The world’s first Fair Trade accredited IT company
Competa IT BV is a Dutch IT services company. We design and deliver IT infrastructure and web software, and our customers are mainly government bodies and large business corporations such as eBay, TomTom, Shell, ING, and KLM.
Fair Trade IT?
A lot of effort and money has been spent on improving Internet access and higher education in developing countries, and as a result large numbers of young people now leave universities with IT skills comparable to graduates in the developed world. However, although rapidly growing, the market for IT skills in developing countries is often over-supplied or requires practical experience that graduates lack, limiting job opportunities in their own country.
Where there is local demand for a high level of IT skills, for example in government or telecoms projects, staff are often brought in from outside resulting in trade imbalance and a lack of opportunity for developing local capability. In 2010 we noticed this and decided to do something about it – we wanted to provide work for software developers in emerging economies in a way that would give them the opportunity to participate in large EU projects and learn industry best practice.
Using Open Source software development techniques and modern Agile project management practices we have set up virtual teams with staff split between Competa in The Hague and our partners Dew CIS and BTI Millman in Nairobi. We are able to design and lead projects with our partners participating across the Internet. This is not “outsourcing” – we are working together so our partners can learn from us. We are helping to grow Kenya’s knowledge economy by providing access to markets otherwise denied to our partners, and providing an opportunity to build local capability. The business is low volume but high value, and complimentary to existing high-volume low-value industries such as agriculture.
Why do our customers want this?
Many of our clients are keen to be more involved in sustainable projects and wish to demonstrate commitment to ethical business to their own customers. This can be difficult in some types of industry, but we provide a simple solution: using software and websites bearing a Fair Trade label is a clear and easy way to demonstrate commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.
To be accepted as a new form of Fair Trade, Fair Trade Software needs to be seen as a recognised business model practiced by more companies than just Competa. To promote and further develop the concept we launched the Fair Trade Software Foundation (FTSF), a non-profit organisation that applies Fair Trade criteria to the software industry. Companies in the UK and the Netherlands have expressed an interest in becoming sponsors and we have more potential partners in Bolivia, Ghana, Tanzania, Nepal and Cambodia.
Competa has run a number of pilot projects to test the both the business model and the quality of the software, and we are delighted with the results. Unfortunately we also encountered a situation with ABN AMRO bank similar to the recent RBS Tomlinson Report scandal in the UK. The disruption halted our progress for more than a year, but thankfully we are now able to move the initiative forwards again. The next step is to attract bigger commercial projects to see what we can really do with our virtual teams.
Competa IT BV is proud to be the world’s first Fair Trade accredited IT company.
The FTSF is currently looking for volunteers.