By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Ireland is now the world’s leading exporter of computer software products, having passed the U.S., according to a new study from the prestigious Paris-based OECD economics think tank.
Ireland went to the top of the global league in 1998 with sales of almost $3.3 billion, compared with the U.S.’ $ 2.9 billion. Britain is in third place with exports worth $664 million.
The figures are contained in the OECD’s Information Technology Outlook 2000 report, which examines the main information technology trends in member countries.
The top 10 independent software companies in the world now have significant operations in Ireland and produce more than 40 percent of all PC package software sold in Europe.
Including Irish entrepreneur operations, there are almost 600 companies involved in the industry producing core software, product customization, and software testing and fulfillment.
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The software being developed in Ireland includes applications involving mobile phones, electronics, engineering, enterprise resource planning, database management, banking, insurance and Internet security.
Most of the major players in the "old" software trade set up plants in Ireland and have extended them, including Microsoft, Netscape, Motorola, IBM, ICL, Oracle and Lotus.
Recently there has also been "new era" IT arrivals, such as Rand, Synopsis, CMG and Amadeus, that make and export software for niche markets involved with the Internet and e-commerce.
An IDA spokesman said there were 140 IDA-supported software companies in the country employing about 14,000.
Companies from the U.S., Britain, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, Norway, Sweden and Finland now have established software production operations.
The attraction of Ireland has snowballed as more and more software companies have arrived and operated successfully.
The availability of highly skilled graduates and close cooperation between industry and universities helped the IDA attract in operators.
Ironically, the huge successes of the past are now endangering further expansion as the skills shortages hit home and there is increasing demand for staff.
The 12.5 percent corporation tax, relatively cheap labor costs and subsidies from Brussels lured the companies.
The IDA paid out £10,260 per job sustained over seven years last year, compared to compared to £33,300 in 1981-87.
Comprising 27 member states from North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific area, OECD countries produce more than half of the world’s goods and services.