Digital Forum of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Takes Place in Kazakhstan for the First Time
On February 1, 2024, in Almaty, under the chairmanship of the Kazakh side, a meeting of the heads of ministries and agencies of the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) responsible for the development of information and communication technologies took place. The event is held within the framework of the Digital Almaty 2024 forum.
Leaders and representatives of the ministries and agencies of the SCO member states responsible for the development of information and communication technologies, as well as dialogue partners of the SCO, and representatives of diplomatic missions participated in the event.
The Minister of Digital Development, Innovations, and Aerospace Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Bagdat Musin, delivered welcoming remarks at the opening ceremony.
"Kazakhstan has achieved significant success in the field of digitalization, GovTech, and IT development, confidently leading among the Central Asian countries. Sustainable growth has turned the country into a leading economy in the region, resulting in an improvement in the standard of living and a reduction in poverty, with an average annual growth rate of 5%," noted Bagdat Musin.
According to the minister, Kazakhstan has established itself as one of the global leaders in the field of GovTech, and its electronic government products are highly rated in global rankings.
"At present, Kazakhstan, in support of friendly relations with Central Asian countries, has provided GovTech solutions ('Smart Bridge' Service Showcase, 'Unified Platform for Internet Resources of Government Agencies,' and the 'Smart Data Ukimet' information and analytical system) to the Republic of Tajikistan," added the minister.
The minister also highlighted successful Kazakhstani IT startups, residents of the international technopark Astana Hub. As of today, 12 regional technoparks have been opened as part of the President's directive to scale the experience of Astana Hub.
"The advantage and attractiveness of Astana Hub to international companies lie in visa and tax preferences, extraterritoriality, the possibility of online registration, and the launch of acceleration programs. Among the Central Asian regions, Astana Hub became the first partner of Google for Startups, within which a joint acceleration program 'Silkway Accelerator' was developed. Over the course of 2 years of collaboration, the result is a twofold increase in the number of graduate companies; these companies have already entered the markets of the Middle East, the USA, and Europe. Compared to the first 9 months of 2022 ($190.5 million USD), the export of IT services increased by 99%, reaching $373.4 million USD in the first 9 months of 2023," shared Bagdat Musin.
In order to determine mutually beneficial directions for digital cooperation and interaction, as well as to implement promising and long-term joint projects, Minister Bagdat Musin proposed the creation of a joint Alliance of technoparks of SCO member countries for the further development of an innovative ecosystem and comprehensive support for startup projects and IT companies.
"The main goal of the Alliance is to exchange startup projects and the experience of technoparks, provide assistance to startups in entering markets, create a common venture fund, conduct joint incubation and acceleration programs, provide free workspace with 24/7 access, the possibility of providing free accommodation for startups, scaling solutions in technoparks of SCO member countries, organizing B2B meetings, and providing grants and support measures," suggested the minister.
According to the minister, another area of cooperation to enhance technological connectivity with the global world could be the construction of fiber-optic communication lines. Utilizing Kazakhstan's high transit potential will provide significant advantages for our countries in connecting to the Internet and improve conditions for traffic flow across the Eurasian continent.
This will allow for the diversification of transit communication channels and expand our states' participation in the international data transit market. Therefore, it is proposed to consider the possibility of constructing fiber-optic communication lines connecting our countries along the route Russia-Kazakhstan-Iran, with access to the Indian Ocean.
Also, as part of the national project "Accessible Internet" in Kazakhstan, the construction of large data centers for processing and storing transit traffic is planned. In the context of SCO member countries' interaction and increasing transit potential, as well as the creation of a regional data hub, there is a proposal to combine efforts in developing joint data storage facilities.
In this regard, it is suggested to implement joint projects involving SCO countries, starting from the creation of satellites and ending with the implementation of digital platforms. The joint formation of satellite groups based on the capabilities of SCO member countries also involves providing shared access to satellite images of all participating countries. This will increase the frequency of satellite imagery of the same territory, enabling operational space monitoring of emergencies, natural resources, anthropogenic impact, and other aspects.
The integration of satellite monitoring data through the digitization of various economic sectors is a global trend. Digital platforms covering agriculture, water, land, natural resources, and subsurface use provide the opportunity for objective monitoring. The effective operation of such platforms depends on the regularity of satellite images. In turn, for launching these satellite data, it is proposed to use international spaceports.
"Positioning itself as a social state, Kazakhstan, whose highest values are people, their lives, rights, and freedoms, and creating favorable conditions for a better life, is open and calls for active mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of digitization, GovTech digital solutions, including the exchange of experience and knowledge in the field of AI with SCO member countries," summarized Bagdat Musin.
During the meeting, participants exchanged best practices in ICT in their countries, successful cases of digitalization of the SCO countries' economies, challenges, and prospects for digitalization for sustainable development, plans, and perspectives for the development of digitization and new technologies.
Countries also noted the existing problem of "digital divide" between different countries and social groups. With the aim of promoting digital partnership for sustainable development of the digital economy, the parties agreed to maintain and strengthen established connections, continuing the exchange of best practices in the field of information and communication technologies and facilitating the systematic reduction of the digital divide.
Meeting participants expressed the desire to deepen cooperation in the development of digital transformation and the digital economy, thereby giving a new impetus to the innovative technological development of SCO countries' economies.
The parties agreed on joint work to promote e-government solutions, exchange knowledge about successful practices, and explore opportunities for joint projects.
In the context of the development of digital transformation and modern information and communication technologies, meeting participants agreed on the need for further development of cooperation between SCO member states and acceptable forms of interaction for all countries.
In conclusion, the parties agreed that the next meeting of the heads of ministries and agencies of the SCO member states responsible for the development of information and communication technologies will take place in 2025 in China.
The organization of the SCO Digital Forum in Kazakhstan was initiated by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev during the SCO online summit on July 4, 2023. The head of state emphasized that systematic reduction of digital inequality should become a tangible priority in the SCO's activities.
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