Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lao IT Dev: A success story of some Lao IT entrepreneurs

Laos isn't well known for it's IT industry, and although the National University educates a lot of IT students, most end up as hardware sellers or sysadmins. Entrepreneurship isn't widely seen here, and receiving international awards is really rare. But there are exceptions, and Outhai Saioudom (Os) one. He is the Manager of a company Lao IT Dev, a startup he founded together with some friends two years ago. While they studied IT they started a forum called Laozaa, which became very popular very fast. "It was just a forum about technology. People asked questions about computers and IT, and we and others answered them", Os describes the early days.

After graduation, the group decided to go more professional. Instead  of answering questions in a forum, they collected the most relevant topics and published the first Lao IT magazine for IT and Electronics, called E-Corner Magazine. It is still the flagship of Lao IT dev. On Thursday they received the Asean ICT award in the Digital Content section. On Thursday, 15/11/2012 Os and the co-founders Thanongsack SouksavatVirasack Viravong, and Air Chanthalavong went to Cebu, Philippines to receive the award.

The e-corner Magazine became fast the number one source for people interested in anything related to IT. From the beginning it had a professional lay-out, 4 color printing for a lot of pages and topics from installing hardware to game reviews. Soon the company started the e-corner weekly news, a IT update that went on air on Lao Start TV last year. And last but not least the even made it into the radio.

While there is still not much revenue coming in from the media activities, Os counts it as successful public relations. "Most people know us from Laozaa or E-Corner. They know our skills, and that's why they hire us." Lao IT Dev develops websites and software, in particular android apps. mainly for a local market. The client list ranges from the Ministry of forest to car dealers like chevrolet.

7 people are working now in the office of Lao IT Dev, with Os taking care of the daily operations. The new daddy who married his wife last year is getting more busy these days. "We build the website and database for and recently developed an android app that shows you the current screenings at the ITECC cinema", he says.

Beside this, Os is also very active in the open source community, in particular for the Content Management System Joomla. "We made the translation for Joomla 2.5, so Lao people can use it", he explains. They also conduct workshops introducing the use of these free open source solutions. Since companies and government agencies in countries like Laos have only limited fundings, open source is a important basis for IT. Os also want to work more with Ubuntu and do some translations. "But we need funding for that, because there are not so many users in Laos right now who can do that." His experience is that if people start their computer experience with Windows, they stay with it. "But if they start with Linux, they stay with the open source solution", Os says.

His company is just at the beginning. "We are starters, others have more experience. But we are technology experts, and we understand mobile technology. We hope to be in the top five in 5 years from now."

Winning the ASEAN ICT award might be a step closer to this ambitious goal.

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