Askar Zhumagaliev: the number of grants in the specialty “Information Security” increased 11 times
“Today, a person clearly sees the movement of the bus on his smartphone and can go to the bus stop at the exact moment when the bus arrives. I just remember when I was in Almaty, I lived in a dormitory on the second floor. It was 800 meters to the stop. And the students and I, when we saw the bus from the second floor, did a 800-meter race … a march-throw (eds.) Because the bus went around there a little bit and did not go straight. And during this time we managed to run to a stop and go to college. And now this is not necessary. Now it is not only in Nur-Sultan, but also in other cities. You can clearly see the bus schedule and come at the right time. These digital solutions are gradually surrounding us, and our life is becoming easier, ”Askar Zhumagaliev.
Askar Zhumagaliev (our university graduate), the Minister of Digital Development, Innovations and Aerospace Industry, tells in an interview for vlast.kz why Kazakhstan is obliged to train IT specialists, develop the technological sphere and who has a digital future.
Askar Kuanyshevich, let’s talk about the first results of the digitalization program. What are they like? How satisfied are you: what happened, what didn’t?
You know, all state bodies, akimats, state and private enterprises are involved in digitalization. A lot of things has been done and is doing now. It is clear that we will still be evaluated by the management and the services that are involved in this, but, frankly, we are satisfied with the results of digitalization. The program defines a number of indicators that need to be achieved. For example, we should automate 80% of all our services this year, 90% – next. Yes, it was hard. We had been working for a long time and hard with government agencies, but we completed the task. 80% of public services are automated and from January 1, 2020 they will be launched.
What does it mean?
This means that a citizen, coming for services, will have a great opportunity not to come to a public servant, but to receive via the Internet, excluding the human factor. This means transparently, without any corruption, which I think is very important.
A request for database integration has been given. How is this work done?
Database integration is a problem for every state. All information systems have traditionally developed in specific ministries. And when it came time for everyone to integrate, certain problems appeared. I can say for sure that in Kazakhstan we have practically resolved this problem. This year 195 integrations were planned to be carried out, we brought them to 300. That is, more than 300 integrations this year, state bodies have already completed. And this work, of course, we will continue. Moreover, the appetite comes with eating. And we with state bodies understand that there is still a niche for optimizing services, that it is possible to provide some services even faster without requiring any documents. This requires additional integration. Therefore, we have created an integration platform. We saw such a good experience among Estonians. They created a system – X Road. We created a similar solution in Kazakhstan – an integration platform called Smart Bridge. It will allow integrating various information systems of government agencies not in 7-8 months, but in less than a month. In addition, if before, in order to do all this, it was necessary to have a large number of documents: approve the standard, regulations, rules …. That new law on public services, which has recently been signed, this process is simplified. There is only one document left, which, plus all, can be executed in electronic form. All this will simplify as much as possible, moreover, thanks to this, the cost of integration will decrease significantly.
You say “the cost will decrease at times.” Is digitalization expensive?
I will tell you right away about the effect, answering the question: expensive or inexpensive. In just two years of the implementation of Digital Kazakhstan, the country received an effect of 600 billion tenge. 600 billion tenge! And this year, the state spent 18 billion tenge on Digital Kazakhstan. Comparing these numbers, you can imagine how much digitalization is profitable.
If you look a little back today, until recently this was not so that we could calmly pay for certain services non-cash. Today, having come to any cafe, you can pay by card or phone. You can use Caspi, Apple Pay, NFC and some other solutions. And all this is carried out calmly and without problems. Two years ago there was no “Digital Kazakhstan. Today, a person clearly sees the movement of the bus on his smartphone and can go to the bus stop at the exact moment when the bus arrives. I just remember when I was in Almaty, I lived in a dormitory on the second floor. It was 800 meters to the stop. And the students and I, when we saw the bus from the second floor, ran 800 meters ….
Yes. Because the bus there went around a little, did not go straight. And during this time we managed to run to a stop and go to college. And now this is not necessary. Now it is not only in Nur-Sultan, but also in other cities. You can clearly see the bus schedule and come at the right time.
These digital solutions gradually surround us, and our life becomes easier.
In principle, yes, people have even stopped wearing cash ….
Cash, yes, stopped wearing. And the other day, the president at the National Council of Public Confidence gave us an assignment ….
That was my next question!
… so that government agencies still solve the problem of citizens not to take a technical passport and driver’s license with them. We have already made a similar decision for identification. We tied it to our mobile government, and you can show your identity card over the phone. It can be perceived as genuine. We can apply a similar solution to the data sheet and driver’s license.
In principle, for any documents?
For any documents for which data is in the database. Thus, we will make life easier for a citizen. You know, today almost all police officers go with tablets. The Ministry of Internal Affairs for two years in the framework of “Digital Kazakhstan” has been dealing with the issue of maximum supply of tablets. Today, when they have tablets, when we have fairly mature information systems, we can offer such a solution. And in the near future, I think, we with the Ministry of Internal Affairs will finalize all these issues and give this service. Moreover, we are technologically and technically ready.
We spoke informally a year or two ago, and then you said that many government agencies resist digitalization. How are things today?
This is everyone’s favorite question (smiles – V).
This is actually interesting. Because, even if you take the rights and the registration certificate, if the Ministry of Internal Affairs does not go to the meeting, you can not do anything.
I think, after the president’s order we will do it. I’m sure of it.
Well, the president should not always give on the head, relatively speaking, or knock on the table with his fist ….
In general, if we talk about how this all happens … First, any new, innovative person perceives difficult by nature. And he, basing on some of his experiences, does not want changes in his own life, does not want to apply any innovative solutions. But there is a small category of innovators who want something new. Their minority, but at the same time, thanks to Digital Kazakhstan, their number began to grow. … Do you remember how Nursultan Abishevich said every six months: “Digitalization is needed.” In his messages, in his meetings, in his speeches, he always talked about this. And gradually, many began to realize that digitalization is really important and gives a real effect. Today I can say for sure that many government bodies perceive digitalization not as an enemy, but as something that will allow them to develop new technologies and increase their effectiveness. And it pleases.
It is clear that we have some civil servants who, in this regard, have not yet completely rebuilt. But I think it is also a matter of time. And gradually, we all the same, as if everything will be rebuilt. Because, frankly, there is no choice. Either we are effective, or we introduce the latest and including digital technologies, implement innovative ideas, or we, as the president says, are behind.
Business is one of the recipients of the Digital Kazakhstan program and its representatives often state that digitalization of enterprises in our country can be carried out for the sake of digitalization, without a complete analysis of information and risk accounting. How much do you agree with this and do we have a “digitalization race”?
There are different approaches. In order to effectively digitalize, Tamara, what is needed? A clear conviction is needed. And most importantly – this belief should be with the leadership. I can say for sure that it is not necessary to buy a lot of computers and information systems for billions of tenge. But this will not give any effect if you do it illiterately.
In order to digitalize some processes, it is necessary, firstly, to analyze all the work of the enterprise, to analyze all the business processes that are working today, and make an appropriate decision that will help increase efficiency and solve existing problems.
Are there many enterprises now ready to participate in this?
There are enterprises that today are very actively conducting digitalization and correctly understand what it is.
Mashkevich, for example (Head of ERG)?
There are good examples. ERG today is actively working in this direction, Kazmineralas carries out digitalization very well, approaches the issue with understanding. There are enterprises in the Karaganda region. We know that good solutions are being implemented both in Kazmunaigas, and in KazTransOil, and in other companies, in Kazpost, in Kazakhtelecom. We see direct involvement of managers there, which is very important. I myself was a leader in one of the industrial companies, you know. I remember exactly that when you talk about digitalization, at first not everyone understands you. The company has been working for 30 years with production workers, many of whom immediately say “this will not work, this is wrong.” There are, of course, innovators in the team who understand and support new approaches. Here you need to find understanding together, you need to find the very path through which you will achieve efficiency, and then purchase equipment, computers and the like.
First, you still need to start with people.
Required. In general, any transformation is people. The transformation process is spelled out in all books: people, processes, and then technology. That is, the main thing is people.
The world is increasingly using “big data” – at various levels – from social services to education. How does Kazakhstan plan to develop this sector, what role will mobile operators play in this, which, in essence, are pioneers in this direction?
According to big data, today this is an equally big trend. There is such a fashionable term – data-driven economy. Kazakhstan does not stand out in this respect. Today we are actively working in this direction. Moreover, if we talk about database integration, this is the preparatory work for creating a large, as we call, “data lake”.
By analyzing this data, using different algorithms, we already get a certain effect. I can say that in the overall effect (600 billion tenge) that we received from the implementation of Digital Kazakhstan, almost 50% is precisely due to the project according to big data. For example, the system analyzed tax revenues, volumes of imported products, and other indicators, identifying companies that underpaid taxes. There were different cases: a company bought goods at the same price, but sold an order of magnitude cheaper, or delivered one quantity of goods, and managed to sell several times more. These discrepancies, in simple terms, have come to light. The State Revenue Committee put forward the relevant requirements for such companies, and the state received additional tax deductions.
We saw interesting correlations at the Ministry of Health. The state allocated about 115 billion tenge for the free distribution of medicines. Distributed, we will say so, without a digital footprint. When these processes were digitalized and started to be analyzed, we saw that by providing all those categories of the population to which the state should provide free medical products, 38 billion tenge out of 118 could be saved.
That is, it is the big data that will help to get more and more effect in various fields?
Yes. There are foreign consulting large organizations that today say that large companies, corporations that work with big data and artificial intelligence will be 10 times more effective.
In fact, the state is a large corporation that, for efficiency, must also use similar tools. Therefore, today the necessary bills are being worked out.
According to big data, it is planned that National Information Technologies JSC will act as an integrator, and Nazarbayev University, which has experience and qualifications, young students, and very experienced teaching staff, will act as an integrator.
Another important global trend is the Internet of things. This sector is almost only appearing in Kazakhstan and has not yet taken shape in a full-fledged market. What are your expectations – how will this direction develop in Kazakhstan?
The Internet of things is no longer the future, it is the present. Yes Yes. This is already real, because today each of us can’t practically live without the Internet. He began to be perceived as a basic need, as the presence of water or electricity at home. And it is clear that those inanimate objects that surround us today, they gradually gain, let us say so, their soul through IoT devices, through connecting to the corresponding systems.
We tried several pilot projects. A very interesting project is Akkol, when heat and energy sensors are connected through IoT devices. Both the situational center and large systems based on big data allow us to evaluate and make appropriate correct decisions. So, such solutions, as we saw in the example of Akkol, can reduce electricity consumption by 30%, heat consumption by 15-20%. These numbers may be larger, depending on various factors. Therefore, I think IoT solutions will gradually spread. In some cases, we will not even notice this. But, at the same time, we will clearly feel this in terms of efficiency.
And what role will mobile operators play in this?
Today, mobile operators are not only selling the Internet and voice traffic, that is, they are earning not only from the sale of communication services – they are selling equipment, online television. Time today makes them look for new niches. You know, this year I was in Korea, held many meetings, including meeting with the leaders of telecommunications companies. And telecom operators today there as a new direction for their development are just developing services for Internet of things. For example, sensors have been installed throughout Korea that measure the ecological state of the environment, receive information and sell it. They also provide ready-made services using IoT-solutions for housing and communal services, for video surveillance, etc. Given that the implementation of these services requires the Internet, and this is one of their main areas of activity of communication companies, they have a visible advantage in this regard.
These solutions require 5G.
Yes you are right. We are also actively talking about the development of 5G technology, because this is precisely the technology that is designed to maximize the ability to connect such systems.
5G – is it more for enterprises?
These are IoT sensors, the ability to collect and transmit data from various kinds of equipment. 4G is enough for an ordinary person to watch a video and so on. Clearly, if you want to download a movie, through 5G it will be much faster.
Why download if you can watch online?
There is such a thing. The taste and color, as they say. In general, 5G is more the technology that will provide an opportunity for the development of smart cities, smart home technology, telemedicine, the implementation of IoT solutions in enterprises, etc.
There is also an advantage – low delay speed, in my opinion.
Yes. Low latency, increased stability of the connection – these are the advantages of the technology.
Let’s talk about innovations, including technological ones. Does Kazakhstan have any technological developments in this regard that can be competitive, can become or are already competitive?
Today we are creating an innovative ecosystem for the birth of such new ideas, for supporting startups. Astana IT-hub is a structure that is the heart of the innovation ecosystem. We are going to “connect” all regions to the hub to help develop startups across the country. There are already interesting legislative norms that allow companies registered in the hub to receive tax breaks and organize a special labor regime. As a result, over these two years, the IT innovation ecosystem has attracted 32.4 billion tenge of investments. It is gratifying. This is encouraging. As for the projects already implemented, we have a number of cool solutions that received investments not only in Kazakhstan, but also from investors from the USA, Russia, the Emirates, Singapore. It is nice that today our young guys are interested in foreign players with their ideas. Of course, we will continue this work, increase its pace in order to maximally involve the most ideological, most interesting guys in the process with their proposals and projects.
That is, does the IT hub really work?
You can just come to Astana an IT hub any day and be surprised. Frankly, I like to go there, and I spend many meetings with IT specialists there. Because there is a different atmosphere. There are young guys with burning eyes. By the way, Astana IT-hub is already 100% full. In April, we are going to double. This will allow us to place more startups, to incubate and accelerate with them. A trainer is assigned to each startup, they are trained, given marketing knowledge, accounting, give useful recommendations that help them grow and become more stable, they are introduced to investors. The hub’s task, in fact, is to help startups get past the line that usually many projects simply don’t reach, faced with a lack of certain competencies and an understanding of the business.
There is a strong view that Kazakhstan is not a startup country. Belarus, for example, has managed to become one, while Kazakhstan has not. Why?
This must be looked at the origins. Why did it happen? In Soviet times, where were the universities that taught programmers? Minsk was one of such cities. As a result, this allowed us to create that human capital, that critical mass of IT specialists, as it is now fashionable to say, which was needed for the development of the industry. We have already said that who are the most important in the process? People. Kazakhstan has traditionally dealt with mineral resources, the oil industry, and the uranium industry. We have very good opportunities in the field of transport and logistics, due to our unique location.
To make Kazakhstan an IT center was not exactly such a task in Soviet times. We are now filling this gap.
How? First, an IT university was created in Almaty, this year an IT university was opened in the capital. Today throughout Kazakhstan we are creating IT parks. Children began to study computer science from primary school. We do not say that they will learn programming in the 2-3rd grade, but the children are already starting to get basic skills, they have begun to engage in robotics. The approach to the allocation of grants within the framework of the Bolashak program has changed. The guys are now sent to those specialties that the market needs. These are specialists in data analytics, artificial intelligence, information security, etc. Plus, we have already talked about the development of an innovative ecosystem, about supporting startups. All these measures are complexly aimed at the development of human capital. Any plant needs to be watered to grow, right? So it is here. For something to work out, you need to create favorable conditions for this.
You spoke earlier about information security. Probably, I will also not be the first to ask about this, but there are occasional leaks. Leaks of the databases of the Ministry of Health, from the Central Election Commission. Who can guarantee that tomorrow the personal data of millions of Kazakhstan citizens will not go online?
Digitalization should go hand in hand with the development of those services that deal with information security. Because there is a large amount of data and technological solutions that need to be protected. In the United States, Estonia, and South Korea, where today there are highly qualified specialists in information security, there are all kinds of incidents that are rumored to have hacked into a large store system and posted customer card data to the network, or a data leak on Facebook. In Kazakhstan, to prevent this, we are doing a lot of work, the Cybershield program is being implemented. There are 336 sites to which information security requirements have been tightened. Here again, the question arises of human capital, we need specialists in this field. Therefore, this year the number of grants in this direction has increased 11 times. Remember, there was an order from Elbasy to allocate an additional 20 thousand grants? Some of them were just aimed at training information security specialists. I think the trend will continue. You know, I’ll tell you, we already have private companies on the market that work in the field of information security. They create solutions and provide services not only in Kazakhstan, they are also used in other countries. This suggests that this industry is actively developing in the country. Given that the country has more plans for digitalization, the relevance of this area will only increase.
The Pentagon was also hacked ….
… There are many different examples. It is necessary to constantly increase the level of specialists, the level of hardware and software to protect against any attacks, in order to be ready. And in cases where something happens, you need to very quickly, as soon as possible eliminate the problems, and do it without prejudice to the country. Therefore, digitalization and work to improve information security are two inextricable processes.