On 20 September, the OECD, in co-operation with the Government of Kazakhstan, held the third and final working group meeting for the peer review on improving 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, the European Union and representatives of the public and private sector in Kazakhstan.
Opening the session, Mr Malik Olzhabekov, Vice-Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry, emphasised that Kazakhstan embarked on its transition to a digital society, including the development of qualitative IT infrastructure, innovative ecosystems, digital economic sectors, and human capital. He underlined that Kazakhstan is looking forward to the OECD’s recommendations on the conditions necessary for further technological development.
Mr Johannes Baur, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Kazakhstan, stated that further advancement of the digital transformation is an integral part of Kazakhstan’s journey to support the growth and competitiveness of its SMEs. It has already been contributing to the diversification of the economy and to rendering it more resilient. It is particularly crucial for Kazakhstan today, given the current global and regional geopolitical situation. The EU has developed high standards for the legal and technical framework of the digital sector which may be useful for the further development of the Kazakh digital legislation.
Ms Amélie Schurich-Rey, Economist and Policy Analyst in the OECD Eurasia Division, summarised the challenges the OECD identified which are hampering the digital transformation of firms in Kazakhstan, before sharing draft recommendations. She outlined that digital connectivity gaps, in terms of quality and use, can be addressed through an increased involvement of the regional public sector and data driven regulation; while economic and regulatory barriers for digital service providers can be alleviated by setting up an independent national telecom regulator along with dedicated investment promotion strategies. Finally, Ms Schurich-Rey indicated that regulatory framework gaps arising due to new digital needs will require adapting the policy frameworks and developing further support for firms’ digital knowledge.
Mr Yersultan Yermanov, Director of Development of the IT industry of the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry, stressed that the government is actively pursuing the digital transformation of the country. In particular, he highlighted recent programmes aimed at developing a skills base by training IT specialists, developing technological hubs across regions, based on the “Astana hub” experience, as well as developing new infrastructure to support connectivity across the country. Against this backdrop, he welcomed the OECD recommendations as a timely support to such evolutions.
Mr Marco Bianchini, Project Coordinator Digital for SMEs Global Initiative (D4SME), OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities presented the main trends in the digital transformation of businesses across Central Asia, comparing Kazakhstan with regional peers according to the OECD preliminary findings on digitalisation trends in Central Asia.
Mr Gaspard Ferey, Head of data driven regulation unit at Arcep, the French telecommunication regulator, discussed best practices to foster data-driven regulation in the telecom sector. In presenting the French strategy, Mr Ferey focused on how to collect and use data about France’s end-user requirements, when using mobile and fixed broadband, to inform deployment policies. The collection of service quality data enabled the regulator to identify and share lower quality signals for each operator down to the individual address, empowering consumers to change providers to the most suitable for them. This incentivised operators to improve their service offering and resulted in improved telecom infrastructure and internet quality throughout France.
Mr Yermanov concluded the event, thanking the OECD and the EU for their support.