Kazakhstan’s digital strategy offers a foundation for successful development

At the parliamentary hearings devoted to the progress of the Digital Kazakhstan state programme, Senate Speaker Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noted the importance of digital technologies and stressed “it is important to develop a digital mentality – the ability to work effectively in a new digital reality – among the population, including civil servants.”

“We must involve our population in the digital economy by developing literacy in this area,” the speaker told all the responsible agencies.

Chair of the Board of Kazakhtelecom Kuanyshbek Yessekeyev addressed the parliamentary hearings about the role of the infrastructure operator in the development of the Digital Kazakhstan programme.

Kuanyshbek Yessekeyev.

Kuanyshbek Yessekeyev.

In his state-of-the-nation address “New Development Opportunities in the Conditions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” President Nursultan Nazarbayev set a number of strategic tasks, one of which is to provide universal access to the fiber-optic infrastructure that can give a powerful impetus to many industries. How does Kazakhtelecom plan to provide rural areas with broadband access to the internet?

The Digital Kazakhstan programme is a guide for the active implementation of digital technologies, the development of economic processes needed to improve the competitiveness of enterprises and the country as a whole, and to improve the quality of life and the formation of the civil society.

As part of the Digital Kazakhstan state programme we, as a large operator with our own developed infrastructure, plan to provide rural settlements with a population of at least 500 people with broadband access through the construction of fiber-optic communication lines (FOCL). The project is to be implemented in 2018-2020 through public-private partnership.

In particular, our company is planning to take part in a tender to determine the private partner. The conditions stipulate the provision of 828 rural settlements with broadband internet access (connection of 2,496 state institutions, construction of fiber-optic lines with a total length of over 14,200 km). The expected benefit of the project is the coverage of 2.4 million citizens.

Today, there are more than 6,000 rural settlements in the country, 1,197 of which are already covered by broadband access.

By 2020, the number of settlements with broadband internet access will be gradually increased to 3,000 and more. Thanks to technology integration and coverage with LTE communication standard, this figure will increase to 5,193 settlements.

The implementation of the FOCL project in rural areas will allow providing about 2,500 state institutions with digital services.

The increase in the level of employment of the population through the creation of jobs both during construction work and after its completion is expected to be another positive effect of this project. In addition, the growth of computer literacy of the population, the development of e-commerce, the availability of computer equipment and software will subsequently achieve an even more significant effect from the development of broadband internet access.

In the second quarter of this year, you are working with akims (governors) of regions, negotiating on digitisation of territories and the introduction of innovative services for the population. In which regions has this work already been carried out?

Within the implementation of the tasks set by the head of state, we are actively working on the implementation of projects aimed at improving access to services for the population, the development of broadband access and the introduction of information and communication services.

Upon our initiative, meetings were held with the heads of the Atyrau, Karaganda, Mangistau, East Kazakhstan and Pavlodar regions. During these meetings, agreements were reached, tasks were set for the heads of regional telecommunications directorates, but most importantly – we get the picture from the inside, raise problematic issues and suggest solutions for them.

I would like to particularly note that the akims support our vision of the implementation of this project, which is undoubtedly important for the country’s economy and the social sphere; they understand the current issues and provide support to searching for and implementing solutions.

In September 2017, Kazakhtelecom, in cooperation with the Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs, developed a project to launch an open digital platform for small and medium-sized businesses. The press release on that occasion said the platform would give impetus to the development of Kazakhstan’s businesses. How is the platform developing?

The Open Digital Platform for SMBs project is implemented as part of the initiatives to create an information basis for Kazakhstan’s businesses, helping an infocommunications operator master new businesses and markets and introduce digital marketing methods to provide a client-oriented and segment-oriented approach to sales.

The creation of an open digital platform (ODP) will provide access to the digital economy for small and medium-sized businesses and will become a basis for companies to enter local and international markets. At the same time, for businesses that provide services in a particular region and for producers of goods targeted at local consumers, registration at a domestic platform is better than entering foreign internet platforms.

ODP’s basis is its infrastructure, which includes Kazakhtelecom’s own network of data centres, data transmission channels, cloud resources, internal information systems such as CRM platforms, billing, reference analytics, multi-channel customer support systems – contact centres, ServiceDesk – in other words, a whole range of services and opportunities on a single platform, which Kazakhtelecom is ready to provide today.

We expect that the introduction of Kazakhstan’s online platform like this will increase the competitiveness of small and medium-sized businesses and help master new market opportunities, ensuring the growth of business profitability through synergy.

Currently, there is a large number of platforms like Business Territory, One stop shop of state support measures and others. What is the difference between Kazakhtelecom’s open digital platform for businesses and these resources?

Our digital platform has not been created from scratch, as mentioned above, it is based on Kazakhtelecom’s technological base. As a telecom operator, the company also provides services to more than 60 percent of entrepreneurs and has the largest contact centre. All these resources will be actively used to attract the owners of cloud IT services, the business expert community, bloggers, business content providers, operators of state support measures.

Therefore, we are creating an unprecedented digital platform for cooperation between all Kazakh businesses. At the same time, we do not limit the participants either by ownership or by type of activity. The most important principles here are mutual benefit and security of interaction for all the platform participants.

In addition, the integration of the platform with Atameken’s One Stop Shop of state support measures is necessary to ensure convenient access for ODP users to state support measures, thus being an additional digital channel for SMBs to interact with the state.

How does the Open Digital Platform for SMBs project influence the development of the domestic IT industry?

For IT companies, the digital platform provides a wide range of high-tech digital tools for promoting cloud applications, opportunities of using digital marketing, integration with other services to enhance customer value, security and scalability.

IT companies that provide their services on the platform receive a number of benefits, such as a reduced time for IT products to enter a market (Time to Market), lower costs of IT services thanks to the use of ready-made ODP components, using digital marketing for promotion as an ODP built-in service, improving the quality of IT services through open competition on the platform and increasing profitability by scaling the business through the platform. All this will ultimately lead to a wide distribution of solutions for IT companies and the development of the entire industry.

It is necessary to note the potential effect of implementing a digital platform for businesses. There is an effect for both small and medium businesses and the domestic IT industry. For instance, the following effect is expected for SMBs: a reduction of business expenses by at least 30 percent, an increase in sales by 20-40 percent within three years and a three-fold reduction of time to market.

In addition, according to analysts, the share of Kazakhstan content in the IT industry is expected to increase from 15 to 30 percent, domestic ICT companies will access the client base of over 200,000 SMB representatives. Our experts also predict a 25 percent reduction in ICT companies’ costs for marketing, sales and after-sales support of clients. As you can see, this is the essence of a project for businesses.

I am sure that in the near future, platform users will be able to assess the opportunities and trends that are created and implemented for them.