Kazakhstan Hosts First SCO Digital Forum, Announces New Initiatives 

ASTANA – The first day of the Digital Almaty 2024 forum featured the inaugural meeting of the heads of ministries and agencies of the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) responsible for the development of information and communication technologies (ICT), reported the press service of the forum. 

The opening session of the forum. Photo credit: Digital Almaty 2024 forum.

Participants from the SCO countries exchanged best practices in ICT, ready to give a new impetus to the innovative technological development. The discussions also focused on eliminating the digital divide between the states. With the aim of promoting partnership for sustainable development of the digital economy, the parties agreed to deepen cooperation. 

Digital alliance of technoparks of the SCO member states 

As part of the sixth forum in Almaty, Kazakh Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry Bagdat Mussin proposed the creation of a joint alliance of technoparks of the SCO member countries. Such partnership, according to him, will ensure comprehensive support for startup projects and IT companies.

Kazakh Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry Bagdat Mussin. Photo credit: Digital Almaty 2024 forum.

“The main goal is to exchange startup projects and the experience of technoparks, assist startups in market entry, create a common venture fund, train within joint incubation and acceleration programs, design free workspace with a 24-hour access, provide free accommodation for startups, scale solutions in technoparks of the SCO member countries, organize B2B meetings, and provide grants and support measures,” said Mussin.

He emphasized that Kazakhstan is “open and calls for active cooperation in digitization, GovTech digital solutions, including the exchange of experience and knowledge in artificial intelligence (AI) with the SCO member countries.”

Construction of fiber-optic communication lines

Another possible area of cooperation to enhance technological connectivity with the global world is the construction of fiber-optic communication lines along the Russia-Kazakhstan-Iran route with access to the Indian Ocean. This will diversify transit communication channels and expand participation of the SCO countries in the international data transit market. 

Kazakhstan’s high transit potential will facilitate traffic flow across the Eurasian continent. Kazakh authorities are also ready to combine efforts in developing joint data storage facilities. The construction of large data centers for processing and storing transit traffic is part of the Accessible Internet national project in Kazakhstan (the initiative aims to provide the population with broadband access to the worldwide network at a speed of at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps). 

In this regard, Mussin stressed the relevance of implementing new projects, starting from the creation of satellites to the establishment of new digital platforms.

The formation of satellite groups based on the capabilities of SCO member countries also involves providing shared access to satellite images of all participating countries. This will increase the frequency of satellite imagery of the same territory, enabling operational space monitoring of emergencies, natural resources, and anthropogenic impact.

Kazakhstan is ready to share IT expertise 

The forum began its work with the panel session dedicated to the GovTech platform and digital tools for public administration modernization. Kazakhstan, according to the minister, boasts  a huge ecosystem of e-government. Kazakh IT specialists are ready to share knowledge with foreign partners.    

Photo credit: Digital Almaty 2024 forum.

“As a GovTech leader, we see it as our responsibility to share our expertise and even ready-made products. In 2023, three systems were transferred to Tajikistan. We offer successful and proven products to our partner countries free of charge,” he said. 

As a case in point, some of the country’s cutting-edge projects include Smart Bridge, a platform for simplified integration process between government and private sector information systems, Smart Data Ukimet, a space for cross-data analysis and decision-making support, or GOV.kz, a unified and standardized platform for the websites of all government structures. 

Digitized approach is also used in other fields. For example, e-Notary, which integrated public notaries in Kazakhstan, helps to eliminate any illegitimate or fraudulent dealings. The E-Otinish platform allows citizens to file and review appeals. Its space monitoring system also ensures transparency in the operations of subsoil use entities and identifies unused agricultural land. A new architecture for storing medical data, for instance, is provided by the E-Densaulyk project. 

“Digital Almaty is a unique platform that brings together business representatives, international experts, and the IT community. This is a place where startups have the opportunity to demonstrate their ideas and find investors. The ideas developed in this forum lead to real solutions,” he said, bringing an example of the Silkroad Innovation Hub in Silicon Valley.

Opened in September last year, the Silkroad Innovation Hub networking center in California offers a set of incentives for regional start-ups from Central Asia and Turkic states to partner with global investors and business incubators. By 2030, it is expected that the private initiative will result in the establishment of five unicorns (companies valued at over US$1 billion), $300 million in investments in startups, and $1.5 billion in exports of IT services from the region.

The next meeting of the heads of ministries and agencies of the SCO member states on digitalization is scheduled for next year in China. 

The initiative to organize the digital forum of the SCO member states was put forward by President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev during the online summit of the organization on July 4, 2023. 

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