The global pandemic has demonstrated the power of digital technologies and highlighted the importance of digital transformation. To reflect on these trends CABAR.asia recently published an analytical note titled “National Digitalization Strategies of Central Asian States: Challenges and Opportunities”. The policy brief analyses the current state of digital transformation in Central Asian countries and compares their national digitalization strategies. It also addresses the challenges hindering digital development in the region, and provides policy recommendations for improving the implementation of national strategies on digitalization.
CABAR.asia is an online platform providing analytical, informational and educational content on Central Asia. The author of the publication is Farrukh Khakimov, Head of Department at the Development Strategy Center in Uzbekistan. To assess the current digital readiness of Central Asia and compare national digitalization strategies, the author has primarily relied on the United Nations E-Government Survey 2022. Digitalization refers to a process of changing paper-based information into an electric format and moving manual processes and in person services online. Digital government or e-government refers to the delivery of public services online.
Below we provide a brief summary of the report highlighting aspects related to Turkmenistan. You can also read the full report in Russian: “Национальные стратегии цифровизации государств Центральной Азии: вызовы и возможности”.
What is the national digitalization strategy of Turkmenistan?
Turkmenistan has prioritized digitalization and the development of information-communication technologies (ICT) to modernize its national economy since the early 2000s. While other Central Asian countries have digital strategies Turkmenistan and Tajikistan have ‘concepts of the digital economy’. Turkmenistan’s digitalization approach is based on the “Concept for the development of the digital economy of Turkmenistan in 2019-2025”. This ambitious national program aims to develop digital economy, expand digital government and improve ICT infrastructure in the country.
What are the challenges to digitalisation in Turkmenistan?
The Central Asia remains one of the least digitally connected regions in the world while Turkmenistan is the regions poorest performer. Turkmenistan ranks 137th with an average E-Government Development Index (EGDI) of 0.48 compared to Kazakhstan which ranks 28th in the world with a score of 0.86. Similarly, internet penetration rate in Turkmenistan is only 21.2% while in Kazakhstan it is 85.9%.
Moreover, on the GovTech Maturity Index, which examines the degree of digitalisation (the use of digital technologies) in the public sector, Turkmenistan is the only country in Central Asia with minimal level of public sector modernization (“D” category). This means that the use of advanced and innovative digital solutions in the government systems, in online provision of public services and engagement of citizens is minimal in Turkmenistan. Likewise, access to ICT among Turkmenistan’s population is also very limited. For instance, only 49% of the households have Internet access at home and 44% of households have a computer at home.
According to the report, the national ICT development and digitalization approach of Central Asian countries, including Turkmenistan faces several challenges such as:
- rural-urban digital divide meaning unequal access to digital technology (e.g., smartphones, tablets, laptops, and the internet) among people who live in urban and rural areas;
- lack of sufficient financial, technical and infrastructural resources;
- poor level of digital literacy of population and civil servants;
- limited access to, low speed and high cost of Internet.
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