This week:

  1. Russia is developing a “Digital Economy” program;
  2. Digital IDs have been issued in Kyrgyzstan;
  3. Georgia to secure the right for Internet access in the Constitution;
  4. Uzbekistan redistributed radio frequencies among national mobile operators;
  5. Kazakhstan opened an innovation office in Silicon Valley;
  6. Ukraine imposed sanctions on Russian ICT companies;
  7. The establishment of the Big Personal Data operator is discussed in Russia;
  8. Azerbaijan launched the national startup portal.


1. A Countdown to the Russian “Digital Economy”?

The Russian Ministry of Communications will be submitting a draft “Digital Economy” program to the Government by 1 June 2017. The program is being developed in cooperation with several ministries and state agencies. The draft focuses on the following eight areas as key priorities: legislative and regulatory environment, HR and education, digital health, infrastructure, information security, R&D, smart city, management system and governance.

With first results to be demonstrated by 2024, the roadmap for implementation includes provisions dealing with such sectors as IoT, blockchain, and Big Data. It is estimated that more than 50 million Russians will live in “smart cities” by 2024. As part of the “Digital Economy” approach, Russia will establish a Single Portal of Personal Data by 2019 and develop the code of conduct for AI.

DR comments: The implementation of such an ambitious program will necessitate a significant investment into digital technologies and knowledge development. But, above all else, according to our insiders, it will require a strong political commitment to reorient the economic decision-making processes away from the existing dependency on natural resources and military-industrial complex interests. In addition, Russia would have to make investments into its ICT sector more appealing.

2. The Kyrgyz State Register Service Began Issuing Biometric Passports.

On 1 May, citizens of Kyrgyzstan started to apply for biometric e-passports. The application will remain free of charge until the end of this year. The State Register Service, responsible for the new ID, reported that 13.5 thousand applications have been received by 10 May. The data from the new ID, which includes 19 personal characteristics, can be processed using an ID reader which can be obtained free of charge through Google Play.

DR comments: The implementation of the digital ID is part of the nation-wide ICT project Taza Koom, which was introduced as part of the “2040 National Strategy for Sustainable Development.” This is the first digital ID issued in Central Asia that meets the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization and has the appropriate protection against counterfeiting.

3. The Access to the Internet may Become the Basic Right in Georgia.

Georgian legislators discuss the proposed amendments which may guarantee the access to the broadband Internet in the Constitution. Experts state that access to online communications and services should be seen not only as a human right but as an important factor of the overall socio-economic and political progress.

4. Uzbekistan Supports Equal Opportunities for Competing on the National Mobile Market.

The Ministry of the Development of Information Technologies and Communications explained that redistribution of the radio frequencies was required to remove obstacles which prevented the introduction of 4G mobile communication based on LTE technology. The move is aimed to increase competition among four national mobile providers and benefit customers.

Meanwhile, the national operator, Uztelecom, announced the comprehensive reorganization of the company and revision of its investment projects, aiming to improve the quality of existing and launch of new services.

5. Will Kazakhstan Be in the World’s Top-30 ICT countries by 2022?

Kazakhstan opened an innovation office in the Silicon Valley. The office will facilitate information exchange between Kazakhstan and Silicon Valley, help to develop Kazakh start-ups and access the latest innovations and companies in the US to develop business and attract investment in Kazakhstan. The officials announced the goal is to become one of the World’s Top-30 ICT countries within five years.

DR comments: Experts polled by DR expressed different attitudes on the issue: on the one hand, state officials seldom have the competence and flexibility needed to advance such deals. On the other hand, the launching of ICT deals with direct state support can be the most effective approach in the current business environment.

6. Ukraine Banned the Use of Russian Social Media.

On 16 May, Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, approved the imposition of sanctions against Russia proposed by the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC). The NSDC recommended blocking such popular social media as and VKontakte, as well as some prominent Russian IT companies like Group, Yandex Group, Kaspersky Laboratory, and others. The “black list” consists of more than 1,200 individuals and 500 Russian companies in total. The new sanctions follow the Ukrainian Information Security Doctrine adopted on 25 February 2017, which identified Russia as a primary threat to Ukrainian information security.

DR comments: In the past, Ministry of Interior called to ban the Russian social media, a  decision that was criticized both in Ukraine and abroad. The human rights activists state that the ban is an act of censorship and would reduce the freedom of information, however, Ukrainian public, in general, assessed the sanctions as positive. The Internet Association of Ukraine estimated the cost of blocking Russian online services to be $ 1 billion USD over 2 years.

7. Is Russia Going to Establish a State-Owned ‘Big Personal Data’ Operator?

According to the draft amendments to the law “On Information”, the Russian government plans to establish a state-controlled Big Personal Data operator. The new structure would receive personal data from databases of public agencies, legal entities as well as directly from individuals. According to the proposal, funding for the new organization would be based on quarterly deductions from the advertising revenues of Russian ICT companies.

DR comments: According to our information, the mechanism for providing the personal data to the operator has not been specified, as yet.

8. Portal to Boost Azerbaijani Startup Companies.

The expressed objectives for the national startup portal include the formation of an innovative environment in Azerbaijan and assistance to state and private organizations in the ICT sector. Launched with the support of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies, plans to become a “bridge” between start-ups and investors.