Active forming of national ICT policy started in 2000, when the government of Kyrgyzstan announced to all world community that Kyrgyzstan chooses information society. This initiative was actively supported by the international organizations operating in the republic (UNDP, Soros-Kyrgyzstan Foundation, etc).
Active preparation for the First National Summit "Information Technologies for Development" started at the end of 2000 under UNDP support in the format of public policy. The Summit was conducted in 2001. After the Summit in 2002 Kyrgyzstan adopted the National Strategy «Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for Development of the Kyrgyz Republic», approved by the Decree of President of the Kyrgyz Republic, and the Program of Information and Communication Technology Development in the Kyrgyz Republic (2001, edition 2006). The declared objectives are facilitating for building the information society in the Kyrgyz Republic, CDF implementation2 and the National Poverty Reduction Strategy. Since 2002 for discussing the most important problems in the ICT sector and elaborating the policy implementation mechanisms the responsible state bodies and international organizations introduced the practice of annual national ICT conferences. However, the practice of annual ICT conferences came to a halt after 2006.
Kyrgyzstan and Foreign Partners
Traditionally the ICT sector development in Kyrgyzstan is actively affected by projects of international organizations and foreign countries. Continuous and active cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and the EU started in 1992. Today, the main document defining relations between the European Union and the Kyrgyz Republic is the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which came in force in 1999; it creates the legislative basis for strengthening and expanding the economic cooperation in twenty five areas, largely including the ICT area.
Over the years, Kyrgyzstan has actively collaborated with a plethora of international organizations and donors, such as:
- EBRD, which provides the major volume of aid to Kyrgyzstan in the ICT
- The «IncoNet EECA – International cooperation network for Eastern European and Central Asian countries» project, which is funded by EU Seventh Framework Program FP7 and recently has held its' workshop in Kyrgyzstan
- The TRACECA program (Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia) covering Kyrgyzstan as well is implemented within the TACIS framework
- The program BOMCA is actively implemented in Kyrgyzstan
- The OECD has supported the project «Access in Rural Area: Internet Development in Rural Area»
- The BAS Program opened in 2001 under financial support from the Japan External Cooperation Fund (JECF). At the present time the BAS program is funded by JECF and the State Secretariat of Switzerland on Economy (seco). The Program is managed by the independent TAM/BAS Programme Team of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
- The implementation of the CAREWIB project has been initiated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe - Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia;
Also, another vital role in ICT sector development is played by the international organizations such as UNDP, the World Bank, USAID, Asian Development Bank, International Telecommunications Union (ITU), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Soros-Kyrgyzstan Foundation, etc.
ICT in Kyrgyzstan
Telecommunication operators in the Kyrgyz Republic provide major telephone services by using wire communication lines and networks, and mobile telecommunications – together they cover over 95% of the population. Internet-cafes and dial-up Internet access are available countrywide, mainly in urban areas. Accessibility of mobile telecommunication services and Internet is permanently growing. The most dynamically growing market segment in Kyrgyzstan is the mobile telecommunication market. The aggregated clientele for 2008 reached 3.4 million telephone subscribers and has grown by1.6 times in comparison to 2007.
In software industry, Kyrgyzstan companies provide the following types of services on the software market:
- Design of Internet-sites and web applications, web design
- Development of specialized software for business needs
- Sales, installation and maintenance of licensed software produced by foreign companies- manufacturers.
Although the development level of software manufacturing industry in Kyrgyzstan remains low, the current rapid growth of small and medium business in Kyrgyzstan will lead to growing demand for software products for this segment, mainly shrink-wrapped applications. The feature and major difficulty for development of narrow-purpose, unique business solution is its high cost. The small- and medium- scale businesses need in mass and universal software products (such as, for instance, 1C-Accounting, « shrink-wrapped» CRM systems).
Unfortunately, as of today, no ICT-related R&D projects in Kyrgyzstan have been implemented with EU assistance. There is no information about local private ICT companies co-operating on outsourcing, licensing, production, service provision etc. with partners in the EU. At that, in Kyrgyzstan there are no explicit barriers for co-operation of local private ICT companies with partners in the EU except the language barrier, geographical remoteness and small size of the market. Kyrgyzstan as the EU partner is just on the initial stage of cooperation within the framework of such important programs as FP7.
Therefore, it could be recommended to consider the following prospective areas for cooperation between the EU and Kyrgyzstan in the ICT sector:
- Expansion of FP7-supported projects' activities in Kyrgyzstan;
- ICT monitoring on the regular basis;
- Analysis of country needs in information and communication technologies for economic, business and social applications