One company’s IT solutions generate positive change, prosperity and access to progress

Irina Socol (c) shared interactive educational content with pupils at a Romanian rural school at the beginning of 2014.

Irina Socol (c) shared interactive educational content with pupils at a Romanian rural school at the beginning of 2014.

Ranked as one of the ‘50 most influential women in Romania’ by Forbes Romania magazine, Irina Socol is the President and CEO of SIVECO Romania, the leader of the Romanian IT market. She founded the company in 1992 and has led it to become one of the major European players in eLearning, eHealth, eAgriculture, eCustoms, eGovernment and eBusiness solutions.

She spoke to The Astana Times about what her company stands for and why software development is key for any future success for any company or country.

What is your company’s philosophy and functions? What makes SIVECO stand out?

We believe our global IT solutions can and should generate positive change, prosperity and competitiveness for all our clients, ensuring them access to progress.

Nowadays, SIVECO develops and exports software products and high value added consultancy projects to 27 countries within the European Community, Middle East, North Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States area.

We are specialised in developing large and complex IT projects, addressing large companies and public agencies.

During more than 22 years of activity, we have gained a solid international reputation, receiving more than 180 recognitions and prizes.

This year we received the ‘Winner’ title in the European IT & Software Excellence Awards competition for the “IT system of Electronic Prescription” project developed for the National Health Insurance House in Romania.  We are also very proud of the World Summit Award Winner 2013 title, the highest award ever granted to an IT project, for the Romanian project which developed interactive multimedia educational content for children with special educational needs.

In 2013, within the International Project Management Association competition, only two IT projects in education were shortlisted in the final stage of the competition – and they both came from SIVECO! We received the Golden Medal for the ‘Educational process optimized from the perspective of knowledge society competences,’ implemented by the Romanian Ministry of Education. And we also won a medal for the ‘Development of interactive multimedia educational content for the educational system in Kazakhstan’ project.

You seem focused on eLearning, why is that?

Indeed, our company’s flagship is AeL, a complete suite of eLearning solutions. We are proud to be in the world’s Top 10 companies providing educational content. Thus, we successfully develop and export IT-based educational projects in over 20 countries. For us, it is very important to be involved and to consistently contribute to the educational strategy of many countries bringing know-how and our eLearning cutting-edge technology.

SIVECO AeL Key Figures:

  • AeL is successfully implemented in over 30,000 schools worldwide
  • 18 million people use AeL in 20 countries from Europe, Middle East, North Africa and the CIS area
  • AeL eContent is one of the richest and most attractive collections of educational content in the world, with 45,000 individual Reusable Learning Objects, for all domains

In Romania, we have designed and implemented the first national educational project, one of the largest ever developed in our country. The Romanian IT Based Education System (SEI) was developed for the National Ministry of Education between 2001-2008.

SIVECO SEI Key Figures

  • 15,000 IT-based labs in all 13,500 public schools in Romania
  • 5 million beneficiaries
  • Over 192,000 computers
  • Multimedia educational content covering 75% curricula with Interactive Leaning Objects
  • 21 subjects, including Mathematics & Science, Human Development and Society, Language & Communication, Technology
  • More than 140,000 teachers trained
  • SEI was rewarded with: Golden Medal within eLearning Awards competition 2010; Best eLearning Solution within ‘eLearning in Praxis’   2009; Best Practice at European eGovernment Awards  2009; ‘Winner’ title at the European IT Excellence Awards 2008; Finalist at IPMA 2007.

I strongly believe that the spectacular future evolution of technology will enable major transformation in the national education systems and that will lead to the overall development of the knowledge-based society.

We are equally proud of our numerous successfully implemented major projects in all high-end IT domains:  eHealth, eAgriculture, eCustoms and eBusiness.

All our solutions aim to reduce the digital gap and improve the activity of the public systems and institutions, including the Ministries of Agriculture; National Education; Health; the Ministry for the Information Society; the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Protection and Elderly, and the Ministry of Finance.

What strategies do you use in running a company with 1,000 employees?

The foundation for our long-term successful evolution lies in our team. We have the best experts not only in IT but also in business consultancy, quality assurance, project management. We started the company with 2 persons and now we are over 1,000 people, working in the Bucharest headquarter office, other 7 Romanian local offices and 5 international subsidiaries (located in Brussels, Sofia, Dubai, Ankara and Astana).

Our team skills and know-how allowed us to become an important player on the international market, winning, in partnership with the IT global leaders (Oracle, Microsoft, Intel, HP, IBM, Bull, etc.), large international contracts.

SIVECO expertise includes know-how on using various platform tools and components, as well as competencies centers for Java, Oracle, and Microsoft.

The international expansion of our business is based on the expertise and good practices in the development, implementation and integration of software that we have accumulated during thousands of projects and hundreds of thousands of working hours.

In the last two decades, our team has built over 3,500 complex, nationwide IT projects, with a high social impact.

Among the most valuable projects carried out by SIVECO, it is worth to mention more than 20 projects developed for organisations of the European Commission, facing a very tough competition and extremely demanding requests in terms of performance.

Do you have projects in Kazakhstan as well?

We started our first presentations in Kazakhstan in 2010.

I believe the market opportunities and the ambitious development strategy of your country fit very well with our capabilities and mentality. We have exhaustive expertise in managing complex, nationwide projects. During these years we’ve proved that large IT projects might be challenging, but there are no impossible tasks. The bigger the difficulties are, the most rewarding their overcoming is.

We decided to open our local office in Astana in 2012, proving commitment to work here in the long-term.

Since then, we developed interactive multimedia educational content for the educational system in Kazakhstan. And we had an amazing feedback! In 2013, the project was awarded with the Bronze medal by the International Project Management Association (IPMA) for ‘excellence in medium-sized projects’ category.

The project aimed to integrate the educational system in Kazakhstan into the modern pedagogic trends by using IT in schools, updating the traditional teaching methods while respecting the educational principles.

Interactivity is the core element of the program, with modules designed to fill knowledge gaps with teachers while encouraging them to shift from chalk and talk to a variety of team- and task-oriented teaching methods. Moreover, the program is designed to keep students informed and engaged.

We developed and provided educational content for various subjects, such as physics, math, algebra, geometry and professional subjects, reaching a collection of 2,100 interactive lessons in Russian and 2,100 in Kazakh language.

Since 2012, SIVECO eLearning systems have been introduced in almost 600 Kazakhstan schools.

I am fully convinced that the spectacular evolution of technology will enable major transformation in all national education systems. Thus, the future belongs to those who invest in innovation, in software development.

Why would you say we need to invest in software development?

Because software will soon become as important as electricity. We can’t imagine life without electrical power anymore and it’s a question of time until software as a service will be an essential part of any household. The refrigerator will send the grocery list directly to the store and our health will be screened just by looking into a smart mirror.

This is why we like to believe we are a small wheel in the mechanism of those building the future.

In this respect, I want to express congratulations to the Ministry of Education and Science from Kazakhstan for being one step ahead and using educational software in schools already.

What other projects are you preparing for Kazakhstan?

We would like to continue the positive experience started in 2012 and bring a significant contribution to the development of the digital educational resources in Kazakhstan. In this respect, we would be honoured to participate to the Project of eLearning development for the secondary education in Kazakhstan for 2014-2020.

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