ASTANA -- The Astana Hub, an international accelerator for startups, is poised to develop Kazakhstan's entrepreneurial culture and business environment, officials and information technology stakeholders say.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev inaugurated the Astana Hub, situated at the EXPO pavilion in the capital, Tuesday (November 6).
"The world is changing rapidly," he said at the opening ceremony, according to his press office. "Artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies are actively being implemented in all fields. Today, digitisation has become one of the key factors for the development and competitiveness of any state."
"The world's leading countries and their associations, such as the G20 and European Union, have already adopted their own strategy documents on digitalisation," he said.
"Participants of the Astana Hub ... will receive tax and other benefits," Nazarbayev said. "The government and foundations will provide them with financial and other support."
Strengthening Kazakhstan's economy
The hub's designated mission is to develop Kazakhstan's startup culture and support high-tech projects in order to strengthen the economy.
The government expects the park to become an internationally recognised hub for tech business development and has promoted it as "Kazakhstan's Silicon Valley".By 2022, investors should have poured 67 billion KZT ($180 million) into startups that have graduated from Astana Hub programmes, according to its stated goals.
"IT business is growing fast," Aydos Iskakov, a startup founder from Karaganda and graduate of the Astana Hub acceleration programme, told Caravanserai.
"I had long discussed the idea of a future project with my brother and decided to create a project that has no equivalents in Kazakhstan: an online store that sells groceries with free delivery," he said.
"There are five of us on the team," he said. "Residents [of Karaganda] can order groceries at any time, and they will be promptly delivered to their home."
During the opening events, officials informed participants that the QazAngels Business Angels Club, the Association of Venture Capitalists and Co-Investment Fund are operating in Kazakhstan to support IT startups.
Recognising leaders in technology
A day before the inauguration of the hub, Astana hosted the Digital Bridge International Innovation Forum. The event was organised by the Ministry of Information and Communications with the partnership of local and foreign companies, including American corporations Cisco and Dell.
"This year Kazakhstan began full-scale implementation of the 'Digital Kazakhstan' programme," Information Minister Dauren Abayev said during the forum. "This is one of the important areas of state policy that could modernise the economy."
Opening the Astana Hub "will become an important link in the technological development of our country", he said.
At the forum, foreign speakers made impressive presentations on entrepreneurship, innovation and the launch of startups. Awards went to the best Kazakh IT companies.
Software developers also had the opportunity to meet with potential investors.
The event recognised the ONAI project, an electronic fare payment system for public transportation, as the best digital initiative. It deemed the Ministry of Health a leader in the digitisation of public services and Documentolog, which provides workflow automation products to businesses, as the best IT company.
Favourable conditions for IT startups
"The Digital Bridge forum will be an annual event that will create a platform for dialogue between the countries of Europe and Asia to promote the ideas of digital transformation, e-government, tech entrepreneurship and the fourth industrial revolution," the Ministry of Information and Communications said in a statement.
The forum held parallel sessions to discuss blockchain technologies, digitisation of public services, innovations in the space industry and many other topics.
"I don't remember such an event in Kazakhstan," said forum participant Yevgeny Skvortsov, an Almaty resident and head of Sunrise Startup's creative software development team. "The participants' eyes light up. They listen to speakers and are themselves eager to share their ideas and developments."
"This is the largest forum that has brought together members of the IT community, operators of new startups and successful entrepreneurs in digital technologies," he told Caravanserai. "The most advanced trends in digitisation and successful business models are demonstrated and explained here."
Kazakhstan has created favourable conditions "for the successful growth of startup IT companies and individual geniuses who invent and launch startups, which may become world-famous", Skvortsov said.