On 16 February 2022, the OECD, in co-operation with the Government of Uzbekistan, held the first virtual working group meeting of a peer review of digital skills policies for private-sector competitiveness in Uzbekistan. The event was organised as part of the OECD Policy Component of the EU Central Asia Invest initiative and brought together the OECD and representatives of the public and private sector in Uzbekistan.
The event was an opportunity to discuss recent digital policy efforts to support firms in Uzbekistan, and to identify priority issues for the review. Draft findings and recommendations will be discussed at the OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Roundtable in June 2022, and final recommendations will be endorsed by the government of Uzbekistan at the end of the year.
Opening the session, Mr Tengiz Asanov, Deputy-Head of Department at the Ministry of Trade and Investment, welcomed the deepening of the co-operation between the OECD and Uzbekistan, and the launch of this peer-review. He noted that the previous one on export promotion, carried out in 2017 and monitored last year, had provided relevant recommendations and capacity-building to his government. Mr Asanov noted the timeliness of the work on digital skills, as Uzbekistan adopted an ambitious digital strategy in 2020, and is now moving to the implementation phase, where OECD support is welcome.
Mr François Bégeot, Head of Co-operation at the EU Delegation to Uzbekistan, recognised the importance of the OECD peer-review process and the OECD Competitiveness Roundtable for Central Asia’s reform momentum. He also underlined its full alignment with the European Union’s agenda for Uzbekistan, and the region at large, and expressed his enthusiasm for the form of the peer-review exercise, praising the ongoing and collaborative nature of the work.
Ms Amélie Schurich-Rey, Economist and Policy Analyst in the OECD Eurasia Division, provided an overview of the context, objectives and methodology of the peer-review, highlighting that it will aim at developing recommendations for an institutional framework that helps firms acquire needed digital skills. Three main dimensions will be considered: (i) a supportive institutional and policy framework, (ii) firm’s awareness of their digital skills needs, and (iii) the provision of tools for firms to acquire the latter. She then also shared case-studies and a preliminary assessment of the state of play in Uzbekistan on each of these dimensions.
Complementing this presentation, Mr Sherzod Atajanov, Head of Department of Interactive Services for Business Administration, Agency for Mahallabay Work and Entrepreneurship development (former Agency for Development of Small Business and Entrepreneurship) detailed the main changes made to the mandate of the Agency, in particular its focus on providing digital support for business development, as well as in increasing the level of digital literacy in Uzbekistan.
Concluding the second session, Ms Carlotta Moiso, Policy Analyst, OECD Eurasia Division, discussed recent policy efforts to support the digital transformation of businesses in the Eastern Partner Countries, based on the recent OECD report Beyond COVID-19 Advancing Digital Business Transformation in the Eastern Partner Countries.
Concluding the working group, Mr Asanov offered some closing remarks to the session, thanking the EU for the support and noting the project’s importance for the country as it charts its recovery from the pandemic.