After miners' rescue, Chile drills for outsourcing business

Chile hopes rescue sends message of engineering expertise

ORLANDO -- The rescue of 33 miners in Chile was an uplifting and memorable moment that Chile hopes will translate into more outsourcing business.

That's what Juan Carlos Munoz, the CEO of Chile IT, an industry organization based in Santiago, said as he stood on the trade show floor at a Gartner Inc. conference here.

Nearly every country is trying to sell itself as an outsourcing location, and Chile is no different. But Munoz said that the success of the miner rescue says something about his country's values and engineering capability.

Munoz acknowledged that safety measures at the mine weren't good and that the rescue took quite a while, with only the underground shelter keeping the miners alive. Nonetheless, he said, the effort mounted by the government to rescue the 33 miners "tells us that we really care for people."

Moreover, the precision drilling involved shows that Chile's "engineering capabilities are outstanding," Munoz said. The skills underpinning the engineering expertise also extend into IT. "We are very reliable at what we do," he said.

With a population of 16 million, Chile doesn't have a very large labor force. Chilean IT spending is expected to be about $2.3 billion this year and will increase to about $3.4 billion in 2014, according to an August report by Dublin, Ireland-based Research and Markets. Technical outsourcing is about a $1 billion industry Chile, with providers offering services in areas such as engineering, software development, network security and infrastructure, Munoz said.

Anand Ramesh, the research director of global sourcing at business consultancy Everest Group, said that Chile has a mature infrastructure and skilled workers. Moreover, the speed of Chile's recovery from a destructive 8.8-magnitude earthquake in February has reinforced belief in the country's resiliency, he said. The earthquake recovery and miner rescue gives Chile an opportunity to sell itself, he said.

"It makes people more receptive to the message," said Ramesh, but he added that he doesn't believe that the way the country dealt with the earthquake and the mining accident necessarily tells people that they should look at Chile as an outsourcing venue.

Ramesh pointed out that South Africa has made a similar marketing pitch, citing its hosting of the World Cup as evidence that it's a stable and capable country.

Chile gets more of its outsourcing work from South America, although some of that work is the result of contracts from U.S. companies operating in South America, Munoz said.

Attendee interest in the mining accident and rescue was clearly driving traffic to Chile's booth on the trade show floor here, said Munoz, noting that people were stopping by to offer congratulations on the rescue. "This was so emotional for all the world," he said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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