered the questionnaire.
Can I display the questionnaire on the website of my organization?
Yes, the Web technology used allows the Census questionnaire to be displayed within any website using HTML frames.
There are detailed instructions available on how to include the necessary HTML code for each human language used (currently English, Spanish or Portuguese).
What is the minimum number of companies to be involved?
The initiative does not require a mandatory minimum number of participating companies per country. It has been common that on first participation the number of participating companies in a specific country is small, and then grows over successive editions of the initiative.
In the specific case you want to develop statistical analysis for a specific country or region, a minimum number of participants is needed to ensure acceptable statistical margins of error: if the country or region hosts more than a hundred ICT companies, then the minimum participation must fall between fifty and hundred companies.
For countries or regions with less than a hundred ICT companies, the minimum number needed to generate valid local analysis is between half and two thirds of the total number of companies.
Even when participation in a country or region does not reach these levels, almost all benefits described above are still obtained by participation associations and companies.
In which language can we participate?
Know-how developed over the years with this initiative allows for companies in each participating country to answer in their local language. After data collection, all responses are merged into a single database, regardless of the human language for input.
The questionnaire is currently available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
The availability of the questionnaire in new languages depends only on someone contributing the translation of the introductory text, questions and answers.
What information will be available for my organization/country?
Besides the general analysis developed by the coordinating team, all participating institutions receive access to the initiative’s database, containing complete information about participation originated in their country.
Thus, in addition to the international comparative analysis, each country can develop its own local analysis.
How I can share the information collected?
The participating associations can share the accumulated data with government bodies, universities, regional and international development agencies (but without identifying individual companies).
In these cases, we suggest establishing formal cooperation agreements, whereby interested parties gain access to almost all collected data. Thus, these partners gain autonomy to undertake their own analysis from the data, or any subset of interest.
It is recommended that these agreements require partners to always quote the source of the data used in their analysis, and commit to publish only statistical results derived from the data.
In this way not only the scope of the initiative gets extended, but the publication of analysis by third parties, based on the data collected by our initiative, serves as positive reinforcement for the participation of companies.
Which is the frequency of this initiative?
In order to monitor the evolution of the ICT sector, the continuity of this initiative is fundamental. For this reason, the initiative is repeated annually, so as to create a time series of data (allowing analysis to enrich gradually over time).
Please note that similar commercial initiatives get repeated only when it is in the interest of their 'sponsors'.
What are the future plans for this initiative?
With the participation of a growing number of companies and countries, we expect to achieve the original "dream" for this initiative, which is to become truly global in a couple of years.
Obviously, pioneering countries in the initiative will benefit earlier than others from results.