India to overtake U.S. on number of software developers by 2017

India's size and youth are seen as the driving forces behind the expansion in software development

The U.S. may be the global center of the IT universe, but India will exceed the U.S. in the number of software developers by 2017, a new report notes.

There are about 18.2 million software developers worldwide, a number that is due to rise to 26.4 million by 2019, a 45 percent increase, says Evans Data Corp. in its latest Global Developer Population and Demographic Study.

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Today, the U.S. leads the world in software developers, with about 3.6 million. India has about 2.75 million. But by 2018, India will have 5.2 million developers, a nearly 90 percent increase, versus 4.5 million in the U.S., a 25 percent increase though that period, Evans Data projects.

India's software development growth rate is attributed, in part, to its population size, 1.2 billion, and relative youth, with about half the population under 25 years of age, and economic growth.

India's services firms hire, in many cases, thousands of new employees each quarter. Consequently, IT and software work is seen as clear path to the middle class for many of the nation's young.

For instance, in one quarter this year, Tata Consultancy Services added more than 17,000 employees, gross, bringing its total headcount to 263,600. In the same quarter of 2010, the company had about 150,000 workers.

Its real GDP growth has been about 8 percent over the last decade, but there are signs that growth rate may fall and that could lead to adjustment in the projections, the report said.

In 2011, Evans Data projected that India would surpass the U.S. in software developers by 2015. Janel Garvin, the CEO of Evans, told Computerworld that in 2011, in the midst of the recession, the firm had a lower forecast for U.S. growth than it current does.

"At that point India's growth was not as effected by the recession so the projection was that India would surpass US earlier," Garvin said. "Since that time there have been improvements in the U.S. and we've adjusted the growth projection accordingly in this latest study."

"These are projections and represent the best data we can find, but they are still mathematical projections into the future, and the future is never certain," she said.

What is clear is the history and the rate growth among India's fast growing IT services firms. Even firms like IBM have more workers in India than in the U.S.

Over the next couple of decades, India will add about 110 million workers to its labor force, more than the U.S., China, Russia and Japan combined, says Goldman Sachs.

In 2018, China will have about 1.9 million programmers, and Russia about 1.3 million, Evans Data projects.

NASSCOM, India's IT industry group, expects IT exports to grow between 12 and 14 percent next year, driven by "anything-as-a-service," smart computing, which connects systems with physical infrastructure, and growth in the SMB market, among other sectors.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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This story, "India to overtake U.S. on number of software developers by 2017" was originally published by Computerworld .

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