Laos signs software deal with North Korea

Pyongyang_Photo Arno Maierbrugger
Street scene in Pyongyang. Not known to many, North Korea has developed a sizeable software industry in the past decades. (Photo: Arno Maierbrugger)

Laos has signed an agreement with North Korea to develop software technology in the South-East Asian country, the Vientiane Times reported on March 16.

“Both sides will share their experiences in developing technology, open source software and the use of software,” the state-owned paper wrote, adding that the communist countries will jointly organise training courses, technology and information activities, exchange delegations, publish educational magazines on information technology as well as co-operate in other areas in projects and activities.

Despite North Korea is not broadly know as a high-tech nation, it has a fairly active software industry and is trying to position itself as a new IT outsourcing destination for global companies in Asia. Various local service providers, mainly headquartered in Pyongyang, are offering software development services or other IT-related services to foreign clients.

The skill level of North Korean software engineers is high, and some IT service providers can be considered large, such as the Korea Computer Center (KCC), established in 1990, which has more than 1,000 employees. Although KCC’s main focus is on the local market, it also works for clients in Europe, China, South Korea and Japan and has branch offices in several foreign countries, including China.

There are other large North Korean IT corporations, each employing hundreds of staff, such as Pyongyang Informatics Center, Daeyang IT Company and Hi-Tech Development Company, as well as foreign joint ventures such as Phoenix Commercial Ventures and, probably the outsourcer with the highest profile,  Nosotek. Other IT firms are part of large commercial enterprises, such as Unha Corporation or Korea Roksan General Trading Company.

North Korea is holding an annual computer and IT exhibition, the last one in October 2012 in Pyongyang, where 1,300 programmes created by North Korean software engineers were on display. The sector has experts in all major programming languages, 3D software development, 3D modelling and design, various kind of server technologies, Linux, Windows and Mac, as well as in the development of flash games and games for mobile phones, including iPad applications.