UNITeS helps Uzbekistan put digital development on fast track
Tuesday, 14 January 2003: Uzbekistan is accelerating progress in information and communications technology (ICT), joining the digital revolution with support from UNDP and UN Volunteers through the UN Information Technology Service (UNITeS) initiative.
"ICT is a national development priority," said Abdulla Aripov, Deputy Prime Minister and Directory-General of the Uzbek Agency for Communication and Information at a recent international seminar in Tashkent, the capital, co-sponsored by UNDP and his agency.
ICT use in Uzbekistan is still low: less than one percent of the population uses the Internet, the vast majority in the capital city, and the country's presence on the Internet is below average, with about one thousand ".uz" domains.
Last year, however, the government committed to closing the digital divide and took a number of steps to improve the regulatory framework for ICT development and liberalize the Internet service industry. Additional legislation is expected, and work on a national ICT programme for 2003 -2010 proceeds at full speed.
More than 150 experts from the government, the private sector, academia, civil society and donor agencies at the event discussed ICT development strategies and preparations for a national information summit this year.
UNDP began assisting Uzbekistan in ICT with a pilot project on e-government in 1996 that created an inter-ministerial network, UzNet. A joint project with the Open Society Institute has set up a national academic and educational network that has helped over 100 research and educational institutions, libraries and civil society groups gain Internet access.
Aided by UNDP cooperation with CISCO Systems, a CISCO Networking Academy in Tashkent has so far trained more than 60 students in computer networking technology.
UN Volunteers (UNV) is recruiting talented young people from local universities with computer skills to help local organizations as part of the UN Information Technology Service (UNITeS) initiative. The volunteers provide training in basic computer skills, help create web sites and databases and repair broken computers. More than 50 of them have helped over 20 organizations since the project began last year.
The recent Tashkent seminar was part of a Digital Development Initiative that UNDP and the Government launched last year. It covers ICT priorities ranging from creating an enabling environment and infrastructure to promoting e-learning and business opportunities.
The seminar helped the country prepare for the World Summit on the Information Society taking place in Geneva in December, said UNDP Resident Representative Richard Conroy. The summit reflects the recognition of the revolutionary transformations that the information society will bring to all spheres of life, he said.
"The project highlights the potential of young volunteers, alerting the Government to importance of supporting volunteer action for social and economic development," said UNV Programme Officer Naoko Sakai. "We were contacted recently about the project by a department of the State Parliament, indicating that it is gaining recognition."
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