Cultural readiness and technology savvy: Another view of Egypt’s IT outsourcing ecosystem

With technology a given, cultural readiness differentiates Egypt IT sector

In a recurring point of discussion, CrossWorkers CEO Hans Henrik Groth described Egyptian technology professionals as creating an atmosphere of high “cultural readiness” for working with Europe-based clients, partly because Egyptians travel frequently to Europe for business and Europeans travel frequently to Egypt for tourism. The cross-cultural experiences have provided many Cairene software developers with a useful level of cultural understanding for European clients and have made working for Europe-based companies attractive, given the likelihood of travel to the continent as part of the job. As an example of cultural readiness, Groth contrasted different ways of handling client concerns regarding the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In his experience, IT professionals with little cultural context will see GDPR as an obstacle to be circumvented or a set of checklists to be papered over. More attuned professionals understand the European mindset around GDPR and the (general) willingness to adhere to the standards and demonstrate compliance. Overall, Groth cautioned that the technology requirements of providing managed services from an offshore location could be easily met in most situations. The challenges arose with making a cultural match between the lead software engineers and their European clients.

During our discussion with Groth, TBR asked about three aspects of doing business in Egypt: government, IT and physical infrastructure. On the first, Groth noted the gaps and delays between political decisions and practical impacts, but added that the talent pool in Egypt and the country’s current political and economic climate did not necessitate a heavier role from the government overall. On IT, he lamented the high cost of internet service in Cairo, explaining that CrossWorkers needs two means of connectivity — airborne and traditional cable — to ensure constant communications. Even the best fiberoptic cables, as Groth noted, could be undone by someone with a shovel. For an offshore IT services vendor, high internet costs and unreliability would be constant concerns. Lastly, regarding the physical challenges of working in a city as large and densely populated as Cairo, Groth acknowledged traffic presented a constant source of pain and commented on the three-hour drive — on a good day — from Cairo’s airport to the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), located west of the city. To combat this problem, Groth located CrossWorkers’ offices closer to the airport, allowing clients from Europe to see the facilities and meet the talent without enduring too much of Cairo’s traffic. Groth’s depiction of Cairo’s infrastructure confirmed many of TBR’s previous discussions and assessments and pointed to potential areas for immediate improvements, which could accelerate IT services offshoring growth in the country.

After reading TBR’s assessment of Egypt as an offshore IT services hub, Hans Henrik Groth, CEO of CrossWorkers, contacted TBR to provide additional insights and commentary about Cairo’s IT services environment, highlighting the differences between Cairo and other cities Groth has worked, including Islamabad, Pakistan, and various locations in eastern Europe. This special report reflects the hour-long discussion and TBR’s analysis, including from our Spring 2020 Global Delivery Benchmark.

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