Come to Hannover 2006, says CeBIT delegation

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A delegation from CeBIT Hannover has visited Australia to convince local software and service providers to take another look at the opportunities offered by the giant German trade show.

Bernhard Rohleder, director-general of BITKOM, the German association for IT, telecommunications and new media, said Australian IT companies should revisit the global opportunities offered by the world's largest ICT expo -- CeBIT in the German city of Hannover.

"In 1995, Australia was a CeBIT partner country. It was the most impressive showing ever a country has made in Hannover," he said. "Now -- it is a bit of a pity -- but you have been reducing your country's presence in Hannover."

CeBIT Hannover 2005 attracted some 120,000 visitors and 6246 exhibiting companies from 71 countries in 307,708 square metres of floor space. Next year's was expected to be even bigger, filling some 312,500 square metres with 6350 individual company exhibits, he said.

The biggest opportunities were for software and services, not hardware, which these days "all looked the same", Rohleder said.

Half of those exhibits in the expo, which was scheduled for 9-15 March, would be from outside Germany. But Germany itself offered many business opportunities for Australian ICT companies, Rohleder added.

"Germany is the third-largest market in the world, after the US and Japan," he said.

German SMBs had to spend five percent of their turnover on managing "the bureacracy", he said. That was an obvious opportunity for introduction of new software and services technologies that could save smaller German companies money and make them more efficient, Rohleder said.

Meanwhile, the European market for IT was growing again, especially in Germany and in places like Poland. "Five years ago, it was too early. Five years away, you will be too late," Rohleder said. "It's not just about the US."

Michael O'Sullivan, executive director for industry at NSW's Department of State and Regional Development, said NSW government surveys had shown that Australian ICT companies visiting or exhibiting at CeBIT Hannover were getting genuine benefits.

"It's hard to measure actual ROI [from attending CeBIT], but we ask them what the benefits are and they're very positive," he said.

Opportunities were expanding particularly in the medical arena, as IT and medical technologies, including biotechnology, converged, O'Sullivan said.

Joerg Schomburg, managing director of CeBIT Worldwide Events, said CeBIT 2006 themes would include business processes, outsourcing, auto ID and RFID, security, human resources, business intelligence and integration.

Many Australian companies had unique expertise in just those areas, he noted.

"All the big multinational conglomerate are mainly from the US and Japan but are counted in the 'German' company section," Schomburg said. "So the international involvement is much higher than official statistics seem to indicate."

About 54.6 percent of visitors in 2005 were from the European Union, 4.6 percent from Eastern Europe, 3.2 percent from America, 9.1 percent from the rest of Europe, 24.2 percent from Asia and 3.5 percent from Oceania, Schomburg said.

David King, Australasian sales manager at NZ-based GPS specialist Navman, said he had been to CeBIT for the last four years running and wouldn't miss it.

Navman found it invaluable for networking and seeking out global opportunities, as well as checking out the competitors around the world all under one roof, he said.

"If you've never been before, it's huge. I've been to CES in Las Vegas as well, so I speak from experience," King said. "From our point of view, [Hannover] is the number one event."

He credited networking at CeBIT as instrumental in Navman's growth. "Now, we have 11 offices in eight countries and sales in over 40 countries worldwide.

It has 700 employees. When I joined nearly three years ago, it had 325", he said.

Being based in NZ, Navman needed to actively seek out overseas business opportunities to grow. Going to CeBIT was "absolutely" worth the investment, King said.

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