Technology Series – Central Asia: Middle Earth is switching on

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Ambitious programs. Governments in the Central Asian region have adopted ambitious programs to modernize their economies. There is a major focus on technology upgrades as part of the effort to create new economic growth, optimize the efficiency of government processes and to improve living conditions.

Some moving, others stalled. In most instances there is a gap between the ambitious plans and the reality. A lack of funding in some instances and obstacles from intrenched vested interests ensure that progress in most areas is slow.

Funding. Kazakhstan has accelerated its technology and digitalization plans as its budget again swells with hydrocarbon wealth. Uzbekistan is also pushing ahead with a broad front of technology projects as it benefits from large international financial aid packages and strong international support for its efforts to create the regional economic and political power in Central Asia.

China interest. China has been investing in technology programs in the region but most of these are linked to the expanding BRI network and all Beijing funded projects are awarded to Chinese contractors.

Smart Cities. Kazakhstan is making most progress, with projects in Astana in particular. Other regional capitals are more focused on traffic management and efficient lighting systems for now.

Telecoms. Across the region, governments have identified the need the improve telecom systems, including internet speeds and access, as being critical to achieve economic and lifestyle targets.

E-government systems. Uzbekistan has the most ambitious programs to both improve the efficiency and transparency of government and to make it a lot easier for investors to work in the country. The new e-visa system is a good example. It means that most foreign citizens can now get a fast visa online compared to the previous cumbersome and lengthy process.

Cryptocurrencies. Most governments in the region, especially Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, have adopted regulations and legislation to allow the use of cryptocurrencies.