Azerbaijan, Baku, May 1 /Trend, G.Veliyev/
Trend interview with head of Microsoft in Azerbaijan Teymur Akhundov.
Trend: What works are done in combating piracy in the sphere of intellectual property rights in Azerbaijan? The Copyright Agency submitted Microsoft a plan to combat piracy. What measures will be taken under the plan and how Microsoft is interested in this plan?
Teymur Akhundov: Indeed, we have developed a joint plan with the State Copyright Agency, initiated by the Agency itself. We are certainly interested in implementing an action plan to combat piracy, in the same way as the Copyright Agency and other organizations whose activities are closely linked to intellectual property. I believe that the experience of Microsoft may be useful and applicable in Azerbaijan. Ultimately, we see that this cooperation is mutually beneficial.
Since opening the Microsoft office in Azerbaijan, we started to quite closely working with the State Copyrights Agency. With this organization, we have achieved a very good level of understanding on all issues relating to copyright, and look forward to further cooperation with it.
Q: What results have been achieved in the field of intellectual property protection in recent years?
A: In general, we see improvement. We have both subjective and objective indicators. The subjective is that people have understanding of the issues. The understanding of intellectual property and copyrights has the right to exist not only in developed countries, but also in Azerbaijan. Of course, this does not happen immediately.
Four years ago, when Microsoft opened an office in Azerbaijan, many were surprised and asked question: "How does Microsoft plan to develop business in Azerbaijan if people simply do not understand why to buy it, if it is possible to get free of charge?".
The situation today is not opposite, but is getting better and today the question has more dominated: "when and for how much?". That is, the market moves into the area of normal business relations.
And the objective indicator is stating the specific facts and figures. According to the data provided by BSA [Business Software Alliance], over the past few years we have seen steady improvement in the situation. So, if in 2007 the piracy rate was 94 percent, according to data, in 2009, this figure was 90 percent. Another report of BSA is expected to be published soon, and we look forward to further improvement of these indicators. Of course, these figures are still very high, but the main thing is that we see a tendency towards improvement.
Q: It is known that Microsoft has concluded several agreements on the legalization of software. How does this process continue, and with what organizations does Microsoft plans to conclude such agreements in the future?
A: We are considering the possibility to conclude an agreement on corporate licensing with all organizations that use products of Microsoft. In reality, today we have an Enterprise Agreement with the Ministry of Communications & Information Technologies, Ministry of Economic Development, as well as with companies that operate in the financial and telecommunications sector. According to the contract on corporate licensing, these organizations have fully legalized Microsoft software on all computers. Furthermore, the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement provides organizations with additional preferential terms. We are absolutely confident that this process will continue.
Q: What is Microsoft's strategy to promote legal products among ordinary users?
A: We really want to bring the level of legal products in Azerbaijan to the level in developed country, where the question of the use of legal software is not discussed practically. Nevertheless, we are living in conditions of objective reality and realize that it is probably not available for every ordinary user due to economic considerations. The solution to this question will probably be linked to future economic development and well-being of citizens.
To promote legal products to the masses, we have initiated People's Computer project, which we implement in cooperation with the Ministry of Communications & Information Technologies, Ministry of Education, state enterprises and our partners in the market. This project, in fact, is aimed directly at ordinary users, of which main task is to provide the users with the possibility of using high technology with pre-legal software on favorable terms and at affordable prices.
Q: Talking about government procurement of software, could you tell how sales of licensed products of Microsoft have increased?
A: Since opening the Microsoft office in Azerbaijan, the sale of licensed products in the country has grown by five or six times, and we expect further growth. The market potential is big enough for both the development of further business of Microsoft, and for other companies that work in the field of intellectual property.
Q: How do you assess the level of informatization of public services in Azerbaijan, given Microsoft's experience in implementing works for e-governments in other countries? What efforts should be made in Azerbaijan in order to make the transition to e-government more dynamic?
A: There are several stages of development of e-government, starting from simple information provided by government agencies through their online resources, finishing with an integrated, complex interaction between government agencies themselves, with the business sector and the community.
Today Azerbaijan is at an early stage of e-government and still there is an enough long way. Today we can see many good examples of introduction of elements of e-government. Now we are talking about the elements of e-government, so to speak about completed integrated systems is not necessary. Still few countries, and perhaps no country has achieved full implementation of "e-government". Probably one of the reasons is that the e-government is not an end point, but an endless movement on the improvement and advancement.
Today, in Azerbaijan it is already possible to obtain information about the activities of some public institutions without the need to visit personally. The country is expanding the use of electronic payment systems that allow citizens, having home computer and internet access, to pay for utilities, telecom, etc. The introduction of "single window" for registration of private companies has greatly facilitated the lives of citizens who intend to start their own business. So today in Azerbaijan there are many positive examples of the introduction of elements of e-government.
Q: Solutions for e-government require significant financial resources. How is it possible to measure the effectiveness of investments in the creation of e-government and what economic effect can its creation bring to Azerbaijan?
A: There are two aspects on which you should consider this issue. There is an aspect that can be measured directly in the conditional or actual financial units. And there is an important aspect, which is much harder to be measured. Firstly the introduction of e-government is to improve the efficiency of the entire state system. This dramatic reduction of time to be necessary for individuals, small and medium business or other public organizations to obtain the necessary information for interaction with other organizations. This is an improvement in the activities of public institutions, reduction of bureaucracy, the potential reduction in daily routine work carried out, which is much easier to automate and make more effective.
Perhaps all these can be calculated in some figures and units, we can calculate how much it will be economically effective, given that people will spend less time and will be respectively engaged in useful work, and what economic benefits it will bring . And the area is less measurable, but important, so the citizens will feel much more comfortable and more protected from unnecessary bureaucracy.
Q: What Microsoft solutions in the field of e-government have been introduced today at the state agencies, and what tasks can the state organizations solve using Microsoft systems?
A: Microsoft has a fairly large number of products and electronic platforms that are currently used in the creation of e-government. There are two examples here. We are part of a group of companies that are now working actively to implement the system of education on the electronic basis. It is also one of the solutions of e-government, which includes the transfer of the education system to a new level of interaction of teachers with pupils and teachers with parents.
The introduction of information technologies in the education sector can make the learning process at secondary schools more transparent and efficient. Parents are kept informed of events taking place at school. They get information online, which is protected and belongs only to them. Now as part of a pilot project, dozens of schools in Baku have already connected to the electronic system. Mechanisms are developed which will be used at secondary educational institutions in Baku and Sumgait, and eventually all schools of Azerbaijan. This project is at its quite active stage, and we hope soon to achieve concrete results.
An important project realized in Azerbaijan today is the project on digital signature. Microsoft, as part of the consortium, is one of the main participants in this project. Electronic signature is the main base for many future decisions in the field of e-government, because in accordance with the Law on Electronic Signature, all communications carried out between the citizens and government agencies in electronic form shall be fixed this signature. The electronic signature ensures the authenticity of an individual seeking a specific query in this or other organization, as well as that the signed document during transmission over the network will not be distorted. That is, the digital signature ensures fast, error-free and efficient exchange of information. Today the project is under testing.
Q: Due to the development of IT infrastructures, great importance is attached to IT-security. What specialized solutions and products do you offer for the information security of state institutions?
A: Microsoft has a number of products that address security issues for both the complex systems used at large public organizations, and not expensive, but often free of charge systems that are offered as part of operating systems.
However, talking about the security while using illegal software is not possible. If the computer is used with jeopardized operating system, it is impossible to speak about any level of security.
Q: How will the informatization of public authorities develop in 2010-2012?
A: Information systems that are now used at public and private enterprises are much more advanced than those which were introduced about five or ten years ago. Today, other level of vision, other level of understanding is a trend, a tendency that will continue. In the future, it is expected to invest significantly more resources for information technology, and more public and private sector will build their activities based on complex information systems. It is not because of tribute to fashion and not because it is a requirement of the supervisory agencies, but because they realize that it is effective and necessary. And I am absolutely sure that this process will continue further.
Q: How did the crisis affect the activities of Microsoft?
A: The products that we now started to offer to market actually enable the users to save money by improving the existing infrastructure, improving operations and enhancing the security of internal systems. Ultimately, the customers will be able to save much more money than they spend on the development of information systems.
Certainly, many felt the crisis, including Microsoft, but fortunately the global financial-economic crisis did not so seriously affect the company. I think that the crisis actually helped us at least make the right conclusions and orient in place where it makes sense to invest in order to further avoid many problems that arose at that stage. I am absolutely sure that the information technology sector is one of the areas where it is reasonable to invest.