September 17, 2020 Tashkent - the ‘Unlocking the Potential of Digitalization in Uzbekistan Amidst a Global Health and Socio-Economic Crisis’ international round-table was hosted by UNDP, in partnership with the World Bank, the Digital Development Partnership, and MiTC. Bringing together specialists and experts of national and international digital industries, the online event laid a groundwork for the continued development of Uzbekistan’s digital sector for the public’s benefit.
Although the positive impacts of Uzbekistan’s digital transformation have been apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are also multiple directions for improvement. Internet access is uneven across Uzbekistan, while the digital economy contributes just 1.8% to the national GDP. 70% of 700 government information systems are not integrated with the e-government platform, and only 27 agencies provide services through the national public service delivery framework.
This week’s round-table was an opportunity to reflect on the benefits and challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought in terms of Uzbekistan’s digitalization process, and to determine the ways that society, government and business can use digital technologies to address challenges faced during the pandemic and beyond.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous damage to the entire global economy and has identified critical vulnerabilities, the harm from which can only be minimized by expanding the scope of digital technologies in all spheres of life."- said the First Deputy Minister, Oleg Pekos.
The discussion took stock of Uzbekistan’s achievements in digital development since 2017, overviewed digital technology’s role in the national COVID-19 response (compared to its use in the UK, Estonia and Singapore), and explored opportunities for expanding Uzbekistan’s ambitious digital transformation with consideration of what accelerators and assistance might be mobilized in this direction.
Two thematic sessions were conducted at the event, on the topics of ‘Digital development in Uzbekistan: current progress and way forward’, and ‘Digital response to COVID-19: lessons from Uzbekistan and abroad’, both of which resulting in an active exchange of views. Following this event an analytical report will be delivered, containing recommendations for expanding Uzbekistan’s digital transformation, along with an agreement on a mechanism to ensure dialogue between relevant parties and agencies, to discuss issues related to digital transformation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical nature of the telecommunications infrastructure for Uzbekistan’s economy and has highlighted further the urgency of undertaking reforms in the sector. Their implementation will facilitate the acceleration of digitalization in various areas, help in ensuring citizens' critical access to education, telemedicine, and employment. In addition, digitalization helps preserve business continuity, attract significant private investment for an open, competitive, and private sector-led telecommunication services markets. These measures will benefit citizens and businesses across the country. The World Bank Group stands ready to provide the necessary support to the Government in planning and implementing the necessary reforms, as well as attracting investments in the sector,” noted Marco Mantovanelli, World Bank Country Manager for Uzbekistan.
Event participants included government bodies for the planning, oversight and implementation of digital development, public service delivery and COVID-19 response, individual experts and subject matter specialists, business representatives, members of the mass media and prominent bloggers, participants in the private sector, and youth and youth organizations.
Also, in attendance were representatives of Uzbekistan’s international community, including those of the UN Country Team, international finance institutions, selected embassies, development agencies and others, along with think-tanks, NGOs and firms specializing in digital governance.
“With the pandemic, digitalization for any country has become mandatory, not optional. Digital solutions were critical to ensure effective service delivery and remote interaction of citizens and businesses with government under quarantine. To maintain business continuity, public and private sector have increasingly turned to digital tools and channels. That happened in almost all sectors! So, the question is not if digitalization shall and will advance, it is about the quality of it – and how inclusive it will be”- said in the conclusion UNDP Resident Representative, Ms Matilda Dimovska.