Competition for qualified IT professionals to intensify with 1.2 billion workers wanted in 3 years China and Hong Kong face a shortage of skilled professional information technology workers that along with similar shortfalls across Asia could derail economic development across the region, according to a study. In China, where demand for IT networking skills is the highest in the region, the skills gap will amount to 107,100 workers this year and up to 192,300 by 2009, the study by researcher International Data Corp (IDC) found. The shortfall of staff with expertise in networking technology may reach 210,000 across the Asia Pacific excluding Japan this year and total 396,000 by 2009. Companies face having to boost pay levels as they compete to attract and keep appropriate staff, IDC said. 'Organisations around the region are already finding it difficult to attract and retain networking-related staff in the numbers they require,' said IDC, which surveyed 1,073 company managers in 12 Asian markets. In India, where economic growth is driven by the outsourcing industry, the talent shortage will deteriorate to 137,200 in 2009 from 59,300 this year. Satyam Computer Services, the country's fourth-largest software company increased salaries in India by 18 per cent in July in a bid to limit staff attrition. Infosys Technologies, India's second-biggest provider of computer services, may raise wages by 15 per cent this year, faced with a second-quarter attrition rate of almost 13 per cent compared with 10 per cent attrition in three months ended March. Total demand for skilled IT networking professionals in the 12 markets surveyed by IDC has outstripped supply, with 811,142 needed this year and 1.2 billion by 2009. 'While the overall shortage of people with network skills is a concern, what is even more worrying is the gap in advanced technologies, such as wireless networking, security and internet telephony,' Cisco vice-president Tae Yoo said. Hong Kong will be short of 2,000 workers with the needed networking skills this year, growing to 2,400 by 2009, the survey showed. 'Compounding the issue in Hong Kong will be the increasing demand for a specific combination of skills to support advanced IT networks in financial services and other large industries,' said Eddie Ng Hak-kim, adjunct professor at Hong Kong Baptist University and chairman at Human Capital Management Consulting. There will also be competition for the same pool of people from companies operating across the border, he said. Governments, businesses and academic institutions should work together and initiate targeted skills development programmes to mitigate the effect on the region of the skills shortage, said Cisco Hong Kong general manager Charleston Sin Chiu-shun. Cisco would submit a proposal to the Hong Kong government about the continuous upgrading of the city's information and communications technology workforce under a revised Digital 21 Strategy, the city's IT market blueprint, Mr Sin said. The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, the principal adviser on government IT policies and programmes, said Hong Kong's immigration regime will strive to be flexible in admitting IT professionals from overseas to fill any gap in supply. The networking skills gap is a legacy of the global IT market downturn at the start of this decade when the dot-com bubble burst in 2001, IDC said. Organisations reined in IT budgets, reduced staff headcount, cut training programmes and delayed planned IT projects. Information technology spending has picked up as economic conditions improved. IDC estimated IT investments in the 12 markets it surveyed would reach US$146.5 billion by 2009. There would be 221,000 fewer people with those advanced networking skills in Asia in 2009, IDC said. This category represented 55 per cent of the region's total network professional shortfall of 396,000 in the same year.