ICT, News

UDI smothering Norway’s IT industry

One of Norway's most promising Information Technology companies, browser developer Opera Software, is in desperate need of foreign expertise to keep the firm competitive and innovative, but finds itself stymied by the UDI, Norway's Directorate of Immigration.

Opera has employees from about 20 countries, and many of them have to weather a blizzard of bureaucratic paperwork to work in Norway. Many key applicants wait for months before being denied permission to work in the country.

Other successful Norwegian IT companies, such as Trolltech, which has landed a contract with Motorola, report similar problems. Fast Search and Transfer has reacted by employing people abroad instead.

“We are developing cutting edge technology and constantly need people with very special skills. We often do not find them in Norway. But when we find people abroad we are stopped by an enormous bureaucracy. It is frustrating that it is so insanely difficult to employ the people we need,” said Anne Stavnes, office and personnel manager at Opera.

Stavnes believes things have gotten worse recently, and the company has been informed that it now takes at least six months to process an application. At the same time the company has found it virtually impossible to hire in outsiders for short-term assignments.

Opera is know for its browser and has been successful in adapting to mobile technology, with deals signed with Sony Ericsson and Nokia.

“I understand that one wants to do something about the unemployment in Norway. We always look for people in Norway first, and it would be a great relief for us if we could find the expertise we need here at home,” Stavnes said.

Trolltech have also aired similar problems in the media, and while they are far from satisfied, their experience is that the UDI is getting better.

Fast has opted for another solution.

“We are international and have offices in locations around the world. We avoid Norwegian bureaucracy and hire from our foreign offices. Then it is also easier for them to get shorter stays in Norway,” said Fast Search and Transfer boss John Markus Lervik, who agreed that there would be more imported expertise in their Norwegian head office if the paperwork disappeared