Digital Silk Road: Kazakhstan Leads Central Asia in New Technologies

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By Ben Johnson

April 12, 2017

 

Kazakhstan, a world leader in energy, agriculture and other natural resources is moving ahead on vastly improving its technological sector of the economy with the “aim of setting Kazakhstan firmly on track to join the elite club of the most developed countries.”

The President of Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth largest nation, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has launched the new program by stating in his 2017 address to his country: “I see our main priorities as being to ensure a level of economic growth above the world’s average indicators, and to achieve a level of sustainable development at least equal to the 30 most advanced countries.”

“Kazakhstan is planning to launch the program ‘Digital Kazakhstan’ which will contribute to the development of communications and ensure universal access to fibre-optic infrastructure.  In order to be the first to introduce new technologies in the field of IT, Kazakhstan intends to open its own ‘Silicon Valley’-and International Technologies Park for IT-start-ups,” according to EU Today.

One of the more interesting aspects of this leading economic power in Central Asia is to start compulsory use of English in its schools in order for its citizens to keep up with and become future leaders in the digital age we all now live in.

In Astana, the nation’s capital, “it has long been understood that the language of new technologies today is English, so the country plans to introduce the language of Shakespeare into schools a compulsory subject,” according to an article in EU Today.

“Starting from 2019, teaching in a number of subjects in the 10th to 11th grades will be conducted in English,” President Nazarbayev has stated.

The new innovative program called “Digital Kazakhstan” will consist of four separate key areas to increase digital access for all its citizens:

The first area will be ‘creating a ‘Digital Silk Road’’.  This is the development of a reliable, affordable, high-speed secure digital infrastructure.

The second area will be creating a ‘creative society’.  This is the development of competences and skills for the digital economy, the upgrading of digital literacy, training of ICT specialists for industries.

Digital transformation in the economy branches is the third area of the creative new digital program.  It is the widespread introduction of digital technology to enhance the competitiveness of various branches of the economy.

Formation of ‘Proactive digital government’.  This is the improvement of electronic and mobile government systems, optimization of the public services supply sphere,” according to Zerde.

The World Bank in an article entitled “Reaping the Benefits of Digital Technology in Central Asia” says “since 2006, the number of internet users in Kazakhstan has increased from 8.3% to 68.1% – that is largely due to the development of a modern telecom infrastructure in the country. This has also helped raise Kazakhstan’s ranking in the 2014 United Nations’ E-Government Survey to 28th position.”

Kazakhstan aspires to become one of the 30 most competitive countries in the world.  A new program-‘Digital Kazakhstan 2020’-aims to help boost the economy with the help of modern technologies.  Creating a digital platform to increase competitiveness of sectors of the economy and increasing standards of living are the main objectives of this program,” according to the World Bank.

The Minister of Investment and Development in Kazakhstan Asset Issekeshev states, “Despite the dynamic growth of digital technologies and their penetration in the global economy, ‘digital dividends’ are still lower than expected, and  that is what the World Bank’s World Development Report on Digital Dividends reveals.  World Bank experts note that it is not enough to use technology to automate tasks, but we need to improve certain aspects of the so-called ‘analog complements’ in order to gain digital dividends.”

Kazakhstan is improving its educational system as the government is aware that an educated workforce up to date on the latest digital technology will lead to a country that is highly competitive in our high tech world of today.

Kazakhstan is providing its unemployed young people and its senior citizens, who haven’t had professional and IT training, free technical/professional training. Kazakhstan is creating a talented workforce for the future.  By creating this new high-tech economy, the country is preparing personnel for successful employment in the future.  Investing in its own citizens should be a profitable goal for the future.

As observed, Kazakhstan could sit back and rely on rising oil and other energy prices to propel its economy ahead.  However, the country still receives solid dividends from its raw material exports, but at the same time is already preparing the time in the future when this period will end.

Seeing ahead to the finite nature of natural resources, Kazakhstan is emphasizing not so much on the production sector but more on the new technologies sector as evidenced by its “Digital Kazakhstan” program.

One area outside of the high-tech industry Kazakhstan is focusing on for the future is its agriculture sector.  Stressing environmentally friendly methods of farming, the Central Asian economic powerhouse plans to pass from raw production to production of processed agricultural products.  Kazakhstan is looking to increase its market share of agricultural products around the world in the next decade.

Kazakhstan has created a unique model of economic growth in Central Asia. Along with its Constitutional reforms and providing more democracy and more of a free market economy, the country is becoming an economic model for its neighbors.

The Digital Silk Road, “with free vocational education for all” is on its way to becoming a reality in Kazakhstan.  Along with the new digital revolution, “By 2025 the country plans not only to implement digital technologies in all spheres of activity, as well as to reform the agricultural sector, but also to develop logistics, and to increase the transit of goods through its territory seven fold, and to support SMEs and improve the banking sector.  Kazakhstan is creating its own unique model of economic growth and it is working.  The next phase of modernization shows promise of success, and the country is catching up with the most advanced countries of the world,” states EU Today in an article entitled “Digital Kazakhstan: The Central Asian Tiger Leaps Ahead”.

Kazakhstan, through its Digital Kazakhstan 2020 program is educating and training its citizens, both in rural and urban areas, to be proficient in the new digital technologies of today and tomorrow.

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