Lack of bilingual IT graduates is Chile's biggest disadvantage for global growth when compared to other developing countries, Matt Barrie, CEO at internet outsourcing marketplace Freelancer.com, said at the e-Commerce Day in capital Santiago.
According to Barrie, if Chile plans to "crack the market," English should be mandatory for all IT students so they can compete with countries like India, where IT workers have adopted English as their second language.
"English should be mandatory, because the entire internet is in English. The main internet companies and tech news websites like Techcrunch are all in English - not in Spanish. And if you want to get publicity globally you need the language. It has never been a better time to start your own entrepreneur project than now," Barrie told BNamericas.
Freelancer.com is an outsourcing marketplace for small business. It has a base of more than 2.5mn people looking to contract services (called "employers") and freelancers from more than 234 countries. Through the website, employers can hire freelancers to do work in areas such as software, writing, data entry and design, right through to engineering and the sciences, sales and marketing, and accounting and legal services.
Barrie was the keynote speaker at the e-Commerce Day event in Santiago, where some 60 national and international speakers and more than 1,200 participants attended.
Although at the moment Chile is not a big market for Freelancer.com, Barrie recognized the potential of projects like Start-Up Chile - a government program to attract entrepreneurs to start their businesses in the country.
"When I heard about this project, I thought the idea was fantastic. As soon as I found out about it, I emailed someone in the government [in Australia, as Barrie is Australian] and said we should be doing this," said Barrie. "The idea to bring entrepreneurs from overseas to start up a business by giving them a little bit of finance help is great. But also the opportunity for Chilean entrepreneurs to meet and talk at social events is a great start, too."
In terms of costs and language barrier, Chile is still a small market for outsourcing, he said, as Freelancer.com has only about 1,000 local users, most of whom are employers.
"But I think this could change, especially in niche areas, where there's a premium knowledge, like electronic design maybe or mechanical engineering. It may make sense to outsource to Chile, but definitely not for data entry or things like that."
And despite his insistence on the use of English, Barrie is a businessman after all. "The region is growing tremendously fast - so much that we are going to launch the website in Spanish for the Latin America users," he said.