Expert review: Prospects of ICT market in Azerbaijan in 2011

Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec. 27 / Trend H. Valiyev /

The growth in the Azerbaijani information technology (IT) sector hit 30 percent in 2010. Despite of the fact that the major catalyst for economic growth in Azerbaijan is the oil and gas sector, the field of IT is also increasing in capacity each year with revenues and demand for the sector steadily increasing despite the global financial crisis.

In 2010, the telecommunications market did not witness much change with the growth mainly due to mobile communications. The important advances, including appearing and promoting such promising technologies as 3G, WiMAX, were also noted on the broadband market, after being developed specifically in 2010 and giving hope for further positive changes in the coming year.

Trend Agency presents leading experts' forecasts for developing the ICT sector in Azerbaijan.

Isfandiyar Aliyev, Director of the Department on Scientific Potential and Strategic Planning under the Azerbaijani Communications and IT Ministry

A 30-32-percent growth is expected to be observed in the communications and information technology sector in 2010 as opposed to 2009, when the growth rate declined slightly by reaching 14 percent. It exceeds the world average figures three times. Growth rates will be maintained in the coming year.

2010 has proved to be productive from the standpoint that a number of important projects of national importance have been adopted this year, including the activities program to form "Electronic Government" in the republic in 2010-2011, State program on development of communications and information technology for 2010-2012 (E-Azerbaijan). There was also significant progress to form space industry in Azerbaijan and the electronization of telephone network of general use was also nearing completion. Significant achievements were achieved in the construction of the transnational information superhighway "East-West".

Work is expected to continue on all these projects and programs next year. In particular, it is expected that work on the formation of the E-government infrastructure will be accelerated in 2011. The centers issuing electronic signatures will be also commissioned and the transition to electronic services will be accelerated. The concrete work on the project of creating the Transnational Information Superhighway "East-West" will be conducted while the project of constructing the regional innovation zones will also be implemented.

Galib Gurbanov, the head of the Internet community in Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijani Internet market developed rapidly in 2010 with some differences witnessed this year compared to 2009. Significant progress was also observed in the area of broadband services and many providers significantly reduced the dial-up services, despite many users still using dial-up. The situation in this direction may be changed in 2011 and a state strategy of developing broadband Internet in Azerbaijan will make great contribution in reducing dial-up connections.

Wireless access both in Baku and at the regional level develop rapidly. However, computerization and high-speed Internet access are not enough if there is no content. The broadband access is not an end in itself. Instead, it is the means for rapid information exchange for people to be able to use content services more effectively in order to increase the intellectual level and well-being of the people. That is why, online services such as electronic banking, electronic commerce, distance learning, etc are required given the availability of broadband infrastructure.

It is required to increase the quality of the providers' services and to further reduce the tariffs in order to ensure the rapid development of Internet. I think that all this will be reflected in the new strategy as this initiative comes directly from the state.

Teymur Akhundov, head of Microsoft Azerbaijan

In Azerbaijan, there is great interest in information technology (IT), as well as understanding the importance of using IT in virtually in all areas of the country, including state organizations, private companies, large commercial organizations, etc. Of course, this situation makes us happy as it shows that we are moving in the right direction.

Today, many organizations see the need and begin practical using of information systems without hesitation. Everyone understands and we see the transition to concrete and real projects in the state and commercial organizations.

We work closely with the Azerbaijani Education Ministry and the Communications and IT Ministry.

A few years ago, we dealt with the idea and purposes of IT and providing schools with computers. But today we are talking about using distance learning systems, which have already shown their viability.

Today, the increase is obvious in absolute and relative figures. Speaking about Microsoft products, in this case, relates to the use of licensed software in state organizations, large companies, as well as small and medium business. I think that this progress in the future will reach home users as all this directly reduces the level of piracy in Azerbaijan. It is reduced by 2 percent on the average, dealing with the fact that there is a tendency and we expect its further increasing.

We take a positive aim at 2011 and expect successful promotion of our new products, which include a new operating system Windows 7, an office package Microsoft Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, etc. We also expect major agreements with both state and large commercial organizations, reducing piracy in the country and, in general, changes and improvements in this area.

Rufat Hajialibayov, the head of HP Azerbaijan representation

I consider this year as positive despite failures by many countries to succeed in business given the economic crisis. Even so, Azerbaijan came out first among the CIS countries as far growth in business is concerned.

The retail industry is well-developed in the country. Sales of Pavilion laptop computers showed significant growth in 2010, while records show a significant increase in standard servers. It is also interesting to note that more laptop computers have been sold in relation to desktop systems this year. In general, developments in the market exceeded our expectations.

Of course, the crisis was more evident in the failure of businesses to optimize production, rather than in their decline. Customers came to reconsider IT investments. Earlier, customers purchased everything while giving little consideration to their savings. This year, however, they stopped to assess the IT infrastructure first, taking into account the return on their investments before buying anything. They then only invested amounts they deemed necessary. Thus, today we have more effective systems in place to maintain business, given recent changes with a view to future growth.

We expect to preserve the trends of development in 2011. Certainly, no customer will withhold  from allocating funds necessary to develop and modernize the IT sphere, because it is directly tied to business development. I think that the market will be more biased toward  the implementation of various IT solutions in 2011. Customers will be rational in their investments as they were this year. In this case, we expect more development on the telecommunication market in the state and education sectors.

Speaking about the telecommunication market, I think that due to the deployment of the 3G standard of the Azerbaijani mobile operator, the Azercell company may have an impact on the expansion and growth in business development of both the operator and elsewhere.

Rasim Aliguliyev, the director of the institute of information technologies of the Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences

I am delighted with the state of the ICT market this year. Great achievements were accomplished in different areas this year. The Azerbaijani Communications and IT Ministry implemented fruitful projects.

The scientific field boasts immense achievements, and this year also saw the across the board application of information technology in education, science, state organizations and society as a whole. All this testifies to the dynamic development of information technology in the country. The economic indices for the ICT sector are also attractive. It increasingly turns into an alternative to the oil and gas sector as a means of growth and development.

The Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences has been elected as a full member to the Trans-European association of research and education networks (TERENA) this year.

The scientific computer network AzScienceNet established a team of Computer Emergency Response AZ-CERT within its domian. AzScienceNet was connected to TERENA.

Each organization faces specific objectives to put into practice information technology within the ICT development strategy and state programs approved by the president.

The Academy of Sciences concluded this year with great achievements. Of course, expectations are that Azerbaijan will reach significant results in the ICT field,and will continue to integrate into the global information society in 2011.

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