How the SCO countries will cooperate on digitalisation

30 September, 2022


In recent decades, the governments of many states, including the leading SCO states – China, India, Russia, and the Central Asian states – have developed digital strategies to maintain and accelerate their economic growth, and are continually optimising them depending on their development goals.

For example, almost all Central Asian countries (with the exception of Turkmenistan) have adopted their own digitalisation programmes. In particular, in 2018. Kazakhstan approved the programme "Digital Kazakhstan", Uzbekistan adopted the "Digital Uzbekistan-2030" Strategy in 2020, Tajikistan adopted the Concept of Digital Economy Development in the same year, etc.

Today, new technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and smart cities are emerging all over the world due to the development of digitalisation. They have a strong influence on the scientific and technological development of the entire world, the structure of production and socio-economic processes.

The achievements of one of the leading SCO countries, China, in the field of digitalisation and introduction of various new technologies into everyday life, especially the creation of the "safe city" platform ("smart city") and "5G" networks actively contribute to the development of the digital economy in the member states of the Organisation, including the states of our region. The PRC is a major player in this area, especially in the establishment of 5G technology. Technology giants such as Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei are now global competitors in Silicon Valley. In a relatively short period of time, these companies have evolved into e-commerce and IT giants, with services widely used in East, Southeast, Central Asia and Russia.

The market leader in the IT sector in the three countries of our region – Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – today is Huawei. For instance, over 60% of the population in Kazakhstan (RK) use devices and services based on Huawei equipment. The company develops and supplies to the domestic market more than 300 products and technologies designed specifically for the RoK.

Together with the government of Uzbekistan, Huawei plans to implement a number of strategically important projects for the future development of the republic. Memorandums have been signed between Huawei and the Ministry of Information Technology Development, the mobile operator UMS, the Ministry of Public Education and the University of Journalism and Mass Communication. A number of agreements on implementation of projects on modernisation of IT infrastructure in the republic, creation of safe city projects, etc. have been reached within the signed documents.

Experts see a special role of digitisation in the development of the transport infrastructure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation countries. Thanks to this project the cost of transportation can be reduced by 30% and the capacity of transport routes increased by 40%. The joint construction of multi-modal transport and logistics centres, and the creation of a network of industrial clusters along the transport routes of the SCO member-states will help to expand the economic opportunities of the SCO countries.

The rapid digitalisation of society and states has given rise to a number of pressing cybersecurity issues. According to experts, in 2021 the number of cyber attacks in the world increased by 50% compared to 2020. In 2021, the education and research sector tops the list of the world's most attacked industries. That is why the topic of international information security, which entered the SCO agenda over 15 years ago, remains relevant today in the context of digitalisation.

Over the years, a unified approach has been developed to enable SCO to lead international efforts to elaborate universal rules of responsible behaviour of states in the information space, to prevent the use of ICT for unlawful purposes. For instance, 30 documents have been signed as a result of the 2021 anniversary summit in Dushanbe, including the SCO Plan of Cooperation on International Information Security for 2022-2023, drafted at the initiative of Uzbekistan and Russia.

Today, digitalisation is the key to inclusive economic development and increasing the investment attractiveness of the SCO member states. From this point of view, it is doubtless that the adoption at the Samarkand summit of the Comprehensive Program for Implementation of the Treaty on Long-term Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation for 2023-2027 will help raise the level of multifaceted partnership between the SCO member states, including in the field of digitalisation.

Muzaffar Jalalov,

Acting Rector of Inha University in Tashkent.