Swedish IT in the Baltic region

  • 2000-08-31
  • Aleksei Gynter
TALLINN - The Swedish Trade Council is launching a special three-year IT project "IT Baltic Sea Region" to make it easier for Swedish small and medium-sized companies to take advantage of business opportunities in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and northwestern Russia.

According to market researchers from Sweden, Estonia has been selected as a first-priority candidate to evaluate areas, forms and structures for cooperation.

On Aug. 15, the Swedish government decided to support the IT project with 2 million Swedish kronor during the first fiscal year. The government proclaimed year 2000 to be the year of IT and the Baltic states.

Leif Pagrotsky, the Swedish minister of trade, hoped the project would help Swedish IT and telecommunication companies utilize the business potential in the Baltic region to a greater extent. Sweden also strongly supports the Baltic countries' candidacies to EU.

"The exact IT activities are being discussed now, but we can assume they will consider IT and telecommunications in the widest sense, including software and hardware development, creation of the new networks and organization of educational activities, et cetera," said Jonas Olsson, STC's project manager in Tallinn.

With help from specialists and companies from the Baltic region, Sweden plans to fulfill its own plans of developing the IT sector in science and economy.

Swedish companies could become providers of communications services. Regarding an issue affecting most of the Estonian population, the telecommunications monopoly, Olsson said it is difficult to predict whether Swedish companies are going to compete with Eesti Telefon next year.

"Telia, a Swedish phone company, along with Sonera have already got 49 percent of the shares of Eesti Telekom," said Olsson.

The tender for becoming the local communications provider will take place next year, and its results are hard to predict.

Within the program 'Market Place - the Baltic Region' STC will provide Swedish companies with free or up to 50 percent subsidized expertise, advice, and business projects.

"We will help our companies during their early phases of market venture. For example, within the project 10 Swedish IT companies will participate in the trade fair Infobalt in Vilnius this October in order to make initial contacts," said Olsson.

Taavi Toom, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, said Estonian-Swedish partnership is especially important in IT.

"The Swedish government supported the opening of the IT college in Tallinn with 5 million kroons ($292,000). The ministry is neither aware nor responsible of business-to-business projects. Maybe some new ideas will be revealed at the meeting of Nordic and Baltic prime ministers in Parnu on Aug. 28," said Toom.