On 25 May 2022, the OECD, in co-operation with the Government of Kazakhstan, held the second working group meeting of the ongoing peer review on framework conditions for the digital transformation of businesses in Kazakhstan. 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 Nur-Sultan.
Opening the session, Mr Arman Kenzhegaliyev, Head of Office of the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry, expressed his Ministry’s full support to the OECD peer-review, addressing an important topic in Kazakhstan’s policy agenda. He then discussed the highlights of recent policy reforms, in particular the further development of e-government services, the creation of a supportive start-up environment around the Astana Hub, and new efforts to foster digital skills at all stages of the educational system.
Mr Johannes Stenbaek-Madsen, Head of Co-operation at the EU Delegation to Kazakhstan, welcomed the continuous cooperation between the OECD and the Government, emphasizing its important role in Central Asia’s reform momentum. He also underlined the importance of sound framework conditions for a successful digital transformation, and the timeliness of the topic.
To frame the substantive discussion, Mr Grégory Lecomte, Head of the OECD Central Asia Unit, provided an overview of the key macro-economic impacts of Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia on the region. Ms Amélie Schurich-Rey, Economist and Policy Analyst in the OECD Eurasia Division then presented the draft findings and suggested recommendations of the review to address remaining gaps in the framework conditions for the digital uptake of firms in Kazakhstan.
While acknowledging Kazakhstan’s successful digital reforms, she highlighted three remaining barriers to the digital uptake of firms. On the access and financing side, remaining digital connectivity gaps in terms of quality and use slowdown firms’ adoption of digital technologies, while persistently high regulatory and economic barriers prevent the diversification of digital service providers. Finally, new challenges created by the digital transformation, in particular regarding data and intellectual property right protection, have not yet been fully integrated in the regulatory framework for firms, creating new operational barriers.
Concluding this first session, Mr Talgat Maratov, Chief Manager of the Office of Corporate Innovation and Digital Competencies of Astana Hub, detailed the government’s focus on building a comprehensive start-up ecosystem and developing advanced digital skills as part of the different initiatives hosted by the Astana Hub.
Inaugurating the capacity-building session, Mr Insung Kwon, Policy Analyst, Digital for SMEs Global Initiative (D4SME) in the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities, provided an overview of the interconnection between the quality and affordability of digital connectivity and the digital transformation of firms. He then provided a specific analysis of the demand-side digital gap for firms in Kazakhstan, where slow internet speed might prevent the adoption of digital technologies and hinder their productivity growth.
Concluding the second session, Mr Juri Joema, Advisor at the Estonia ICT cluster, presented Estonia’s experience in creating an independent national regulator for the telecom sector, discussing its main legal and operational features. He concluded by discussing its main pro-competitive effects on the Estonian telecom market, before outlining the key steps to consider when setting up such an institution.
Mr Kenzhegaliyev provided some closing remarks to the session, thanking the OECD and the EU for the support and noting the project’s importance for the country.