The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Turkmenistan hosted a presentation of SAP SE, the German software producer, where specialists of the company presented promising projects on cooperation and ensuring the transition to the digital economy.
Natalia Panina, Vice-President Government Affairs & Public Policy, Eastern Europe, Dmitry Kalugin, Chief of Excellence in Public Sector, Competence Center, and Mikhail Burdukovsky, Business Solution Architect, Competence Center, presented the realized projects and achievements of SAP SE. The meeting was co-organized by Turkmen-Transit Economic Society, partner of the German company in Turkmenistan.
The presentation of “SAP SE” was aimed at representatives of the public sector – the Ministry of Finance and Economy, the Department of Statistics, the Tax Service, Turkmenstandards Service, Rysgal JSCB, and the Halkbank SKBT. In addition, members of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs joined the event.
ORIENT talked with Natalia Panina to learn what the digitalization process means and what set of tasks it includes.
– In general, digitization is a global trend. Each country has its own digitization strategy, and many have already achieved positive effects. And Turkmenistan can now take advantage of the best experience of other countries. In this area, for example, the Asia-Pacific region, including Singapore, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, is the leader.
Turkmenistan is a very rich country with vast natural resources. We know that there is a Concept of Development of Digital Economy in Turkmenistan in 2019 – 2025. But there is always the question on putting priorities: “What is the point to start?” Most often, Roadmap of projects, which consists of many directions, is the starting point. For the Turkmen economy, one of the priorities is the gas complex. There are many IT solutions in the world that can be adopted in order to increase the efficiency of gas production.
If we are talking about public administration, then digitization can also bring a lot of valuable ideas. Today, at the presentation session, we talked about the possibility of digitization of similar operations (issuing certificates, etc. – ed.) to a common service center – there are will be a huge savings. Denmark after the first 10 years of implementation of the strategy for digitization reported on significant reduction in costs at the level of government agencies and the government. Digital Estonia speaks of annual savings of 2% of GDP after the introduction of an electronic signature. That is, there are effects in different areas.
Digitization today allows us to support and motivate the growth of small and medium businesses. If they start to use ERP systems (Enterprise Resource Planning), that are provided from national data centers for their use, then their processes will become more efficient.
And if they post vacancies about the specialists they need, they will be able to hire more competent employees. The development of the so-called digital skills – the digital skills of population – is another area of digitization that is very important for each state.
– Is it mean that digitization can help a new entrepreneur to compete with large companies that mainly occupy the market?
– It is not really like this. In a country, there is usually a balance between large enterprises, which, le’s say, form the basis of the gross product, and small and medium enterprises, as it is very important to develop and employ the population in small and medium business service.
Today services are very popular. Citizens want to have online services. How to enable small businesses to declare themselves in the country? Through the platform of national goods – so-called E-market place (e-commerce platform) – such platforms are implemented in Australia and Austria. The Turkmen entrepreneur can place their product catalog there, so the buyer will quickly find the seller.
– Small business in Turkmenistan is usually associated with national crafts, hand-made also. People in rural areas mainly deal with this. How do they get on such a platform?
– There are several ways. First, we were very pleased to learn that the foundation of the Concept of Development of Digital economy in Turkmenistan is the formation and accelerated modernization of the communication infrastructure, access to broadband Internet.
Thus, the people of rural areas will have the same access to the Internet as the citizens who live in cities. And that’s all they need. Access to the platform that meets the buyer or seller is via the Internet. You just need to register at this platform and start providing services.
And, there is one important thing, the portal that I’m talking about teaches the user. Of course, there are people who may not be able to work with the Internet. But this issue is more about national programs, it is the social responsibility of the state – to teach the population to use the Internet, to work with the system.
That is, digitization has not only direct technology deployment projects, but also large social-oriented projects in the field of education and training of the population from schoolchildren to pensioners. Technology implementation and training is a simultaneous, parallel process.
– You said that transition to a digital economy helps save labor resources as simple similar operations like counting, collecting, data sorting, etc. would be provided by automated systems. Is it possible that such optimization would reduce the number of jobs and, accordingly, the purchasing power of people?
– The number of jobs is not reduced. If you have a look in perspective, then you would realize that within 10-20 years the list of popular professions will change significantly.
For example, there is no a postman profession in the USA anymore since people do not write paper letters and do not send parcels. People use e-mail, social networks like Instagram, Facebook, etc., there is a 3D-printing. Have the postmen died of starvation? No, they are not dead. They retrained.
That is why the creation of a national learning platform is a very important aspect in the digitization program. In Saudi Arabia, we made a very interesting project with the government – the national portal of employment of the population, where any person can apply and put the resume.
A person sees an interesting and actual vacancy and then, the machine automatically and very quickly – this is a very important word “quickly” – compares what a person can do and what a person wants to do. Then, the system gives him advice on what additional skills he needs to have for a vacancy position.
A list of online courses is available here. Courses are held with iTeacher – an electronic assistant. You complete these courses, receive an electronic certificate and can apply again for this vacancy. There are advantages for you both – for a person himself and for an employer as it get a qualified specialist.
This is how a multi-directional project package works, which is formed at the second level of the Concept that set the task and implementation of the digital economy. The next level is the organization of those projects that would bring a real benefit, and the involvement of the population in this process. And we are ready to assist as advisers and give support to Turkmenistan.
Recently, Turkmenistan is in the process of transition to a digital economy. Electronic documents circulation is introduced in state structures, the basics of the digital economy– the Internet support systems, creation of information educational environment and provision of this sphere at all levels with electronic learning resources, enrichment of the intellectual potential of society, etc. – are being strengthened.
It has a number of advantages – from increasing the employment ability of youth to reducing the level of corruption and time to obtain various certificates and confirmations, and other similar paper work.
Of course, there are challenges as well. One of them is the need to retrain many workers, to teach mental flexibility and ability to keep up with the times. All this should be carried out as a complex, simultaneously. The loss of one link would cause a break of the whole system.
There is still a lot of active work ahead. And world’s best software producers are ready to share their experience in digitalization with Turkmenistan.