NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan has a strong basis for adopting new technologies, but there is a need for more specialists able to develop them, said Accenture Managing Director Anton Musin in an interview with The Astana Times.
“The adoption of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in Kazakhstan is on the way, I would say. I cannot say that Kazakhstan is at the frontier of that type of adoption, but the companies are trying to use it… What I will say, and what is important to say, is that Kazakhstan is not North Korea; it is quite an open country and it can import the technology quite easily. What’s important is that there is a sufficient level of technological basis to adopt already commercialised technologies. So, if something is available on the market, the managers of commercial IT companies can import and implement technologies in this country,” he said.
At the same time, there is a dearth of qualified development specialists.
“The lack that I see in Kazakhstan is on the other side, in developing such types of technologies when you need to create a new business model based on AI. Here you need more experts, more engineering types of minds… The problem is that we do not have enough people. We do not have enough engineers to develop our technology,” he added.
Given the costs of developing new technologies, it is wiser to focus on implementing them.
“Probably, strategically speaking, this is not the highest priority, because only a few countries in the world can afford developing this type of technology. Same here. Probably better for Kazakhstan on the government and country level to be focused on implementing AI technologies in different aspects, investing into the basis engineering capacities of people and new skills of the people,” said Musin.
He highlighted the financial sector as an area that would benefit significantly from implementing technologies.
“I believe that, of course, the financial sector, because we will use (bank) branches less. We will use more digital channels using the financial services, which means that you need to first recognise that it is me, Anton Musin, who is connected through his phone, so you need to identify me, you need to propose the product to me that I really need at the time when I need it. So, this is also a topic of the key areas where you can use these new technologies,” he said.
Other sectors, such as mining, oil and gas, could particularly benefit from implementing AI to improve safety.
“You should not forget the mining, oil and gas sectors, because there are a lot of implications where you can use AI. One of the examples is safety. I see an intent of the Kazakh market which is trying to implement these big data, machine-learning mechanics… What are the prediction analyses, the failure of the machines, for example? You can predict it if you measure and if you count and if you analyse the behaviour of these machines during the previous period. Then you can predict when something goes wrong, you change some parts of the machine and it works properly. Same for safety – if you control the worker, he goes in the right direction, he works on the towers and he does not go to the dangerous areas. Those types of things already are considered for implementation in Kazakhstan,” said Musin.
Given the early stage of execution, there is no reason to be worried about automating the Kazakh labour market. The process is underway, however, and strategies must be developed for teaching new skills to the labour force.
“I believe that the Kazakh economy is, first of all, a resource economy, so the resource companies are defining the majority of income. However, the service part is also quite big. I believe that we shouldn’t be so worried that machines will come and we will lose our jobs. At least this will not happen tomorrow, because the adoption of this type of technology will take time. It will probably take one generation to adopt. It is like the invention of the automobile. At the end of the day, the horse industry disappeared, but it took time, it took about 100 years… I believe that the people will be able to adopt. The question is, of course, new skills,” he added.
The way to deal with the demand for new skills, however, is still a challenge.
“This is one of the biggest challenges actually for the employers, to adapt the work force to the new realities. Because what do these companies have? They have need, they have a business demand for the new roles, and when we are trying to match these demands with people, you start with your existing team. You start to understand that you will have specific skills and the biggest problem that you very often see in Kazakhstan is the understanding that these people will not be able to adopt to the new realities. That is why this is one of the biggest challenges of the Kazakh companies. Because there are not so many ways (to deal with this issue) – either you fire them and then you need to hire new ones, but there are no new ones on the market, there is a limited number of people with the required skills, or you train them,” said Musin.
He proposed assigning workers to new projects and finding mentors as the best strategies for teaching new skills.
“In my perspective, I see two mechanisms that work as a good way for adopting new skills. The first one, you have to be on the project, you have to have new tasks to execute, and this is the only way you can do it. The second one is you need to have a coach, you need to coach people, and these coaches should have the right percentage of the so-called new skills,” he added.