On 11 May 2022, the OECD, in co-operation with the Government of Uzbekistan and with the EU’s financial support, held in Tashkent the second 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 opened on a presentation of the latest OECD insights on the key macro-economic impacts of Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia on the region. The OECD then presented its draft findings and suggested recommendations for the digital uptake of the private sector basedon three key dimensions: the institutional framework for digitalisation policies, raising awareness of the positive effects of digitalisation to the private sector, and providing incentives and tools to the private sector to go digital. Experts from the OECD, Korea and Estonia also provided their perspective, in particular on self-assessment diagnostic tools (OECD), co-ordination and policy framework (Korea, Estonia). Draft findings and recommendations of the report will be discussed at the OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Roundtable in October 2022, and final recommendations will be endorsed by the government of Uzbekistan at the end of the year.
Opening the session, Mr Laziz Kudratov, First Deputy Minister of Investment and Foreign Trade & Director General of the Strategic Development Agency, welcomed the deepening of the co-operation between the OECD and Uzbekistan. He recalled that Uzbekistan had embarked on an ambitious digitalisation journey, with the adoption of the Digital Uzbekistan 2030 strategy. He also touched upon the digital objectives of the newly adopted 2022-2026 development strategy.
Ms Charlotte Adriaen, Ambassador of the European Union to Uzbekistan, recognised the importance of the OECD peer-review process and the OECD Competitiveness Roundtable for Uzbekistan’s reform momentum. She also underlined the potential of digitalisation for job creation, and welcomed Uzbekistan’s encouraging results in UNDP’s latest digital assessment.
Mr Grégory Lecomte, Head of Unit for Central Asia in the OECD Eurasia Division, summarised the OECD’s main insights on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the region. He then presented the transmission channels of the twin effects of the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia on Central Asia, and described initial policy responses undertaken by the Government of Uzbekistan to mitigate the impacts of the crisis.
Ms Céleste Laporte Talamon, Policy Analyst in the OECD Eurasia Division, presented the OECD’s draft findings and preliminary recommendations to support the digital skills’ uptake of the private sector in Uzbekistan. Three main dimensions were considered: (i) a supportive institutional and policy framework, (ii) firm’s awareness of their digital skills needs, and (iii) the provision of digital tools and incentives for firms.
Mr Zukhriddin Shadmanov, Deputy Director of the Digital Economy Research Centre under the Ministry for the Development of Information Technologies and Communications presented Uzbekistan’s latest improvements in the development of ICT infrastructure. He then recalled the objectives of the Digital Uzbekistan 2030 strategy, and highlighted Uzbekistan’s potential to become a regional digital hub.
In the next session, Ms Kersti Kuusksalu, Digitalisation Topic Manager at the Business and Innovation Agency in Estonia, detailed the challenges associated with raising awareness of Estonian SMEs on digitalisation and how digital upskilling must be associated with financial support to acquire digital hardware. Then, Mr David Halabisky from the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities outlined how digital business diagnostic tools can help firms improve management practices and performance.
In the last panel, Mr Insung Kwon from the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities provided an overview of Korea’s digitalisation strategy and showed the evolution of its institutional framework to better support SME digitalisation. Mr Jae Won Kang, Senior researcher at the Korea Small Business Institute (KOSI), provided comments and insights into the Korean digital journey.
Concluding the working group, Mr Rustamkhon Azizov from the Strategic Development Agencyprovided some closing remarks to the session, thanking the EU for the support and noting the project’s importance for the country.