Today we live in the age of modernity characterised by the triumph of a carbon economy. Like German green politician and publicist Ralph Fuecks predicted, the era of solar energy is going to come in order to establish the basis for renewable energy sources. This will affect the society, which is constantly subjected to change. Whether these changes will be for good or not depends on world leaders. In this case, Kazakhstan is in good hands.
One of the brightest achievements of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev is the establishment of the capital, the city of Astana. Our Eurasian Palmyra is actually a real, modern city. The idea of the metropolis and its urban development meet the requirements of the current century. Previously, some of our fellow citizens believed at heart that Kazakh towns couldn’t compete with foreign cities on beauty, elegance and technological solutions. The situation has changed, however, as people recognise the beauty of Astana, which grew up in the middle of the steppe.
The city showcases almost all styles of world architecture. Every day we can contemplate the symbol of the Oriental circle, embodied in the semantics of such buildings and monuments as Baiterek, Khan Shatyr and the Library of the First President. We can also marvel at the sun rays watching with pride on the skyscrapers of the capital, which remind us of those in New York, Dubai or Shanghai. Next to them we can find classical style buildings like Astana Opera House, the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General’s Office. The bridges across Yessil River connect two banks of the rapidly-growing futuristic agglomeration. Astana city celebrates its adulthood being in great intellectual form, following the global trend of advanced innovative urbanism.
Contemporary cities used to turn into centres of growth and inclusive development and Astana is no exception. A few years ago, the Kazakh capital was included in the top 21 smart cities in the world, which proved that the city was developing in the right direction.
President Nazarbayev, realising the strategic course, consistently and pragmatically leads the nation towards the country’s transformation. With the help of green reforms, we need to increase the GDP rate by 3 percent, create more than 500,000 new jobs and new industries and secure high living standards that are comparable with indicators of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The goal is to solve the problem of water supply, improve the energy efficiency by 50 percent and increase the share of alternative energy sources in electricity production up to 50 percent and the proportion of recycled waste up to 50 percent by 2050. As we can see, the ecological transit is one of the most important components of sustainable development. Our main goal to enter the 30 most developed countries of the world is inseparable from the objectives of green economy.
The speed with which new inventions and leading innovations appear that give rise to new directions in science and industry is growing. Countries seek to increase the rate of economic growth due to the introduction of high technologies. Electric power became one of the most important industries in the structure of the economy. The production share of solar, wind and other renewable sources of energy globally composes around 5 percent. The undisputed leader in the field of renewable energy is China, followed by the United States, Germany and Spain.
The separate trend appeared to be the promotion of the place and the role of cities in global development. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. It is expected that by 2050 this figure will reach 80 percent.
World experts have predicted the likely types of cities which could appear over the next 50 years:
1) high-tech city, which creates conditions for high mobility of the population to support further globalisation of the city’s economy and to complete the transition to alternative energy sources;
2) digital city, which reduces the physical movement of people on the basis of digital technologies;
3) city of comfortable living, which sharply reduces carbon impact, provides the transition to alternative energy sources and forms a green community;
4) fortress city, which develops closed communities where the rich part of the population dissociates itself from the poor by creating armed buffer zones.
In view of the major trends of global urban discourse, as per the 2014 instructions of the President of Kazakhstan, it was decided to adopt the concept of promoting the capital to enter the top 10 best cities in the world by 2050. In order to achieve this goal the following tasks should be realised:
1) to make Astana a world city, an economic centre of the Eurasian continent;
2) to provide an international division of labour (the centre of educational and medical services, centres for innovative development and development of a green economy);
3) to develop the city as a centre of Astana agglomeration; and
4) to implement the Safe City Project.
I would like to mention the Smart Astana Project, which fully complies with the spirit of the Smart City concept. For instance, the Smart Clinic Project is aimed at improving the quality of health services. The pilot project was put into trial operation in city clinic No. 4. In the framework of the project more than 136,000 patients have been served, more than 750 protocols have been issued and more than 2,100 patients have received appointments via the Internet. This year, there are plans to introduce the project in five other polyclinics.
The Smart School project must ensure the safety, convenience and automation of processes in educational institutions. It consists of the following components: access control, video surveillance, e-library, e-dining room and private office. In June 2015 a pilot project was introduced at School No. 3 and Lyceum No. 15. More than 1,200 parents and students are connected to the SMS-informing parents and e-dining apps. Another 55 schools of the city are scheduled for the project.
The Smart Street Lighting project is meant to provide street lighting energy efficiency by equipping street lighting systems with power generators to reduce operating costs. The pilot project has been implemented on Enbekshiler Street in Yessil district and was put into trial operation in June 2015. As part of the project the old lamps were replaced by new light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which can save more than 50 percent of energy.
In order to increase accessibility and convenience for citizens purchasing tickets for cultural and sport events, a Smart Tickets project should soon be introduced. In the past year, 12 cultural sites have been included in the project and two more are anticipated to join. A single ticket for tourists is going to be created that will allow them to visit any museum or cultural or sport facility.
The goal of the Smart Payments project is to create a single account for all payments, including utilities, communication services and television, fines and taxes. In April this year, a pilot project was put into operation and more than 1,000 users have registered to be able to make payments in electronic form.
The Smart.Astana.kz portal aims to improve public access to information, as well as the quality and promotion of urban information products and services. Last year, a beta version of the mobile application for Smart Astana services was launched to provide online tickets for cultural and sports events, call 109 service and verify violations or traffic fines.
Since the beginning of this year, new services have been added, including the ability to search for institutions and enterprises of the capital, as well as train and aircraft schedules. The mobile app also sends alerts in case of cancelled classes (push-notification) and emergency weather conditions. The mobile app Astra Bus was also integrated into the Smart Astana project.
I would like to note that the Integrated Life Support System project, which produces photo and video evidence of traffic violations on 21 road sections. This year, it is planned to expand the system with the help of another 20 sections. Since 2014, video surveillance systems, including analytics and recording in data warehouses, have been operating in Astana thanks to 302 video cameras. Another 225 cameras were introduced in 2015 and it is planned to add 290 more in the city’s schools and public places this year.
The work to turn Astana into a world class, innovative and technologically advanced city has found international recognition. Next year, Astana hosts EXPO 2017. The theme of the exhibition is energy of the future and it is dedicated to the study of strategies and technologies to support sustainable energy sources and improve the reliability and efficiency of energy supply. The exhibition organically corresponds to the philosophy of Astana, a city that has already implemented the concept of the city of the future. Once, American journalist Lincoln Steffens said that he had seen the future and it worked. I think these words fully express the spirit and reality of Astana. EXPO 2017 is a victory of the political course of President Nazarbayev and the triumph of the young Kazakh nation, which is building a better future. It is obvious that the progressive policy of the President is recognised globally. To date, 91 countries and 15 international organisations have already confirmed their participation in the expo. It is expected that EXPO 2017 to be held from June 10 to September 10 will receive two million visits. Most of the tourists are expected to come from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Europe and China.
We look forward to becoming familiar with the world’s best developments in alternative energy sources and green technologies. Of course, we are waiting for the opening ceremony of the national pavilion of Kazakhstan. We still can’t talk about what we will present at the exhibition. However, we can definitely say that our vision of the pavilion is that the energy of the future is the human himself. The main idea of the pavilion is to develop the intellectual potential of the Kazakh nation.
The expo incorporates strong momentum to promote a green revolution in Kazakhstan and around the world. The expo can give a dynamic acceleration to the system of economic diversification, the technological modernisation of production and the scientific and research sectors as a whole.
It is symbolic that the exhibition will be opened in Astana. Our city has received considerable attention from the world community in recent years. Astana has become a centre in Eurasia, a platform for international dialogue and one of the icons of urbanism.
We must unequivocally support the efforts of the President to transform the Great Steppe, supporting the development of the Astana agglomeration. While flying to Astana, I was surprised to discover young forests appearing around the city. This is not only good protection from the harsh chilly winds so common here; it is also the creation of “lungs” for the city. A green Astana is a flagship of the green future of Kazakhstan. It is also a dream of our President to convert the steppe into a forested, marvellous, and therefore, happy country. I think that all the country’s towns and villages and all Kazakh citizens should be actively involved in the creation of the green belt, which will merge into a single majestic green space in the future.
Astana is a lodestar of independent Kazakhstan and will always be, as it is a bright and unique creation. The city is committed to becoming a green capital of Eurasia. I think Astana should be on par with such cities as London, Paris and New York.
Astana has everything it needs to achieve this, including the spirit of creativity, human capital and necessary resources. While preparing this article, good news came from overseas: Kazakhstan was elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. This is a first for the Central Asian region. As the President said, it is a well-deserved success for all the people of Kazakhstan.
It is symbolic that this victory happened as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of independence. I would like to congratulate all Kazakhstan’s people with the Day of the Capital, which has come into being thanks to our President.
Astana today is the first of seven unshakable foundations of the Mangilik El, and the Mangilik El means independence and Astana. We will be faithful to the great historical mission to strengthen our independence. We will always be proud of Astana as a vivid symbol of the prosperity and strength of our people.
The author is the Secretary of State of the Republic of Kazakhstan.