By 2005, more professional developers in Asia/Pacific than North America

A recent report by market research firm IDC predicts that North America will lose its standing as the world’s leading producer of professional software developers to the Asia/Pacific region by 2005.

“The IDC 2002 Worldwide Professional Developer Model” study surveyed the number of professional developers in 191 countries and six geographic areas. The study defined a professional developer as a “paid professional who uses application development tools to build applications.” Developers also had to be employed to be counted in the study, according to a statement released by IDC.

With 1.7 million software developers, the Asia/Pacific region is currently the number two producer of development talent, surpassing Western Europe’s 1.6 million developers, but well behind North America’s 2.6 million professional developers in 2001, according to the IDC study.

With strong growth in the number of developers projected over the next two years in countries such as China and India as compared with North America, however, the Asian/Pacific region is on course to take over the number one spot, IDC said.

In addition to the Asia/Pacific region, Eastern Europe (including Russia), the Middle East and Africa are also predicted to experience a rapid growth in the number of developers in the coming years, according to IDC.

IDC researches did not rely on census or historical data in calculating the number of developers in each country. Instead, a statistical model was developed that derived the number of developers from several variables such as population forecasts, figures on software spending and the level of higher education in the general population.

The number of software developers was predicted to grow the most rapidly in countries such as China where the number of college-educated adults and professional developers was low, relative to the overall population, IDC said.

In countries such as the U.S. and Canada, where the number of college-educated adults and professional developers is high relative to the total population, growth was predicted to be lower.

Not surprisingly, the sharp economic downturn in North America has also weakened the region’s status as the number one producer of software developers, resulting in massive layoffs of IT workers in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The number of developers in North America actually shrank by half a per cent between 2000 and 2001. By comparison, the number of developers in the Asia/Pacific region grew by more than six per cent during the same period, according to the study.

Overall, the study found that the number of professional developers worldwide is growing. The world’s population of developers will reach 13.3 million by 2006, from just 7.8 million in 2001, according to IDC.

The population is concentrated in just 10 countries, with the U.S., India, Russia, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, the U.K. and Italy accounting for just 64 per cent of the world’s professional developers.

On a country-by-country basis, the U.S. still holds the lion’s share of professional developers, with almost 30 per cent of the world’s total. By comparison, the country with the second largest share of professional developers, Japan, has just under six per cent of the total.

While the number of developers may be shrinking in North America, the president of one back office development company believes that most North American-based companies will still want to deal with North American developers.

Dmitri Buterin, president of BonaSource Inc. in Toronto, opened the Canadian office of the Moscow-based company two years ago in order to be closer to the clientele.

“How to handle big projects without local contact is a big issue. High-level design and architecture design needs to happen close to the client,” he said, noting that it makes sense for some low-level, back end work to be moved to lower-cost, offshore zones.

“In Europe it’s different, because you can get anywhere within a few hours.” Buterin said.

According to Buterin, offshore development is becoming easier with the advent of tools such as messaging.

“It doesn’t matter if the client is in another building or another country as long as you have the right processes,” he said.

The study also compiled data on the primary development languages used in each surveyed geographical area, and addressed trends in the growth of those languages.

C and C++ continued to be the most commonly used development languages, with Java overtaking Visual Basic as the second-most commonly used language worldwide, IDC said.

– With files from Kristy Pryma