Industry and government leaders have called for action to tackle the shortage of skilled IT staff at the opening ceremony of the Cebit IT trade show in Hanover, Germany.
Willi Berchtold, president of the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (Bitkom) said too few IT specialists were being trained in Germany.
"Our companies are finding it increasingly difficult, and occasionally impossible, to fill vacant positions," he said.
This threatened German industry's capacity to innovate: without a critical mass of talented specialists, it would be unable to hold its ground against international competition, he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the problem was not limited to Germany. "There is a lack of skilled workers in this country and in the European Union," she said.
She agreed with Berchtold that one reason companies were struggling to recruit was that the number of IT graduates is falling. But companies could do more to help themselves by retaining, or recruiting, older workers and retraining them. "People of a certain higher age should not be shoved aside," she said.
Patricia Russo, chief executive of Alcatel-Lucent, a network equipment manufacturer with roots in the US and Europe, echoed the call for more training. "A steady stream of innovative minds is vital to the future of our industry," she said. "We need to encourage local governments to support science and engineering and other technical subjects in our education systems."
Russon suggested "bridging the digital divide" to find skilled workers elsewhere. In North America, 70% of the population had internet access, and in Europe the figure was 40%, she said. But in Asia the figure was only 10% -- and in Africa just 4%. "The broadband access gap actually widening," she warned.
To close that gap, initiatives such as the company's "Broadband for all" programme, and the $100 (£50) laptop project begun at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, were needed to improve educational standards, knowledge acquisition and literacy levels in developing economies, Russo said.
Bridging the digital divide would “lead to the discovery of new ideas from all around the world", she said.
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