Kazakhstan 2020: Prospects, Aspirations
Since Kazakhstan is aspiring to become the leader of the region, this can only be possible through an innovative and strong industry-based economy, and optimum utilisation of existing skilled human resources
The advent of technological revolution has transformed the connectivity of the world to a greater extent. The technology is also playing a significant role in the development of the countries than ever before. In today’s world, almost 40 percent of the population has access to the internet, and they are utilising several ways of technological advancement to finding solutions to their daily challenges. Kazakhstan is one country that we must take notice of relating to the use of technological advancement in the new age. The country, being a ninth largest landlocked state in the Central Asian region and the world, is currently investing tremendously in digitalizing not only its economy but also the governance structures as well to reduce its dependence on oil and gas sector, and aspires to enhance its international competitiveness. With a population of 18 million, Kazakhstan is looking for tangible outcomes by moving with the fast pace of technology and providing ample support to address the challenge of large distances and connections. The first ever five-year program for “Digital Kazakhstan -2020” will start from 2017.
There is a remarkable increase in the number of Internet users in Kazakhstan recently thanks to a large number of modern telecom infrastructure as a result of the visionary leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Keeping in view the significance of technology, Kazakhstan aspires to become one of the 30 most competitive countries in the world with the announcement of this program. The initiative is launched by the government with expected support from the World Bank as well as assistance from mobilising the private investments and opportunities. The program will help improve the lives of public and business enterprises through greater access to the public services and faster exchange of information. This will also contribute to provide larger business opportunities to the emerging market hence improving the competitiveness of the economy manifolds. According to the information about the program, it will be implemented in four key focus areas. First, is creating the “Digital Silk Road” which will provide support in the development of digital infrastructure, then the second area will be to raise awareness amongst the business and other sectors to enhance competitiveness. The third area will be to begin establishing a digital government through improved electronic and mobile government systems, hence making government more open and transparent with significant emphasis on the supply of public services. Lastly, the program is aimed to provide a way to create a society which is receptive to the new emerging trends and challenges by developing the required skills for the digital economy hence upgrading the digital literacy and training at all levels of the society.
By creating such an environment, the dividends for Kazakhstan will be manifolds. They will be marked and determined by the strategic and development objectives of the government. This will provide a boost to the improved efficiency and transparency of the public administration and transformed government structure. This transformation will help improve the labour productivity, save time, develop businesses of small and medium-sized enterprises. The country also intends to open its “Silicon Valley” as an international industrial park to introduce technologies in the field of IT. There will be tax exemptions, simplified visa regimes and labour for investors and businessmen from different countries in Kazakhstan “Silicon Valley”. The aim is to attract the dynamic and talented youth of the country to connect with international markets and realise their dreams and ideas in Kazakhstan. As the language of the technology is English, so the country is also planning to introduce compulsory English language teaching at the primary and secondary levels. Another step that has been taken towards innovation is by providing the free vocational training and education to the young people, i.e. investing in human capital. By starting such programs, Kazakhstan is creating a quality foundation for the future to implement the programs like “Digital Kazakhstan — 2020” successfully.
In Kazakhstan, the use of innovation is the key to the growth in all the sectors especially social services and industrial development. Since Kazakhstan is aspiring to become the leaders of the region, this can only be possible through innovative and strong industry-based economy, and optimum utilisation of existing skilled human resources. This is high time for Kazakhstan for economic transformation and modernization with less emphasis and burden on the mining sector, but much focus is on reformatting the basic industries. For instance, Kazakhstan is betting on the development of agricultural and planning base to make the country world’s largest manufacturer of agricultural finished products. For this matter, the base is still there, and the transformation is given to the processed agricultural sector so that finish product from the markets of Kazakhstan may go around the world hence increasing the share of non-oil exports twice by 2025. Kazakhstan has also learned from the successful experience of the other countries also, and through this the comprehensivesynchronisation of the economic and political sector is necessary. There is a harmoniouspublic-private partnership in the country which has created an environment for successful development. The country is also preparing for the unprecedented constitution reforms which will provide many presidential powers to the Parliament and the government. This will help further the country to democratise its entire political system.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has a vibrant digital technological sector, and there is huge area for entrepreneurs for Kazak businessmen and companies to invest and collaborate with the counterparts in Pakistani market. With the dynamic and large number of people utilising the new technology in Pakistan, the industry is thriving.
By Muhammad Asif Noor,
The writer is Director, Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies, Islamabad