State remains biggest PC purchaser in Kazakhstan: INTERVIEW with Kazakh Agency for Informatization and Communications chairman

Azerbaijan, Baku, Nov. 24 / Trend H. Valiyev /

The Kazakh Agency for Informatization and Communication Chairman Kuanysh Essekeev spoke in an interview with Trend .

Trend : What are the priorities of Kazakhstan's state ICT policy at this stage of the country's development? What lies in store for telecommunications amid global processes on the market? What technologies and solutions should receive priority status today?

Kuanysh Essekeev: The Kazakh Agency for Informatization and Communications and Zerde National Info-Communications Holding are creating a master plan to prioritize the most promising paths of developing telecommunications infrastructure in light of the country's industrial and innovative growth.

Seven prospective ICT spheres have been chosen after analyzing today's info-communications sector. Their support is very effective in achieving our goals. These spheres include postal and info-communications infrastructure modernization and development, high-tech equipment and microelectronics domestic production development, software and IT services development, Kazakh Internet development, info-communications education, e-government, data centers, and e-services.

The purpose of modernizing and developing info-communications infrastructure is to establish a unified communications space in Kazakhstan. This is necessary to reduce the backlog of most ICT penetration parameters in society - particularly, telephony and Internet penetration.

In the nearest future, key infrastructure development indicators will be increase the density of fixed-line subscribers from 25 per 100 inhabitants in 2010 to 34 per 100 inhabitants in 2014, increase the density of subscribers with Internet access from 23 per 100 inhabitants in 2010 to 42 per 100 inhabitants in 2014, and increase the density of subscribers with broadband access to the Internet from 10 per 100 inhabitants in 2010 to 30 per 100 inhabitants in 2014.

One can determine basic tasks in this direction, such as modernizing telecommunications infrastructure (introducing 3G, 4G, NGN and Wi-Max technologies) and developing postal infrastructure. Plans include implementing several major projects to upgrade existing infrastructure and actions to maintain telecommunications market growth within the sectoral master plan.

These projects include transferring the Kazakhtelecom's telecommunications network to Next Generation Network (NGN) technology with a capacity of 1 million subscribers, modernizing and developing telecommunications rural communications using CDMA technology, expanding the National Information Superhighway, introducing multi-service wireless data networks with a maximum coverage area based on Wi-Мax and continuing regional infrastructure technological innovations for the postal savings system, especially in rural areas.

A number of measures are envisaged by the state to ensure activities like converting the radio frequency spectrum to 450 MHz band. This will allow upgrading the CDMA-1 network to the CDMA EV-DO network. In doing so, we will be able to hold events to release frequencies to introduce 3G and 4G technologies.

The master plan's next priority is computer center development to create a national infrastructure for storing, processing and presenting large volumes of information. The major condition for sustainable ICT development in the country is developing info-communications education to create the necessary human capital.

Major activities in this direction are secondary and higher ICT education development, ICT research activities promotion and information inequality reduction. Operations will be conducted in this sector to develop the International University of Information Technologies, with the goal of establishing a Center for Advanced Studies info-communications branch. At least three ICT research laboratories based on the IT Park Alatau IT City will be set up in Almaty.

Software and IT services development is a necessary step to improve productivity in the Kazakh economy, as well as to create conditions for exporting high technology products and services. The main mechanism to implement these measures will be legislative provisions increasing the Kazakh content in projects realized with the participation of state and national holdings.

Moreover, a guarantee for a certain volume of consumption goods, operations and services of state-controlled organizations will be used to implement these projects.

At the same time, actions will be taken to prevent the creation of an artificial sales market for domestic IT companies through certification requirements meeting international standards. Kazakh legislation will be improved to ensure compliance with technical progress.

The tasks will be implemented via a combination of institutional investment and implementation mechanisms, such as co-financing the certification of Kazakh companies, as well as their participation in international industrial exhibitions.

The goal of developing domestic high-tech equipment and microelectronics production is to reduce dependence on imports while implementing infrastructure projects as part of our efforts to push the country's industrial and innovative development and create preconditions for high-tech products exports to regional markets.

The first action in this direction will be to organize production based on a conveyor of imported components together with global manufacturing leaders due to limited domestic market capacity and the lack of development on the microelectronic components domestic production market.

Global manufacturing leaders will provide technologies transfers and access to foreign markets, primarily to those in the region. The main production site for deploying production must be the IT Park Alatau IT City.

The condition for Kazakh society's transition to the informational stage is the development of the Internet's internal segment (Kaznet). Today roughly 2,400 Internet hosts have been registered in Kazakhstan per 1 million people, whereas in Russia this figure exceeds 34,000 hosts and in Germany - 274,000 hosts. Establishing e-trading platforms, e-glass cases and online shopping will attract small- and medium-sized businesses to this area. It will also reduce overhead costs of doing business and facilitate access to domestic products on foreign markets.

It is necessary to create conditions to significantly increase the number and quality of informational resources in the Kazakh, Russian and other languages in the Kazakh Internet segment to up the number of Kaznet users and enhance investment attractiveness.

The implementation of socially important infrastructure projects to develop Kaznet infrastructure is necessary to resolve this problem. It is necessary for the creation, collection, distribution and dissemination of e-information in a variety of technological formats, including news and media portals, search systems, blog platforms, e-mail portals, social networking and educational and children's Internet resources.

Major actions in this direction will be implemented through public and private partnership. Another important direction of ICT development is developing e-government and e-services. E-government has been successfully implemented since 2005. The number of services provided via the e-government Web portal (www.e.gov.kz) was 39 in 2009. Basic elements are operating of e-government, including inter-agency e-documents.

The establishment of a single, secure public body information landscape to provide integrated public services to citizens and businesses is also a task in the latest stage of e-government development. A modernized architecture will be developed to implement a common approach while developing e-government. This architecture provides a consistent mechanism for state development and integration of data and service informational systems, configuration management and e-government.

The master plan envisages modernizing the architecture of the e-government on the basis of international standards to ensure a smooth increase in the number of public services, and an increased number of granted priority public services in interactive and transactional modes, taking into account their priorities for society within this direction.

Q.: What actions are being taken to develop the Internet and computer technologies?

A.: The agency is working to reduce the dominant Kazakhtelecom operator's wholesale tariffs on secondary Internet service providers. This is a a priority area of Internet development in Kazakhstan. These tariffs are comparable to rates set for the end user. It is unacceptable in terms of creating conditions for developing competition.

The agency works to eliminate dominant operator cost barriers on hosting services, collocation and content services, and developing high-speed access via ADSL, Wi-Fi and Wi-Max technologies.

Wi-Max technology allows the implementation of high-speed Internet access with much greater bandwidth and coverage than a Wi-Fi network. It allows using technology as major channels. They are continuing traditional DSL-and allocated lines, as well as local area networks. As a result, this approach allows the creation of scalable, high-speed networks for entire cities.

Regarding computer technology development, basic e-government IT infrastructure has been set up in Kazakhstan. National registries are operating. A single point of access for e-services has been launched, including an e-government Web portal.

In general, standardizing planning and development, unifying automated systems, and reducing and unifying business processes at state-owned enterprises will provide governmental services for citizens via phone, meetings and Web sites. It will also reduce costs and simplify the interaction of private business with the government, reduce governmental operating costs, and open access to state institutions for people with limited physical opportunities.

Q.: What is the volume of computerization in Kazakhstan? Is the number of Internet users growing? How well developed is broadband?

A.: Hardware information and communications technologies are an important component of the overall situation with information and communications technologies.

The local hardware information and communications technologies market in Kazakhstan still consists of imported equipment.

Thus, the number of installed computers in Kazakhstan hit 1.625 million units in 2008, including desktop computers, mobile computers (laptops) and servers, according to IDC Central Europe GmbH. The level of computerization hit 10.25 computers per 100 people.

The state remains the largest purchaser of computers in Kazakhstan, providing various organizations with equipment ranging from ministries and agencies to schools and post offices. Public purchase procedures for computers has changed significantly. As a result, the government buys more locally assembled computers than internationally produced computers as opposed to 2000-2005. This step is very important on our path to supporting the domestic economy.

Today, the state supports local entrepreneurs who intend to produce computers and develop domestic software. Moreover, other mechanisms are used today, including improving the investments situation and accessing finances, as well as providing access to the IT park Alatau IT City's infrastructure. It should be noted that an important role played by the industrial park is to ensure the transfer of technologies and information. Its main value for the country is its potential as an educational tool.

In terms of users, the number of Internet users is growing in Kazakhstan.

Marketing research of Internet access shows steady growth in the demand for such a service.

2006

2007

2008

2009

Number of bids

620 000

860 000

3 505 000

4 890 000

Number of users

309 000

683 000

3 202 000

4 750 000

As of Nov. 1, 2009, roughly 100 percent of rural settlements in Kazakhstan have telephones. About 7,489 schools or 98 percent of 7,627 schools have telephones. The number of schools connected to the Internet hit 7,534 or 98.7 percent.

Wireless technologies have been introduced to provide broadband Internet access to subscribers who do not have a permanent connection to network operators, but need broadband services (such as entertainment centers, hotels, airports, etc.).

Communication operators who with ht eappropriate permission intend to develop a wireless network for voice and data on the basis of new technologies in Kazakhstan's regional centers.

The project will introduce roaming at fixed communications networks between data transmission networks, which will allow the formation of "Wi-Fi Hot Spots." A unified system of monitoring and network resources controls, as well as a system for ensuring clients and network safety will be created. The rapid deployment of radio access networks in rural areas with poorly developed telecommunications infrastructures will be ensured.

The completion of the last major segment of the Almaty-Karaganda-Astana National Information Superhighway can be emphasized among our many projects to enhance the technological component of the business and telecommunications network.

The project allowed important activities to be made toward creating a digital state, forming an e-government infrastructure, as well as a so-called informational society. Today, all major cities are connected by digital channels.

Q.: What steps are being taken toward e-government development?

A.: About 18 information systems operate in real mode. Another 12 systems are being operated in test mode. These systems are designed to automate the activities of state bodies and reduce the time necessary to provide services to consumers.

These systems include a public database of physical and legal entities, real estate, national certification centers and e-document.

However, state bodies render over 39 services, including 16 physical entities via an e-governmental service portal. Local executive bodies are implementing the e-akimat project. Information and interactive services are rendered to people and businesses.

Akims' offices in the regions and Astana and Almaty have been connected to the common e-document system.

A united blog platform was created in 2009. Blogs of ministry and departments heads have been posted there. Any citizen can ask a question and receive a detailed answer.

These actions allowed re-engineering and automating business processes of public authorities to provide services to the population and businesses. It led to a decline in the employment of public employees while rendering routine, standardized public services and minimizing direct contact of the population with state authorities.

It should be noted that e-government development in Kazakhstan is carried out dynamically in accordance with programs using modern IT.

Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at: с[email protected]

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