Digital integration, information security and new technologies — Things discussed at Digital Almaty Forum

A plenary session of the forum with the participation of the heads of government of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) member states was held in Almaty on 3 February. The main topic of discussion was the development of sustainable digital infrastructure and new technologies in telecommunications.

Our country has achieved a high level of digital penetration in everyday life — Smailov

In his speech, Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov noted that the forum has become one of the most important IT events in Eurasia. This year the event is even more ambitious. More than 100 foreign start-ups are presenting their projects and 100 more are taking part in the Astana Hub Battle contest. On the margins of the forum, robotics solutions, their industrial applications, Govtech, Fintech products, and many others are demonstrated. All these areas create a basis for digital partnership of our countries.

Smailov stressed that a reliable platform for partnership is needed to give a multiplicative effect to the development of IT markets in the EEU countries. An example in Kazakhstan is Astana Hub.

"It has become not only a local player but also an active regional player. Its institutional framework in the form of preferences, programmes such as Techpreneurs, Google for start-ups - have become real drivers of activation of the IT market. At the moment more than 1 thousand residents from more than 10 countries created 16 thousand jobs exporting IT products," Head of the Kazakhstan Government informed.

While the Autonomous Cluster Fund "Park of Innovative Technologies" has created an ecosystem that brings together industrial enterprises and the IT market in Kazakhstan. The fund has financed 187 projects worth more than $36 million in the areas of Industry 4.0, industrial safety, geology, metallurgy, etc.

Kazakhstan is moving towards a digital transformation of public administration. Today, the country is implementing world-leading projects in areas such as FinTech and GovTech.

"Our country has achieved a high level of digital penetration in everyday life. This has been made possible by the openness of the state and the technological sophistication of businesses. Digitalisation is an important component in ensuring equality of opportunity and justice for all citizens. A qualitatively new format of digitalisation of government, the so-called Invisible Government, is underway. The idea is to put people, their needs and interests at the centre of government policy. For example, we have collected 80 parameters of family well-being according to the UN methodology. This helps us to identify families in difficult life situations every day. Then we move on to proactive state services and support measures," the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan explained. 

According to him, one of the key approaches here is the implementation of the multi-platform principle of public service delivery. The government is moving away from the bottleneck model, allowing businesses to integrate government services into their own platforms and digital ecosystems.

"The benefits of this approach are clear. To date, 15 public services are available through private IT platforms entirely digitally. Extensive work is underway to streamline and revise business requirements - regulation 'from scratch'. We have analysed 44 areas of business regulation. We have identified more than 10,000 requirements which do not comply with the basic conditions of the new regulatory policy, i.e. redundant requirements," Smailov explained.

In addition, the implementation of a "clean slate" reform would improve the efficiency of business environment regulation and create a favourable environment for the development of entrepreneurship.

"In recent years, we have made significant progress in terms of e-government development. In the relevant UN ranking, Kazakhstan has improved its position, rising from 39th to 28th place since 2018, and in the sub-rating of online services, our country has entered the top 10 countries of the world, rising from 16th to 8th place. These results were made possible by the development of a human-centric approach to e-government and the digitalisation of interaction with citizens and businesses," Smailov said.

Of particular importance is improving the availability and quality of communications. Today in Kazakhstan, settlements with a population of more than 250 people are covered by broadband Internet access. The remainder will use radio relay networks and low-orbit satellite systems.

According to Smailov, synchronisation of the radio-frequency spectrum is necessary to improve the availability and quality of communication services.

"We are ready to work together to attract investment for the development of digital infrastructure. This would open up new opportunities for all countries in the region. As a result, our countries could set up high-speed data channels interfacing with international corridors and cross-border flows," Smailov said. 

In addition, it is necessary to create all conditions for the development and distribution of cross-border electronic documents.

In particular, in order to create favourable conditions for logistics companies, Kazakhstan is working on the transition to electronic transport documents.

It is proposed to convert all foreign permit forms into electronic format within the EAEU. The elimination of paper-based turnover reduces corruption risks, increases the transparency of trade turnover and, most importantly, allows businesses to optimise their costs.

"Electronic interaction between our countries in the sphere of mutual trade remains a topical issue. These and other issues seem to be important areas of our joint work in the field of digitalisation. The implementation of the main priorities of the digital agenda will contribute to open and equal cooperation and the transition to a new level of economic, technological and social development," Smailov summed up. 

One of the foundations of the Union's digital agenda should be the widespread application of the regulatory sandbox regime — Pashinyan

Addressing the plenary session of the Digital Forum, the Prime Minister of Armenia welcomed his colleagues and participants to the forum.

"First of all, I would like to thank the Kazakhstan side for organizing the forum, which became an effective platform for discussing digitalization and the prospects of digital development. For the Republic of Armenia, the development of the digital economy has been and remains one of the most important priorities. The turnover in the IT sector in the Republic of Armenia has increased by more than 50%, and the share of the information and communication technologies sector in Armenia's GDP has been consistently growing. For our part, we provide sectoral state support to the IT business," Nikol Pashinyan said, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, during his welcoming speech.

According to the Head of the Armenian government, last year more than 1,000 start-ups received substantial tax incentives. At the same time, the issue of forming a common digital space on the territory of Eurasian integration remains important for the country.

"In this context, I will note the relevance and high demand for the tools of the system of interstate information exchange, creation and development of digital projects with an integration effect. One of the foundations of the Union's digital agenda should be the broad application of the regulatory sandbox regime," Pashinyan said.

According to the head of the Armenian Cabinet of Ministers, the application of special legal regimes of regulatory sandboxes will shorten the duration of digital transformation projects and increase the quality of submitted projects, which in turn will accelerate the launch of digital projects of a pan-Eurasian scale.

"It is important to note that in the formation of a single digital space, we must not forget about building a comprehensive system of information protection. In this context, the acceleration of work on the conclusion of an international agreement on data circulation is particularly relevant," Nikol Pashinian said in his speech. 

The events of recent years have shown that today's challenges can instantly change the usual course of life in an undesirable direction if not addressed jointly and in a timely manner.

"It is clear that there is virtually no country that can face global challenges alone. This was clearly demonstrated, for example, by the coronavirus epidemic. We all faced the same challenges and had to work together to overcome the consequences of lockdown and the pandemic itself. We have made greater and deeper use of digital mechanisms to deal with both the consequences of the pandemic and possible crises of a similar nature in the future," the Armenian Prime Minister said.

Digitalisation of the economy receives a lot of attention — Golovchenko

Speaking at the plenary session of the Digital Forum, Belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko said that the EEU countries should do their utmost to ensure their independence in digital development.

"The unprecedented sanctions that were imposed in 2022 against some of the countries of our union have also affected digitalisation. Restrictions on the sale and updating of software, refusals to supply telecommunications equipment are a definite deterrent to the introduction of modern technologies and services. And this once again reminds us of the importance of national sovereignty in the field of digital development," Golovchenko said.

According to him, it is necessary to accumulate the achievements, the scientific potential of the EAEU countries and ensure the transition to the new "digital reality" on their own terms, based on their own developments, technologies and infrastructure.

"Especially relevant and promising is the creation of new production processes, materials and equipment based on artificial intelligence technologies, big data, robotics, the Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality. We suggest that the Eurasian Economic Commission organise cooperation and coordination in this area," he added.

The Prime Minister of Belarus also said that the country pays a lot of attention to the digitalisation of the economy.

"The forum platform represents a good opportunity for business and expert circles and representatives of the public sector of the EEU countries to discuss the creation of the Eurasian digital market and to jointly develop approaches to solving urgent problems of regional digital cooperation," Golovchenko said.

According to him, digital technologies have become an indisputable component of sustainable development of society, a driver of economic growth over the past 5 years. He added that for the EEU countries, as well as for the rest of the world, digitalisation today is inseparable from economic processes and public administration. And such changes are a challenge to the abilities and capabilities of any state.

"In Belarus, a lot of attention is paid to the digitalisation of the economy. To further digital transformation, a powerful infrastructural backbone has been created. This includes a developed data transmission network, high-performance data processing and storage centres, infrastructure for interdepartmental and cross-border interaction, mechanisms of identification and electronic payments, and modern information security measures. This made it possible to make a technological breakthrough, to create conditions for taking the economy to new frontiers," the Head of the Belarusian Government stressed.

Roman Golovchenko also believes it is important to speed up the process of recognising electronic digital signatures on the territory of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), without which high-quality public services cannot be provided to the public.

"The provision of remote public services should be developed not only in our country, but also for all the states of our Union. It is important to create a cross-border trust space within the EAEU, which would include, first of all, recognition of electronic digital signature," the Prime Minister of Belarus said.

Without this tool, he said, the provision of quality public services to the population and the effective functioning of state authorities and institutions would be impossible.

"I believe that the heads of government have the right to give such an instruction to the responsible bodies to expedite the necessary work in this direction," Golovchenko said.

He also noted that without an appropriate level of digital education, it is impossible to meet these challenges, so the structure of education must be modernised and attention must be paid to adapting various segments of the population to life in a digital world.

In 2022, we have set up more than 1,000 new joint ventures with union countries — Aripov

Uzbekistan's prime minister said that the country had completed preparatory work for facilitating mutual access to the Eurasian Economic Union markets.

"We have fully completed preparatory work to ensure harmonisation of national technical regulations with EEU norms. We consider the conclusion of an agreement on mutual recognition of certification results to be a logical outcome on the way to facilitating mutual access of goods to our markets. We count on the support of all countries of the association for the adoption of this joint document with the assistance of the EEU," Abdulla Aripov.said

He clarified that under the current free trade regime, Uzbekistan does not apply trade restrictions to EEU countries.

"We are in favour of jointly elaborating concrete measures to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers, as the regulation of goods in transit between our countries must be of a parity nature," the head of government added.

Uzbekistan, as an observer state, is actively working to create favourable conditions for a mutually beneficial partnership with the EEU.

"We are committed to strengthening and expanding trade and economic ties with all the countries of the association, which are among our main trading partners. It is noteworthy that despite the global crisis phenomena, through joint efforts we have managed to adapt to difficult conditions and find new points of economic growth. Thanks to mutual support, last year the foreign trade turnover of Uzbekistan with the EAEU countries increased by 33%, amounting to $17 billion," he said.

In 2022, more than 1,000 new joint ventures with Union republics were established in Uzbekistan, and the number exceeded 5,000, he said.

Uzbekistan's Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov noted the urgency of food security issues in his speech.

Given the relevance of these issues, he invited those attending the meeting to participate in an international conference on food security.

"We are planning to organise this conference together with FAO in September 2023 in Samarkand city," he commented.

Kyrgyzstan is developing a Digital Code — Japarov

Akylbek Zhaparov drew the forum participants' attention to the fact that digital transformation is a phenomenon that affects all spheres of our life.

"The current geopolitical agenda and global cataclysms are increasing the influence of digital technologies on the political, economic and social components of the world order. Of all the new technologies and technological trends, I would like to highlight two trends - artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency. Analysts predict that smart machines programmed to think and reason like humans will lead to a revolution in education, healthcare and many other fields in the near future. Just recently, news broke that British scientists were able to find a potential cure for liver cancer in 30 days with the help of artificial intelligence. It used to take dozens of years of painstaking research," he said.

The prime minister said that in the health sector, artificial intelligence algorithms would help in early disease diagnosis, treatment planning and the creation of medicines.

"To give another example. ChatGPT, who is already successful in business school exams, is being interviewed online and employed. What was fantastic 10 years ago is now a reality. All of this opens up new perspectives. At the same time, the pace of technological development is outpacing our ability to respond to these changes with appropriate public policy measures. I am concerned that the voice assistants Alice or Siri do not speak Kyrgyz or Kazakh. We all understand that languages that do not make it into the digital world will suffer the same fate as languages that did not make it into the written world," Akylbek Japarov emphasized, stressing that his speech at today's forum was partially generated by artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence will bring both opportunities and problems, he said, so its impact on society must be actively managed.

"It is no secret that the restrictions imposed on the banking sector (money transfers via Visa and MasterCard systems) have given a significant impetus to the development of cryptocurrency in our region. Experts estimate that the volume of shadow turnover in Bishkek alone amounts to between $5 and $10 million daily. I believe that cryptocurrency can affect the country's economic development in both positive and negative ways. The impact of cryptocurrencies on the country's economy will depend on various factors, including the country's approach to regulation and the level of perception of cryptocurrencies by citizens and businesses. The potential of these technologies is impressive, but they should be treated with caution for a number of reasons. Regulatory issues must be resolved before any new technology based on artificial intelligence enters the market," Akylbek Zhaparov stressed.

He also said that Kyrgyzstan was developing a one-of-a-kind Digital Code.

"Kyrgyzstan is working every day to create a balanced environment for the development of digital technologies. And if we talk about revolutions in the digital world, we are developing a one-of-a-kind Digital Code to regulate the relationships that arise when digital solutions are actively implemented in public administration," he said.

Kyrgyzstan recognised digital documents in December 2022, according to him.

"This measure allowed Kyrgyz citizens to avoid carrying paper documents: identification card, driving licence and vehicle registration certificate. Thus, today the Tunduk app is among the top five most downloaded apps in Kyrgyzstan, second only to platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Facebook," he said.

Electronic document flow should close all paper transactions — Mishustin

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has said that electronic document management will help create a deployable technological infrastructure and provide the basis for a "showcase" of national services.

"To ensure free movement of capital between our countries, it is also necessary to develop cooperation between the payment systems of the P5 states, which is absolutely in the interests of citizens and businesses, especially small and medium-sized ones. The accessibility and convenience of such services will allow people to experience the benefits of integration in our union," Mishustin said. 

Mishustin also proposed to develop together an ecosystem of IT parks throughout the EEU.

"Today we saw guys from the IT parks of our countries. We approached our colleagues from Uzbekistan. Booths were presented from all the countries, the guys talked about how they work, communicate. And this is great. This is such an ecosystem for developers, programmers who are united by the common goal of technology development in their countries. This system of IT parks will provide an opportunity to promote new technological developments, to launch start-ups. Today we have seen guys who started with startups and have already brought to market products that are in demand by people and industries," Mishustin said. 

Another promising area for cooperation is the digitalisation of state-citizen interaction on a platform basis, which was also shown to us today at the exhibition.

"Competent specialists are needed to implement joint digital initiatives. It is important that there is a human resources policy in the Eurasian space that promotes the training of such professionals," Mishustin noted. 

Digital transformation offers great opportunities for further integration within the Eurasian space. Advanced technologies expand the amount of information about the availability and quality of goods and products, ensure their timely delivery, and help producers and suppliers cooperate, bypassing regulators and intermediaries. They improve the business environment so that businesses - large and small - can integrate into regional and global economies.

EEU countries have a high level of e-government development — Myasnikovich

Mikhail Myasnikovich, Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission, spoke about the implementation of digital projects, the formation of information architecture, and information security in the Eurasian Economic Union.

According to him, the scale and complexity of digital projects has increased significantly in recent years, national information resources and systems of the Union's countries have become more powerful and the Commission links their capabilities to Eurasian digital projects and the Union's integrated information system.

"Digital projects of a common Eurasian scale are bound to serve as a stimulus for economic growth, increasing global competitiveness, living standards in our region and the quality of services provided. Such projects should certainly meet the urgent challenges facing our integration union and the challenges of full technological sovereignty, as well as the implementation of the Union's climate agenda," the Head of the EEC Collegium said.

Myasnikovich stressed that all EAEU countries, according to international experts and according to the 2022 UN ranking, have a high or very high level of e-government development.

"The overall development trend is the same in all countries, with digital development itself being prioritised, the availability of services increasing, investment in digital technologies in education, trade, manufacturing, and in general in the real sector increasing," he said.

The core of the information architecture in the EAEU is the Integrated Information System (IIS), which is a comprehensive mechanism for interstate information exchange. At the moment, the countries are actively using this system.

As Myasnikovich emphasised, 54 common processes have already been put into operation to exchange information, and by the end of 2024 the number of processes will be brought to at least 90% of the approved level. In this regard, the Eurasian Economic Commission will have to do quite a lot of work to provide full technical and organisational support for information exchange in the G2G format within various business processes," said the Chairman of the EEC Collegium.

He noted that the expansion of information capabilities also gives rise to new information threats, both for individual countries of the Union and the EEU as a whole.

"The Commission and the member states are actively working to create a secure data transmission network and jointly develop special cryptographic means of information protection in the EAEU. But while the issue of information security is important, it should not hinder information exchange," Myasnikovich said.

In his opinion, it is necessary to harmonise national interstate information platforms, as well as to form unified requirements of the Eurasian Economic Union. At the same time, he stated that it is often impossible to provide a common platform due to the principled position of a number of states on the issue of information security under the guise of protecting sovereignty.

Kazakhstan is introducing technology faster than some countries, giving it a chance to make a strong push into the global market — Turlov

The chairman of the board of Freedom Holding Corp. Timur Turlov presented a platform that allows for fully online registration of real estate sales and purchases on the secondary market.

"In my opinion, this is a huge area that puts a lot of pressure on the state registration authorities for real estate transactions. The platform, on the other hand, allows people to save a huge amount of time and money," he said.

According to him, the process is completely paperless. As a result, people do not have to go to branches - everything is done remotely in less than a day. The service has been tested.

"This is an amazing benchmark that some developed countries can only dream of," Turlov assured.

Another project planned for launch this year concerns concessional lending to SMEs. According to the businessman, the bank's team has re-invented a programme that was created by the government to support SMEs. We are talking about the Damu Fund programme.

"We have made it possible for entrepreneurs to get access to soft online loans in just one day. This includes both unsecured and secured loans. Collateral and pledges can be registered fully electronically (real estate, cars)," Turlov said.

He added that by integrating with databases, the bank can fully analyse a client's trustworthiness, solvency, property availability without the help of analysts, specialists for credit analysis.

As a reminder, the programme of the forum included 20 panel sessions with more than 150 speakers from the international and Kazakhstani IT-community. In total, more than 20,000 people from 30 countries attended Digital Almaty.

Stay updated about the events of the Prime Minister and the Government of Kazakhstan - subscribe to the official Telegram channel