ASTANA – The international conference ASTEX 2014 opened on May 19 and brought together foreign speakers that included heads of large companies, investors, business trainers, players in the global Internet business and analysts.
At the opening ceremony, Askar Zhumagaliyev, Chairman of the Kazakhstan Agency for Communications and Information, addressed the audience on behalf of Prime Minister Karim Massimov.
Zhumagaliyev discussed state support for information and communication technologies in infrastructure growth and e-commerce projects. In particular, he noted that by 2020, it is planned to bring the share of e-commerce in the general goods and services market to 10 percent through measures prescribed in the Informational Kazakhstan 2020 state programme by introducing new communications technologies, increasing speed and reducing prices for communication services and the Internet.
Invited guests included Young Im Cho, member of the council under the President of South Korea and Robert Bellack, co-founder of Cars.com and director general of the NewEgg e-commerce company.
Participants of the session “How to Correctly Enter the Market” addressed how the dynamic cheapening of the newest technologies promotes their introduction into retail and the considerable increase of efficiency in trade. It was noted that in the future, retail will witness considerable changes related to new technologies, including biometric payment by fingerprint, obtaining consultations on services and bargaining with holographic salesmen and three-dimensional scanning of buyers shopping for clothes, shoes and similar items.
The “Mobile Information Communications” session addressed the advantages and disadvantages of mobile-commerce, which has great potential and a number of additional opportunities for doing business.
Marat Adildabekov, IT director general of Kazakhtelecom, noted, that mobile e-commerce has considerable potential with mobile phones becoming ever more common. One should not have to be at a computer to be able to check email and access information; a mobile phone should be enough.
According to him, such technologies and the global positioning system (GPS) allow access to information about particular regions that may be of interest to users.
Disadvantages of mobile information communication are related to the carrying capacity of networks and the devices themselves. Third generation networks will have a carrying capacity comparable to wired Internet but only reach 19.2 kilobits per second.
At the conference, the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Development Fund represented by Director General Sanzhar Kettebekov signed a memorandum on cooperation in the field of innovation development and commercialisation of intellectual activity with the Skolkovo Technology Park and a memorandum on the development of startups in information technology with the American company MuckerLab.
With Skolkovo, a long-term partnership will be established to improve the efficiency of investment projects with an innovative component as well as to promote relations abroad in hopes of creating favourable conditions for innovative companies and to assist them in their foreign and overseas sales.
ASTEX 2014 was hosted by the Agency for Communications and Information of Kazakhstan, Zerde, which is a national holding, and the ICT Development Fund.
The first ASTEX was held at the Sixth Astana Economic Forum May 21-22, 2013. The Information Communications Technologies Development Corporate Fund, chaired by Silicon Valley innovator Kettebekov, worked on finding and concluding agreements with sponsors and exhibitors, attracting speakers, conducting a comprehensive publicity campaign, developing image products and other event preparation measures.
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At the ASTEX 2014 conference, Shavkat Sabirov, president of the Internet Association of Kazakhstan, in speaking to The Astana Times, shared his views on the purpose of the event and his ideas on ecommerce.
What is the purpose of the event?
This is the largest IT event in Kazakhstan supported by the state. The peculiarity of the event this year is that it is dedicated to the problems of e-commerce and issues of further development. Very interesting foreign speakers and people who have seen great success on a global level spoke at the event. This conference gives the opportunity to see and discuss e-commerce from all perspectives. According to the programme, we have only two or three speakers from Kazakhstan.
What attracted particular attention at the conference sessions?
First of all, very interesting statistics were released. The session on mobile applications was very interesting as well, since mobile phones have become an integral part of our lives and the market for mobile applications has grown considerably, including in regards to e-commerce. I would also like to note that there is an opportunity to attend master classes with the owners of leading Internet resources and to ask them for and obtain firsthand information on any subject of interest. That is why today, among conference participants, there are leaders of e-commerce from Kazakhstan.
What measures are being taken to develop e-commerce in Kazakhstan?
I believe the main one to be the legal reforms taking place to expand our e government. When the e-government was completed, laws were formalised so we could use the e-government in the capacity that we do today. You can print out a registration certificate without needing notary certification and get tax certificates; everything that relates to state services can be printed out and submitted.
The same should be done with ecommerce. For example, if you have bought an electronic ticket, you can print it out and show it to your accountant. Transactions made the same way will be considered valid. Moreover, e-commerce should promote the facilitation of business as a whole. As world trends show, the more people there are that are involved in business, the less people will be involved in shadow businesses. Shadow businesses will simply disappear because there is no sense in running an illicit business if everything is transparent and recorded on the Internet. This is why I believe the second area of development should be state support for ecommerce participants, like in the U.S. E-businesses should be granted exemptions to VAT. If we create such incentives for e-commerce, we will have the opportunity within the Customs Union (CU) to direct great influxes from Russia to our country. We strive to become a Singapore of sorts within the CU. Currently, we are not competitive with Russia. That is why we should take a number of actions that will help turn Kazakhstan into an infrastructure platform for Russia and attract investment and financial flows from there. For this purpose, we have the means to do this quickly, because we are “small” in terms of population. We can adopt laws that will allow e-commerce to flourish and benefit from the legal framework. If we will create such conditions for ourselves, our CU colleagues will definitely seek us out for partnership.
Is there an agency in Kazakhstan responsible for e-commerce?
This would be the Agency for Communications and Information. We also have bodies responsible for other certain issues. The National Bank is the body responsible for payments. We have a lot of people in Russia willing to make payments. Russian people want to make payments in Kazakhstan. Once, Nikita Belykh, governor of the Kursk region, asked on Twitter if anyone would pay for his mother’s phone’s Beeline service in Kazakhstan. In this case, the National Bank could have helped solve the problem of trans-border payments. Every state body is tackling the issues for which it responsible. The Ministry of Finance could provide benefits to e-businesses by giving exemptions from VAT for two or three years. Other state bodies could make concessions as well.