ICT Agency to speed up digital transformation in Azerbaijan - deputy minister (Interview)

Economy Materials 13 October 2021 08:10 (UTC +04:00)
ICT Agency to speed up digital transformation in Azerbaijan - deputy minister (Interview)

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Oct. 13

By Sadraddin Aghjayev - Trend:

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on some measures in connection with improving governance in the field of digitalization, innovation, high technologies and communications on October 11.

In accordance with the document, the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies of Azerbaijan was renamed into the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport, as well as the Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the Agency for Innovation and Digital Development, were established.

Trend presents an exclusive interview with Deputy Minister of Digital Development and Transport of Azerbaijan Rovshan Rustamov who commented on the mentioned decree.

- What innovations will this decree bring to the ICT sphere in Azerbaijan?

- By the decree of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and High Technologies were renamed into the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport, and the Agency for Information and Communication Technologies and the Agency for Innovation and Digital Development was established under our ministry as public legal entities. The goal of transforming and creating new agencies is to expand the use of digitalization and innovation in the country, develop radio frequency spectrum management, communication and information technologies, improve regulatory mechanisms and create a healthy competitive environment. Besides, we expect that the quality of services, innovations, and investment attractiveness will be improved.

Moreover, this process sets new goals for the ministry and makes it necessary to speed up digital transformation in our country. According to the presidential decree of April 27, 2021, the ministry is responsible for organizing, coordinating and implementing activities in the field of digital transformation. Digital transformation is an important factor in ensuring the living conditions of citizens in accordance with modern standards. Our country is a supporter and participant of initiatives in this direction both at the national and international levels.

- What is meant by digital transformation and how will this process be organized?

- Digital transformation includes the transition to digital government, in which services are provided through the use of digital technologies, digital products are created, business processes are automated, a "digital society" is created, prepared and capable of using open data.

The Agency for Innovation and Digital Development, which will be created under the Ministry on the basis of this decree, will ensure the organization, coordination, implementation of activities, including control and regulation in the field of digital transformation. The agency will be created through the merger of the National Center for Nuclear Research CJSC, the Innovation Agency and the High Technologies Research Center. The agency will also promote and fund innovation-driven research and innovation projects, including start-ups, and carry out complex activities, scientific, scientific and technological, innovation activities and related experiments in high technology, nuclear science, nuclear technology and nuclear energy.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that one of the factors determining the success of the digital transformation is stable communication and high-speed and affordable Internet throughout the country. The acquisition of digital knowledge and skills through the use of modern Internet technologies is one of the drivers supporting digitalization and digital transformation in our country. That is why the ministry plans to implement large-scale projects in the field of fixed communications and high-speed Internet services.

- Can you please tell in detail about the work planned to be implemented in this direction

- There are two main areas that need to be addressed to increase the speed of the Internet: 1) Technology: new technological developments should allow people to use the fastest Internet possible; 2) Service areas: Internet package rates shouldn’t be high.

About 70 percent of fixed broadband Internet users in Azerbaijan receive Internet access services via ADSL. This technology has an upper limit of up to 10 Mbps. The only solution is to invest a large amount of funds in the modernization of infrastructure, and this is what the ministry has been working on for the past six months. Besides, we decided to jointly invest in the modernization of the fiber-optic cable network throughout the country on the basis of a public-private partnership of three companies - Aztelekom, Baktelecom and Azeronline. In parallel, negotiations are underway with some other private companies. By the end of 2024, it’s planned to provide the entire territory of the country with the Internet and bring the average Internet speed to at least 25 Mbit / s.

- Are the prices expected to rise as quality improves?

- In connection with the tariffs for Internet services, there are already serious innovations. These issues were carefully considered by Aztelekom and Baktelecom, and significant changes were made to them. Since August 2021, we have stopped supporting the lowest speed options in the ADSL segment. Since that date, we have also reduced tariffs and, according to the new tariffs, the actual price for 4 Mbit / s decreased from 20 manat ($11.7) to 13 manat ($7.6, i.e. by 35 percent), the price for 7 Mbit / s - from 40 manat ($23.5, i.e. by) to 16 manat ($9.4, i.e. by 60 percent). ) and the price of 10Mbit / s was reduced from 50 manat ($29.4) to 19 manat ($11.1, i.e. by more than 60 percent).

The current tariff policy will allow the population to use even higher Internet speed at a much lower price.

The increase in the average Internet speed in Azerbaijan is only part of the general situation. Over the next five years, it’s planned to increase fixed broadband Internet access to 100 percent, focusing on the latest GPON (Gigabyte Passive Optical Network) technology. In my opinion, the most optimal and effective way to achieve this goal is to establish cooperation with private Internet providers in the framework of a public-private partnership.

- What was the need to create an Agency for Information and Communication Technologies and what priorities in the ICT sector can be spoken about?

- To adapt to global technological transformations, it’s important to regulate the country's ICT sector and create more flexible governance mechanisms. For this reason, it was necessary to create a regulator which will be the Agency for Information and Communication Technologies. The same agency will implement the entire regulatory, pricing policy, as well as control over the quality and flexible development policy of this industry.

Besides, this agency will carry out certification, accounting, regulation and control (including quality control) in the field of information and communication technologies and communications, including the regulation of mutual relations between telecommunications operators and the management of the radio spectrum.

The presence of a regulator will accelerate digital transformation in cooperation with the digital economy and create a legal and regulatory framework, as well as increase the added value of the ICT sector for the country's economy.

Currently, due to the lack of a regulator, the country is being criticized by international organizations.

Lack of control over the development of mobile and fixed broadband and universal services in remote areas, regions and villages, lack of access to Internet services, as well as lack of pricing and quality policies create additional dissatisfaction and have a serious negative impact on the country’s technological readiness indicators. The agency's activities will also be aimed at overcoming difficulties in this area.