Kazakhstan’s path to digital transformation, while bumpy, should lead to dramatic change

By Yerbolat Uatkhanov

Kazakh digitizer nation photo present inform.kzDigital technology plays an increasingly important role in today’s world, as more than 51 percent of the global population has access to the Internet. In 2015, the International Telecommunication Union estimated approximately 3.2 billion people, or almost half of the world’s population, have access to the web. Approximately two billion are from developing countries.

(photo top left: image credit inform.kz)

Digital technologies have a number of advantages, including but not limited to simplifying public services, accelerating information exchange, assisting emerging business opportunities and creating new digital products.

The Kazakh government is executing the Digital Kazakhstan programme, which aims to improve the competitiveness of the country’s economy and quality of life through progressive development of the digital ecosystem. That development will drive the economy, improve conditions for business dealings, raise the population’s level of digital literacy and improve the nation’s competitiveness.

Labour automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, big data exchange, 3D printing and virtual reality are innovative technologies that not only create new types of business, but can also provide positive impetus to traditional sectors of the economy.

Implementing the programme is based on four key points.

Creating a Digital Silk Road will develop a reliable, affordable, high-speed, secure digital infrastructure. Expanding coverage of communication networks and infrastructure development, as well as strengthening cyber security, are part and parcel of the programme. More than 1,200 of the country’s rural settlements will be provided with broadband access from 2018-2020. These initiatives include modernising the satellite communication system and developing fibre-optic communication lines to remote settlements, as well as increasing transit capacity and the digital television and radio broadcasting network.

Timur Suleimenov

Minister of National Economy Timur Suleimenov

“To date, 190 million services have been provided on the egov.kz portal, where more than 6.8 million users are registered. Of the 746 total public services, 452 are automated. The mobile application is used by more than 3.3 million users and over 10 million services have been provided to them,” said Minister of National Economy Timur Suleimenov at a June 12 government meeting.

The country is striving to develop a creative society where individuals have competences and skills for the digital economy. Such a society needs to upgrade digital literacy and train specialists for different industries.

Developing human capital will be achieved by updating the education system in accordance with the world’s best practices. The government plans to revise secondary education programmes to include introductions to robotics, virtual reality and 3D printing and organise training courses to provide the population with basic digital skills. Retraining personnel will allow citizens to meet high professional standards and remain in demand.

Digital transformation is required in all economic branches and the Kazakh economy needs to introduce widespread digital technology to enhance its competitiveness.

Using the economic digitisation programme, the government plans to increase the level of labour productivity. The process will be aided by Digital Mine, an information system that will collect data through sensors installed on equipment, provide an optimal production process, monitor the consumption of reagents, reduce equipment downtime and quickly identify and eliminate extraordinary situations.

The final facet is forming a proactive digital government, one that improves electronic and mobile government systems and optimises the public services supply. Electronic government reduces paperwork, increases citizens’ participation in governance and introduces Smart City technology.

Sergek, a system for monitoring adherence to traffic rules, has been introduced in Astana and is functioning. The programme is expected to improve situations involving drivers and capital residents are seeing the results. If the system fixes the offense, the protocol is generated automatically and sent to the violator’s home address.

Such monitoring systems will be installed in all cities, including the smallest ones, where they will help decrease the level of crime and delinquency.

digitization number two

Photo credit ebrd.com

The government believes after specific tasks are identified and an innovative ecosystem created, the state will be digitally transformed. It is obvious, however, that supporting innovative development sites, promoting a technological entrepreneurship and start-up culture, attracting venture financing and forming a demand for innovation is vitally important.

Creating international IT start-up technoparks, such as Astana Hub, are a vivid example. The site is expected to enable domestic IT specialists and start-ups to begin developing their projects.

Another good example is Kazakhstan’s healthcare digitisation, where 81.3 percent of medical personnel have computers or equipment with computers and Internet access reaches 55.6 percent of medical institution staff. The Ministry of Healthcare is creating an electronic health passport for each patient in the country, allowing the person’s entire medical history to be stored online.

“I am used to work with foreign customers and I observe the situation with digitisation in Kazakhstan as an ordinary man, a Kazakh citizen. But, of course, my expertise and knowledge give me an opportunity to evaluate the situation as an expert,” noted IT expert Kalibek Turgumbayev in an exclusive interview with EdgeKz.

“I would like to say that digitisation is a very useful and right process initiated by the government. But as for me, it, as many other great projects, isn’t implemented smoothly. There are so many gaps. The IT industry itself is developing poorly in Kazakhstan. There is a lack of really good specialists. Many vendors are not worried about the quality of the product and end users,” he said.

“There are engineering practices such as unit testing, integration testing and other types of tests, as well as practices of continuous integration and delivery, which are simply not being observed in Kazakhstan. For example, if you need to repair your car, there is a set of tools and it is necessary to check sensors. But [in digitisation], you have only pliers and hope to check a thing that is exactly three nanometres,” he added.

According to the forecasts of the world’s leading experts, by 2020, 25 percent of the global economy will be digital and introducing technologies to digitise the economy, allowing the state, business and society to interact effectively, is becoming an increasingly large and dynamic process.

Kazakhstan’s digitisation programme certainly has some distance to go before it is fully implemented and begins to provide the benefits it is meant to provide. The country will need many years to achieve the required work experience and knowledge and improve its skills.

Despite the early stages and the inevitable drawbacks, the programme has helped the country not only to develop, but possibly be more developed than it was before digitisation. Kazakhstan’s path to digitisation may be thorny, but it should be fruitful and the best thing is ordinary people will benefit from the process.





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