Regional Study: Internationalisation of the IT Sector Calls for More Foreign Language Competence
Stuttgart | 04.03.2011 | Press Release
In a current survey, MFG Baden-Württemberg is investigating educational and further training needs in the Upper Rhine Valley's IT industry together with IHK Zetis and its fifteen partners in the IT2Rhine IT network. The findings will be used to develop a strategy for boosting the IT region's competitiveness and attractiveness on an international level. The first outcome of this long-term study is that linguistic monoculture inhibits economic relations. IT experts need more foreign language competence.
In the framework of a current study, which is scheduled to run for three years, IHK Zetis GmbH, a subsidiary of the Palatinate region's Chamber of Industry and Commerce specialising in innovation projects, and MFG Baden-Württemberg, Public Innovation Agency for ICT and Media, are investigating competitive factors relevant for the successful expansion of the Upper Rhine IT region. The first – but also unexpected – outcome of the survey is that even though English is the lingua franca in the IT industry, linguistic barriers that inhibit economic relations in the three-country border area of Germany, France and Switzerland continue to exist. In the opinion of the experts, the notion that fluency in English is the most important door-opener to markets, careers and knowledge appears to be only partially accurate. The survey has yielded a more subtly differentiated picture of the Upper Rhine region: the general tenor among IT firms in the border triangle is that the use of, say, French and German on an equal footing not only makes sense but is actually essential, because it creates business opportunities. Companies with a multilingual leaning report up to 20% more orders in practice.
This "glocalisation" – the desire to combine globalisation with linguistic identification in the respective local region – gives rise to specific educational and further training needs. In future, one of the chief aims must therefore be to strengthen the foreign language competence of IT specialists.
More than a hundred international experts from research and business were interviewed altogether for this comprehensive study. Those taking part were asked to assess and evaluate the current situation in the Upper Rhine IT region. In particular, they were urged to describe the conditions and requirements that must be met in order to maintain the expansion momentum and further enhance the region's standing in the years to come.
The study was initiated by IT2Rhine, a tri-national network that is the only one of its kind to date. The objective of the initiative, which is being financed by the European Union, is to successively improve the general underlying conditions for the Upper Rhine Valley's IT industry and encourage the region's development as a strong and competitive ICT location. MFG Baden-Württemberg is supporting the IT2Rhine network as a partner and coach. MFG's broad methodological knowledge has stood it in good stead, for example, in the execution of a so-called Delphi survey. This scientific technique has already been successfully employed by MFG on a previous occasion in its pioneering research project FAZIT.
The European Union's "INTERREG IV A Oberrhein" funding programme supports the efforts of the Upper Rhine region to further strengthen its position as a European centre for information technologies. For many years now, the Upper Rhine Valley has enjoyed a reputation as an international IT pioneer, as home to several excellent universities and globally renowned IT companies. Collaboration in the ICT sector in this three-country border area of France, Germany and Switzerland is now being given a lasting boost under the umbrella of IT2Rhine. The project is actively supported by fifteen institutions and IT networks, representing over 2000 companies in the ICT industry. Together, they hope to point the region in a bold, new direction for the future. Numerous international events are being organised in France, Germany and Switzerland during the life of the project (2009 to 2011).