Expert Speak Digital Frontiers
Published on Jun 27, 2020
How Uzbekistan is transforming into a digital society in the time of COVID19

The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Uzbekistan on 15 March 2020 as an Uzbek citizen returning from France tested positive for the virus. As of 23 June, Uzbekistan has reported 6,500 infections in a population of 33 million, 4,450 patients have fully recovered from the disease and only 19 people have died. That appears to be the result of tight restrictions on movement of people in and out of the country, as well as the President Shavkat Mirziyoyev decision to isolate all returning residents in quarantine facilities.

Many changes in our lives has been brought by the coronavirus pandemic. In a way we have been forced to find new ways of living, interacting, and working. The impact of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) on our daily lives should not be underestimated. In Uzbekistan, this was felt even more during the pandemic with the Uzbek society not prepared to face the challenges of COVID-19, especially remote working and distance learning. During the pandemic, the need to develop a freelance culture and improve IT skills among the population became even more important.

Developed nations have already started investing significant funds into innovation, understanding that solid returns and market gains can only be accomplished by rapidly adopting and deploying new technologies. It should be noted that the Government of Uzbekistan pays significant attention to the development of the ICT sector. Over the past few years, Uzbekistan has invested heavily in its technology ecosystem, driving the creation and delivery of IT products and services, including Internet access, mobile communications, and other related areas. Ongoing development goals also include improving the investment climate by reducing state regulation and assuring property rights. 2020 has been declared as the Year of Science, Enlightenment, and Digital Economy Development in Uzbekistan. Today ICTs are significant factors that trigger economic development in the country.

The digital economy’s contribution to the gross domestic product in Uzbekistan is only 2.2 percent, compared to the 10. 9 percent in the US, 10 percent in China, and 5.5 percent in India. In order to further develop the technological potential of Uzbekistan, increase IT exports and sustain technology led development of the country, the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications in January 10, 2018 established the Technology Park  of Software and IT  (IT-Park Uzbekistan) in co-operation with the Society of Software Technology Parks (STPI) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of India. The “techno-park” aims to become a nationwide influencer for the development of innovations and competitive products and services in the field of IT and their promotion in the domestic and global markets.

Today, the activities of IT Park include providing tax benefits for resident companies; Incubation and Acceleration programs for local IT startups; investment into startups through public and private venture funds; IT-education; startup hackathons and other events; IT centers focusing on improving digital literacy in all of the regions of Uzbekistan; creation of IT-infrastructure; and BPO (Business Process Outsourcing with focus on the export of IT-enabled services). At present, 355 companies are residents of IT Park and it employs four thousand specialists. For now, the volume of services provided by the residents of IT Park is more than 491.5 billion Uzbek soums (about 49 million USD), of which 65.5 billion Uzbek soums (about 7 million USD) are export figures.

Beyond investing in new infrastructure and ecosystems, the Uzbekistan government is also focused on human capital and IT education, with short-term and long-term comprehensive programs for the preparation of ICT specialists being organized by the IT Academy which provides accessible courses intended for the general public. At the same time, the IT Academy is the primary agency responsible for the ‘One Million Uzbek Coders’ project, which is a free online course on programming. Currently, the localization of the One Million Uzbek Coders portal and the Udacity platform into the Uzbek language has been completed and the project aims to train at least 2,000 students by the end of 2020.

Uzbekistan is a dynamically developing country and ICT literacy has already become a functional requirement for people’s work, social, and personal lives. The political desire of the Government to pursue ICT development is expressed in the third initiative of the “Five initiatives of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan”, which is directed to improve digital literacy among the population. Thus, with the intention to popularize the field of information technology, and strengthen IT competencies among the Uzbek population, regional Digital Competency Training Centers (IT Centers) are being opened in all the regions of Uzbekistan, to teach youth valuable knowledge and skills around computing and communications devices, disseminate IT culture to young people, and increase digital literacy.

Between 2020-2024, the government plans to incubate 14 IT parks across Uzbekistan, establish regional Digital Competency Training Centers (IT-centers), triple the number of residents of the technopark and increase the number of employees to 40,000. It is expected that this will increase the volume of computer services and programming, as well as their export. This will also accelerate the penetration of ICT skills across Uzbek society and economy. To conclude, Information Technology is the basic requirement of today’s world as technological progress enters into all fields, and regardless of achieved positive results; much remains to be done in the sphere of information technologies.

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Amalia Ergasheva

Amalia Ergasheva

Amalia Ergasheva is an International Relations Specialist at IT Park Uzbekistan. She establishes and maintains relationships with national and international partners interested in innovative startups ...

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