As a country, Kazakhstan has been fortunate in its rich natural resources. Although we faced many grave challenges in our first years as a modern, independent country, the discovery in particular of large oil and gas reserves provided the revenues to help us overcome them. The result has been that we have transformed our country and the living standards and prospects of all of our citizens.
But wise nations understand that natural resources alone are not sufficient for a sustainably successful economy. Their supply is, of course, finite and once exploited can’t be replaced. The inevitable fluctuations in demand and price inject instability into economies and can knock even the best run off course. And, as the world strives to combat climate change and limit environmental damage, there will inevitably be a switch away from fossil fuels.
Kazakhstan’s response has been to commit itself to a new stage in its development by diversifying and modernising its economy away from a dependence on its natural resources. At its heart is the ambitious Digital Kazakhstan programme and a determination to maximise the opportunities that it brings to enhance competitiveness, unlock potential and drive improvements in what the government delivers to its citizens. It is central to our goal of joining the ranks of the 30 most developed countries by 2050.
The programme involves major investment to create what’s been called the Digital Silk Road through which information can flow freely to all parts of our vast country. Our aim is to connect all businesses and, in time, all homes to a reliable, high-speed digital infrastructure. This is as essential to the Fourth Industrial Revolution as canals and railways were to the first nearly two centuries ago.
We are also investing in digital skills at every level. In our schools and colleges, there is a new emphasis placed on ensuring our young people have the knowledge and skills to maximise the opportunities the digital revolution is bringing.
We are training, too, the advanced specialists we need to ensure we are in the forefront of future innovation. Our universities and new hubs, such as the Astana International Financial Centre and the International IT Start-up Hub are not only setting the lead themselves but also working in collaboration more widely to improve standards and support advances right across the economy.
It is vital that every corner of our economy, every industry and business is part of the digital transformation now underway. The construction of intelligent transport systems can shorten cargo delivering time to our markets and in transit across our country.
In our manufacturing industry, the harnessing of digital technologies can both boost productivity and increase quality. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has singled out agriculture as a major sector where harvests can be transformed and exports grown through the use of smart technology.
A determined effort has been made to create the environment where digital start-ups can grow. The first incubation programme with 14 projects was launched in February. We need a genuinely “creative society” and are working hard to remove the remaining barriers to entrepreneurship and innovation.
And just as we are committed to ensuring digitisation delivers its full benefits across the economy, we want to see the same transformation in public services. There are many opportunities to enhance the way the government interacts with its citizens and we are committed to making the most of them.
Modernising and strengthening the supply chain prevents shortages and cuts costs of providing services allowing savings to be re-invested to improve them further. There is huge potential to personalise services to the individual to reduce waste and improve the benefits to those who receive them. The introduction of electronic payments is a powerful weapon in the government’s battle to eliminate corruption.
The Digital Kazakhstan programme which will touch every aspect of our country and have as big an impact on the prosperity of our people as oil and gas have in recent decades. Above all, it is about giving our talented and educated young people – our most important natural resource for the future – the opportunities to accelerate the progress we have seen over the last 26 years.