On 14 March, the most recent OECD analysis aimed at supporting the digital uptake of firms in Kazakhstan was presented and discussed at an OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Roundtable in presence of the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry of Kazakhstan, the European Union, and experts from Latvia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The report and the discussions highlighted that digitalisation can support Kazakhstan’s diversification agenda by contributing to private-sector growth and competitiveness. The country pioneered digitalisation reforms in Central Asia, adopting a digital programme as part of its economic policy as early as 2013. The Digital Kazakhstan Strategy launched in 2018 and the more recent Digital Era Lifestyle programme have been successful in developing a comprehensive digital government system and creating the legal and regulatory conditions for the digital transition of the national economy. Yet the digital uptake of businesses still remains limited as only 11% of firms report using digital technologies, and the number could be even lower for small firms.
In particular, remaining digital connectivity gaps, in terms of mobile internet quality and low coverage in several rural and small urban areas, impede firms’ adoption of digital technologies. These are related to persistently high regulatory and economic barriers in the telecom sector, which prevent deployment of new infrastructure, but also to a regulatory framework for businesses that is not evolving in line with the new needs and challenges created by the digital age.
The OECD report therefore suggests three sets of recommendations. On access, mobilising the regional public sector to improve quality and coverage of mobile and fixed networks, and improving the collection and use for policy development of data on business use and needs in relation to digital services and infrastructure. On financing, setting-up an independent national regulator for the telecom sector to foster competition and developing an investment attraction strategy for “next generation” communication networks. And for the regulatory framework, adapting the legal and regulatory policy framework for firms to the requirements of the digital age and developing targeted advisory services and trainings on digital security risk management for firms.