Politics • 05 November, 2018

Digital Bridge Forum in Astana: virtual bridge between Europe and Asia allows attracting investors and IT startups

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Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev took part in the International Innovation Forum Digital Bridge. This site brought together key representatives of the international IT community, recognized experts in the field of technology, business leaders, technology entrepreneurs, representatives of the public sector from different countries, digital development professionals, scientists, and venture investors.

At the plenary session of the forum, Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev, Prime Minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas and Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russia Konstantin Noskov discussed with international experts global trends in the development of the digital economy, including digital entrepreneurship and the potential of Kazakhstan at the global market.

Answering the moderator’s questions, Prime Minister Sagintayev noted that the purpose of the Digital Bridge Forum is to create a virtual bridge between Europe and Asia at the Astana site, and the fact that the Prime Minister of Estonia and large delegations from various countries arrived in Astana proves that the goal has been achieved. Today Kazakhstan is located between Europe and Asia: on the one hand, China with a population of over a billion people, on the other — the European market with more than 500 million people. Therefore, there should be a lot of work. The world is changing very quickly: to establish contacts with potential partners and investors, it is not necessary to travel. Such sites as today's forum allow us to attract international investors and IT start-ups, get the opportunity to exchange digitalization experience with different countries and hold meetings with potential business partners.

Bakytzhan Sagintayev expressed confidence that today's forum will find its continuation in the future and will expand every year and become a global platform where great contacts are made.

Speaking to the forum participants about key aspects and results of the Digital KazakhstanState Program, the Prime Minister noted that today Kazakhstan implements a digital agenda. The main task of the Government’s work is to implement the program that was adopted exactly one year ago in the country. At the same time, before launching the Digital Kazakhstan program in the country 10 years ago, the state services were transferred to digital format. After the lapse of time, it became clear that the country can’t stop on the provision of public services in a digital format only. Digitalization is not only the provision of public services in a digital format, it is the development of the country's economy in general. The President Nursultan Nazarbayev repeatedly spoke about this.

The government has assumed the responsibility of providing all state services in a digital format. Since the beginning of the year, certain results have been felt in such key areas as health care, education, social protection, finance, industry, etc. Over the past eight months, almost 13 million public services have been rendered (14% higher than in the same period last year).

Thanks to the launch of the Electronic Labor Exchange project, 15% more people than in 2017 were employed. The time spent on employment decreased by two times (from one month to two weeks).

In the health sector, more than 70% of citizens have electronic health passports. More than 90% of medical institutions use electronic systems in their work. The accumulated data about patients helps us to change the paradigm of medical care in the light of early diagnosis.

In the field of education, more than 90% of schools are provided with digital educational resources and more than 90% of schoolchildren are provided with electronic diaries. In finance, over 75% of VAT payers write out electronic invoice bills. 100% of customs declarations are executed in electronic format, of which more than 80% within a minute along the green corridor.

In addition, business services are being transferred to digital format: they have been given a greater opportunity to introduce digitalization in their industries. The goal is to increase labor productivity and carry out more measures to modernize production. For this, it is necessary to train personnel and retrain specialists in order to provide permanent skills in new areas of the digital economy. In this regard, here the state also provides business support in the form of changes in legislation.

Opening of the international technopark of IT startups Astana Hub is also an opportunity for development for our start-up business. It also completely changed the legislation. There is an opportunity to work on our territory not only for residents of Kazakhstan, but also for foreign companies that wish to participate and take advantage of opportunities here. The visa and labor regime for the foreign participants of Astana Hub has been legislatively simplified. Currently, work is underway to simplify taxation for residents of the technopark, to provide grant support and appropriate housing so that they can easily create a product that will be in demand in various markets.

The Prime Minister noted that the Digital Kazakhstan program is just starting. Today the whole country is involved in the implementation of the elements of this program. So, at the digital forum 2019, it will be possible to talk about the main successes of the program.

Deputy Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Zamirbek Askarov, entrepreneur, consultant and mentor of Startup Academy, author of a number of best-selling start-up topics Bob Dorf, Hyperloop Transportation CEO Dirk Ahlborn, co-founder of Priceline Group Jeff Hoffman also took part in the discussion. They spoke about the importance, taking into account the development of digitalization, cyber security issues, the use of the blockchain system, the provision of hard-to-reach regions with broadband Internet, etc. In total, over 50 Kazakhstani and international speakers spoke at the Forum site.

The forum held the Digital Bridge Awards ceremony. As part of the Digital Kazakhstan program, a large consolidated work has been done, offices were created in each government agency, which analyzed and evaluated all projects on digitalization in all sectors of the Kazakh economy. The “Best IT Company” nomination was awarded to the “Documentolog” project (the first Kazakhstani platform, which allows to automate personnel records management, while reducing paper work). In the nomination “Best Digital Office” the winner was the project “Onay” (a means of electronic payment of public transport fares). The award in the nomination “The Best Digital Initiative” was awarded to the Ministry of Healthcare of Kazakhstan for the best digital office among the central government bodies and akimats.

It should be noted that on the margins of the forum, Prime Minister Sagintayev chaired the fifth meeting of the International Expert Council on Digitalization in Kazakhstan. Digitalization of industries and the involvement of businesses in digitalization were discussed on the agenda. Advisory Board members: World Bank Regional Head of Central Bank Europe and Central Asia Hans Timmer, IDC Russia and CIS Vice President Robert Farish, Co-founder of the Global Catalyst Partners Foundation Kamran Elahian, Co-founder and Head of the National Industrial Automation Platform of Russia Dmitry Verkhovod, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Fraunhofer Institute for Automation and Production Management Burghard Schill, Deputy Executive Director for Digital Cooperation, UN Messina Claire made comments on the current situation and voiced a number of recommendations for further digitization of the economy. Following the meeting, the Ministry of Information and Communications was entrusted with the task of working out the proposals voiced by international experts. Recall that the International Expert Council was established in February 2018.

As part of the Digital Bridge program at the site of nine panel discussions, invited speakers discussed a number of important topics. Among them: building sustainable startup ecosystems; the use of blockchain technology in the state digitalization; the impact of new information technologies on the development of e-government; space innovations, Kazakhstan’s way of building a new generation of technological entrepreneurs and other topics of innovative development. At the same time, the Digital Bridge participants were given the opportunity to hold B2B meetings. Within the framework of the forum, another exclusive event was held, initiated by the international technopark of IT startups Astana Hub, the competition of startups Astana Hub Battle. It is assumed that the award and start-up competition of the Astana Hub Technopark will be held annually.

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