Ildar Uysumbayev, Head of the Department of Public Services of the Agency for Civil Service and Anti-Corruption of the Republic of Kazakhstan argues that digitalisation is the key to maximising human potential as we journey towards 2050
The last decade has been a defining period for human development. Technological advances mean that more people than ever before are connected across the globe in ways that previous generations would scarcely have believed was possible.
There are few countries which have felt the effects of digitalisation as acutely as Kazakhstan. Being the size of Western Europe and the largest landlocked country in the world, it provides an essential means of reaching our citizens, wherever they may live. In the wake of the digital revolution, technologies such as mobile banking, big data and blockchain have allowed people in every corner of the country to enhance their lives, creating new opportunities for prosperity and growth.
In recognition of the defining role that digitalisation continues to play, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has made transitioning to a full digital society a national priority. Of course, Kazakhstan’s geographical scale makes developing our digital infrastructure a complex and challenging task – but it remains an essential process.
This digital transformation is enhanced by what some describe as the ‘Digital Silk Road’. It is an ambitious programme of technological investment which runs from Europe to Asia and will complement the physical transport routes which are also being developed. It will provide crucial investment in revolutionary digital fields including artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, nanotechnology and internet security.
Such investment will help connect businesses and homes across our vast country to fast and reliable digital technologies. This process represents a revolutionary way to empower innovative start-ups to create, foster and develop solutions that meet the challenges of the global economy.
As a country that has long benefitted from its large mineral reserves, Kazakhstan’s economy is now fundamentally transforming thanks to digital technologies. Digitally-driven organisations such as the Astana International Financial Centre, and the International Centre for Green Technologies, are now at the forefront of their respective industries in Eurasia. This would have been unimaginable even a decade ago.
At a national level, governments can no longer just be policymakers. Instead, we need to be digital market makers, providing businesses, organisations and individuals with the tools they need to compete in a globalised world. This is why our government has placed a clear focus on fostering and supporting our domestic market with the establishment of the International IT Start-Up Hub in Astana.
Rapidly developing economies have long understood the need to embrace change. This is certainly true of Kazakhstan, where public and private sector organisations have developed agile, digital-first solutions which meet the needs of a globalised marketplace. For example, banks, government departments, retailers, energy suppliers and airlines have all developed digital platforms with innovative user interfaces which promote better consumer engagement, saving time and ultimately money.
At the same time, instances of corruption remain a challenge for many societies. Some individuals abuse their positions of trust for personal gain, often at the expense of the average citizen. This severely undermined the public’s trust in national institutions. The digital revolution is at the forefront of efforts to ensure that justice prevails.
Kazakhstan is working hard to eradicate this socially destructive practice with the help of new technologies. Digitalisation not only helps to promote a level playing field for all citizens and businesses but also streamlines many technical and bureaucratic processes.
Ultimately, it makes decision-makers more accountable and the decision-making process more transparent. Currently, almost 80% of government services in Kazakhstan can now be accessed online. This significantly reduces the burden on the average citizen and helps to eliminate corrupt acts.
The new digital age has brought many opportunities, but these benefits have not always been enjoyed equally. Many citizens working in highly-mechanised industries remain concerned about the effects of automation on their jobs. It is, therefore, important that we, as a government, prevent these workers being left behind by continuing to offer support through upskilling and educational programmes.
As Kazakhstan looks to 2050 and the realisation of our country’s strategic vision, we must continue to embrace the changes brought about by digitalisation. However, we must ensure that we are focused not just on the technological developments, but also on the human side of this change. Focusing on human-led outcomes will be essential if we are to continue to create, adapt and innovate in a digital world.
Head of the Department of Public Services
The Agency for Civil Service and Anti-Corruption
of the Republic of Kazakhstan