Nur-Sultan hosts Digital Bridge Forum, wraps up Kazakhstan’s efforts in digitization
Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan hosted the Digital Bridge forum on October 28-29 gathering government representatives, businesses, startups and foreign companies to seek ways for partnership, connect and accelerate the country’s efforts towards digital transformation, reports a Strategy2050.kz correspondent.
The forum is taking place in a hybrid format. On October 27, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev visited the congress center, where the forum is taking place, to hear the progress the country has made in digitization, work of the country’s Astana Hub international technopark of IT startups, among other topics.
Digitization should affect all sectors of the economy and the state, including its public services, according to Tokayev.
“The goal is not simply to convert services from offline to online. Digital should reduce the sheer number of state services and the number of related requests, answers, and approvals. Government services must be comprehensive and proactive. The digital transformation of government agencies should be seen as a tool to combat bureaucracy, corruption, and inefficiency," said Tokayev.
Tokayev said that a nationwide digital leap is impossible without the involvement of the business community, while the level of digitization determines the competitiveness of companies.
“According to Siemens, 80 percent of domestic industrial enterprises have an extremely low level of automation - at the level of Industry 2.0. But let me remind you, we live in the era of Industry 4.0. This is a complex challenge, and a clear answer should be formed both from the conceptual and practical points of view. Effective tools to support digital solutions should be expanded, first of all, in the manufacturing sector," said the President.
DigitEL national project
The first panel session on October 28 featured the presentation of the DigitEL national project by Minister Bagdat Musin.
“Digit EL is the so-called branding, and the name refers to a technological leap by means of digitization, science, and innovation. It consists of two large blocks - digital transformation and science,” said Musin.
This includes reaching 100 percent coverage with high-quality internet - 10 Mbit/s in the city, and 5 Mbit/s in the countryside.
“We are setting quality parameters, there was no such thing before. We said that 99 percent of the population has 3G or 4G coverage, for example, but we never stated quality parameters. When we began analyzing, we realized that the issue is not whether a person has a 3G sign or not, but whether you actually have Internet coverage,” said Musin.
The second indicator in the project is all services and services in 5 minutes, while the third is bringing IT exports to US$500 million from the current US$30 million.
The fourth target is to train 100,000 highly skilled IT specialists and create 100,000 jobs.
“There is coverage or availability of connectivity in 97 percent of cases. But what kind of Internet a person is connected to, what kind of Internet is offered, this is a big problem. We are moving towards quality Internet for everyone. There are 617 villages in which it is completely impossible to reach through radio relays or wires, and in those villages, we will use low-earth-orbit satellite constellations,” said Musin.
The minister also spoke about the need to bring quality internet to the country’s agricultural areas, a key economic sector for Kazakhstan. But first, they need quality infrastructure.
“Kazakhstan's territory is used in many ways for agriculture. When we toured the farms with the prime minister, all had the same question - give the infrastructure, but to demand the transition to the technology without giving them the infrastructure, is wrong. So we want to cover 15.7 percent of the country's agricultural areas with high-quality Internet," said Musin.
Forum opens up opportunities
The two-day forum featured a broad range of topics from venture capital to IT education. Besides face-to-face sessions and online webinars, the forum also saw the signing of agreements between local and foreign companies and institutions.
Among them are memorandums of cooperations between Astana Hub and Plug and Play tech center based in Silicon Valley, the Kazakh Ministry of Digitial Development, Innovations and Aerospace Industry, and Huawei, among others.
Plug and Play Country Manager for Kazakhstan Sanjar Taromi said that they see a big potential in Kazakhstan emphasizing a quality workforce in Kazakhstan.
“We are one of the most active early-stage investors, in a startup, but we also work with over 200 venture capitals to make investments. Then, we have a corporate innovations platform where we have over 60 accelerators across 35 cities around the world and these are industry-themed accelerators so our corporate partners will sit on the board and they will vote based on their interest and challenge areas on which startup will go to the program,” said Taromi.
He said that his company seeks to bring a similar system to Kazakhstan drawing the world’s attention to the country.
“We want to connect Kazakhstan to our global ecosystem,” he said.