New frontiers – health and safety in Central Asia

Central Asia, with its abundance of natural resources offers enticing investment opportunities, growing markets, and a relatively stable political environment.

We spoke to our partner Dustin Rawlins, Managing Director at Revolution Development Asia, about this exciting developing market. The company offers a diversified and comprehensive range of information and communication technology (ICT) consulting and delivery capabilities.

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A frontier market

“This is a frontier market, says Dustin. “We work in Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Myanmar, and the geography and socio-economic climate in these regions present us with interesting challenges and opportunities.”

The challenges he’s talking about include a complex socio-political mix. There is often less political stability than many multinational companies are used to dealing with, and it can be difficult to inculcate the kind of attention to health and safety rules that are run of the mill in these companies. There can also be issues with internet connectivity.

Revolution Development Asia have focused their attention on the implementation of a number of large business intelligence and compliance applications in the petrochemical, oil, mining and financial services industries.

“These are strategic industries and it is important to assist them with compliance standards. There is a knock-on effect through to their subsidiaries,” explains Dustin. “It is easier to use the momentum generated by these strategic industries to filter compliance standards through to the rest of the market.”

Dustin explains that he sees his role as an ICT consultant in the region as an educational one: “When I first came to the region, some of the industries and large companies did not make use of business intelligence nor did they have international standard compliance such as Basel and ISO. We have the opportunity to educate the markets here.”

Political landscape

One of the opportunities – and challenges – in the region that Dustin highlights is the effect of politics on health and safety compliance for large industries. “There is sovereign risk here in Mongolia, which is a bit of a hangover from Soviet rule.”

These countries attract multinational investors whose shareholders are looking for adherence to international compliance standards. Often these investors drive compliance more than politicians are, and that can be tricky to navigate when the political landscape is less than stable.

“In emerging markets, compliance standards are not as clearly defined [as they are in developed markets]. Compliance is driven by international development banks.” This means that there is opportunity for consultants and technology vendors to introduce compliance and technology to the market.

Countries like Kazakhstan have begun to recognize the importance of ensuring political stability in fostering investment and making the transition to a free market economy. To this end, they have implemented structures that minimize political risk. “This bodes well for the mining industry in the region,” says Dustin.

Offline capabilities win

Environment, health and safety (EHS) software providers whose products have offline mobile capability definitely have a competitive advantage in emerging markets like Central Asia.

While the technology infrastructure is good in urbanized areas, and better than what you might find in other parts of the developing world, remote areas – where the mines are – struggle with reliable internet connectivity.

“There are other challenges to overcome in this space as well, one of these is the lack of local data centers. We often need to rely on data centers hosted outside the country,” says Dustin.

“If you look at a product line like that IsoMetrix offers, the offline mobile capability and iOS/Android native apps are a distinctive advantage for the region.” IsoMetrix software’s capabilities allow those in the field to collect data in areas where internet connectivity might be unreliable, and have it upload when the devices are in range of stable internet again.

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About Revolution Development Asia

Revolution Development Asia is a consulting company based in Mongolia, providing service delivery options including enterprise risk management, compliance management, IT solutions, professional services, and systems integration.

About Dustin Rawlins

Dustin is an IT expert with more than 14 years’ experience specializing in banking services, enterprise risk management (including integrations), business intelligence, enterprise project management, laboratory information management systems, service desk and custom-developed solutions. He founded Revolution Development Asiain 2013 to provide world-class IT solutions to the rapidly growing Mongolian market and has headed the implementation of a number of large business intelligence and compliance applications for various Mongolian banking and financial institutions, among other engagements.

Prior to this, Dustin spent a number of years implementing SAP enterprise risk management and contract management solutions at Sasol, one of South Africa’s largest multinational public companies. Earlier in his career he contributed to various project implementations for South African and multinational banking, oil and gas and government clients as well as providing analysis and implementation services to several multinational public telecom and technology companies.