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Uzbekistan on the path of digitalization: achievements and plans

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed all the benefits and accelerated the processes of digitalization around the world. On how to build an effective digitalization policy, and what steps are being taken in Uzbekistan in this direction, “Dunyo” IA correspondent talked with Farrukh Khakimov, Head of Department at the Development Strategy Center.

- For developing countries and for Uzbekistan, in particular, digital transformation has a potential to further modernize society and integrate national economy into the global processes, - says the expert. - In this vein, in the framework of the ongoing reforms and in the new Development Strategy of Uzbekistan for the coming five years special attention is being paid to digitalization of major spheres and to build a true information society in the country.

Uzbekistan prioritized digitalization and development of information-communication technologies (ICT) yet in early 2000s. For instance, Uzbekistan has been implementing an integrated program of National Information and Communication System Development 2013-2020, the National Action Strategy on Five Priority Development Areas 2017-2021, the “Digital Uzbekistan – 2030” Strategy and the latest the Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026 to implement digital transformation in national economy, industry and society in general.

Consequently, in a relatively short period of time, Uzbekistan has achieved visible results in the sphere of digitalization and ICT development. In particular, substantial progress has been observed in introducing e-government and ICT in public sector for the last few years, when in 2013 was launched “Single portal of interactive government services” – central e-government service of the country.

Moreover, digital and IT infrastructure of the country has remarkably improved, considerable amount of resources were invested which built solid foundations for better ecosystem of the ICT.

As a result, in the country, according to the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Statistics, in the field of Information and communication during 2017-2021, the gross value added increased more than 2 times and reached 11.8 trillion UZS (more than 1 billion US dollars) in 2021.

In addition, since the creation of IT parks in Uzbekistan, the industry’s export volume has grown 50 times and reached 46 million US dollars. The number of park residents increased from 147 to 500, more than 300 new companies were opened and 8,500 highly paid jobs have been created. Currently more than 11 thousand young people work in IT parks.

The total length of fiber-optic communication lines in the country has been remarkably expanding since 2017. For instance, during 2017-2022 it has increased almost 6 times and reached 118 thousand kilometers as of January 2022.

Since 2017, the overall bandwidth speed of the international networks has been increased more than 28-fold – from 64.2 to 1800 Gbit/s in January 2022.

As of January 2022, in Uzbekistan following the public administration reforms and digitalization of the sphere 56% public services provided through the portal of interactive public services (e-government portal). The number of public services on the e-government platform of the country (my.gov.uz) reached 307 and 1.3 million citizens are actively using such electronic public services. Whereas, the total number of Internet users in Uzbekistan reached  27.2 million.

At the same time following the revealed vulnerabilities and challenges in the sphere, the government has revised and upgraded its national digitalization strategy under the impact of the global pandemic.

Meanwhile Uzbekistan recognized the power of digitalization in transforming society, whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has made that transformation essential.

In this vein, the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s Decree on October 5, 2020 has approved countries Strategy “Digital Uzbekistan – 2030” and “Roadmap” for its implementation. According to the document from all state obligatory payments such as fees and fines are being made through provided online payment-services. Furthermore, in line with the Strategy “Digital Uzbekistan – 2030” more than 400 information systems, electronic services and other software products in various areas of socio-economic development are being carried out automatically.

Among expected results of “Digital Uzbekistan – 2030” Strategy are high-quality and inexpensive Internet and mobile communications, the reduce of the digital divide between cities and villages.

Adoption of the “Digital Uzbekistan – 2030” Strategy and the “road map” for its implementation in 2020-2022 creates, first of all, a legal basis for the transition to a digital economy. The document includes such priority areas as the development of digital infrastructure, e-government, the national digital technology market, education and advanced training in the field of information technology.

The strategy considers approval of two programs: digitalization of regions and digitalization of industries. Thus, two approaches are considered as territorial and industrial. Undoubtedly it will provide the most comprehensive coverage and effective implementation of the document.

The most important conditions and guarantees for the successful implementation of the Strategy is to ensure funding and increase the digital literacy of the population. So, according to the document, the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications of the Republic of Uzbekistan, together with other relevant governmental bodies will take measures to complete the digitalization of preschool education, health care and secondary schools by the end of first stage of the implementation period.

The implementation of the Strategy will ensure the provision of high-quality digital services to the population, reduce corruption, increase the level of citizen involvement in government decision-making processes, modernize the system of higher and secondary education in order to ensure the competitiveness of citizens not only within the country, but also in the regional and global labour markets.

The Strategy contributes the implementation of other national strategic documents and programs and, first of all will be important for achieving the national goals and objectives in the field of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for the period up to 2030, as well as the Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026.

The Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026 which has been adopted on January 28, 2022 covers seven priority areas of further reforms regarding a good governance, public administration, the rule of law, economic development, social policy, spiritual enlightenment, security as well as an open, pragmatic and active foreign policy. In turn, the seven priority areas identify hundred target goals to be achieved by 2026.

Digitalization of several important spheres such as public services both at central and local levels by improving “e-government”; the judicial system; law enforcement; the traffic control system; healthcare system; social services as well as social protection, banking and agriculture sectors and other main spheres of the national economy have been targeted in the new Development Strategy.

In particular, improvement of the e-government of Uzbekistan and bringing the share of electronic public services to 100 %, implementation of “Mobile ID-identification” system of a person in the provision of public services, introduction of “digital passport of citizens” and “digital authority” project have been prioritized to digitalize public administration and optimize administrative procedures at central and local levels.

By maintaining stable growth rates of it is planned to reach 4,000 US dollars GDP per capita and join the group of countries with “upper-middle income” by 2030. In this regard, the development of the digital economy is also defined as the main “driver” with an increase in its share by at least 2.5 times by the end of 2026. Moreover, it is planned to expand the volume of the software products industry 5 times, and software export - 10 times, up to 500 million US dollars, the level of digitalization of production and operational processes in the real sector of the economy, in the financial and banking sectors to 70% by the end of 2026. Moreover, digitalization of urban planning and construction, development of cities in accordance with the concept of “Smart City” has been prioritized.

Certainly, in the context of the global pandemic and in general digital technology and services play a central role in recovering from the pandemic and also building resilient economies. Therefore, expanded digitalization and digital transformation should be the main priorities for developing countries, like Uzbekistan. For the last decade, Uzbekistan has achieved remarkable results in the sphere of digitalization and ICT development, especially, in provision of digital public services. Meanwhile, along with ongoing cooperation with South Korea, Russia, Estonia, China it is necessary to attract more technologically advanced countries such as Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Singapore, Japan and others to ICT sector of the country by diversifying geography of international partners. Investing in digital eco-system, ICT infrastructure and qualified IT services will further facilitate modernization of national economy and accelerate inclusive growth in all spheres.