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ICT and Development in Kyrgyzstan

The ICT sector in Kyrgyzstan comprises of different bodies with each body saddled with varying responsibilities as deem fit by the government. One of such ICT body in the country is the council of ICT.

The Council of ICT was endorsed by a decree of the Government of Kyrgyzstan in 2013 as a consultative and advisory body under the government whose role is to define policy priorities and delivering the voice of telecommunications actors to the highest offices of the state of Kyrgyzstan.

Asides the council of ICT, there is also the state committee for radio frequencies which is a different body that coordinates the activities of ministries and agencies using radio frequency spectrum. This commission can suspend, prohibit development and production of radio or electronic devices that use radio frequency for its operation if it does not meet the standard of the committee[1].

One of the primary body in the ICT space in the country is the State Committee for Information Technology and Communications, created in 2016.  This organization is the primary agency that is responsible for the regulation, policy development, implementation and any other areas of access that is of concern to the internet use in the country[2].

According to the 2016 ICT Development Index, the percentage of people using the internet in Kyrgyzstan is 30.25 with an active mobile-broadband subscription per 100 inhabitants at 30.98 with the percentage of households that have access to a computer is merely 19.51% and internet access in these households is 16.50[3].

The 2016 report by the ICT development index is evident to the lower penetration of ICT in the country which also pointed back at the fact on the creation of the state committee for Information Technology and Communication agency that was established in 2016.

The ranking by the report shows some improvement in the country ICT penetration as the country moves from 108 in 2015 to 113 in 2016.

The increasing internet penetration in Kyrgyzstan should have been a blessing, but the freedom on the net report says otherwise as the overall score of internet freedom in the country was at 35 out of 100. Despite the improved ranking of the ICT Development Index, the Freedom of the Net 2016 report claimed the country internet penetration only increased to 30% of the total population.

The poor penetration of internet in the Kyrgyz Republic is due to the near monopoly of the state-owned telecommunication company, KyrgyzTelecom that control the majority of the internet access in the country with a market share of 60 percent. Though it was reported that the country bandwidth was upgraded to 4G and the telecommunication companies introduced unlimited internet plan, sadly this further increase the digital divide in the country as the majority of internet access was concentrated to the urban areas in the country[4].

Although the country internet regulator did not block access to any social media application nor did they block any content on the internet, Bloggers and ICT users are reported to have been on the watch of the government as they were being arrested for opposing the government with their use of the internet.

According to Freedom House, the telephone conversation between opposition parties was leaked online and this, in turn, sparks speculations that the government is misusing its surveillance power[5]. Also, in confirmation of the report by Freedom House, the leaked telephone conversation was between the richest man in the country, Bulat Utemuratov and the presidential candidate of Kyrgyzstan Temir Sariyev[6].

As ICT is still in its infancy in Kyrgyzstan, entrepreneurship in the country is focused in the city that has access to the internet, and most of the startups are focused on service-oriented businesses leaving the remote part of the country to deal in agriculture[7].

One of the fascinating comment on Kiva pages is that corruption is a systemic issue in the Kyrgyz Republic and getting a loan for operating business or startup is a matter of who you know, and this is also with high increases in the value of bribe the business gives from registration of companies to operating the companies.

 

Footnotes:

[1] https://analytica.digital.report/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Kyrgyzstan-The-2016-ICT-Sector-Overview.pdf

[2] https://analytica.digital.report/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Kyrgyzstan-The-2016-ICT-Sector-Overview.pdf

[3] https://www.itu.int/net4/ITU-D/idi/2016/#idi2016countrycard-tab&KGZ

[4] https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2016/kyrgyzstan#a1-obstacles

[5] https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2016/kyrgyzstan#a1-obstacles

[6] https://112.international/article/crisis-in-central-asia-why-conflict-between-kyrgyzstan-and-kazakhstan-occured-21663.html

[7] http://pages.kiva.org/node/8681

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