Interview of Elmir Velizadeh, Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technologies of Azerbaijan to Biznesinfo.az site
Mr. Velizadeh, development of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in Azerbaijan is one of priority directions. How are things getting on in this field?
Long-term development goals and challenges of ICT requires liberal and adjustable environment in this sector, and envisages the development of telecommunication infrastructure, e-government and e-services. It is planned to increase the level of revenues in ICT sector up to $8 - $9 billion by 2020.
Over the last 10 decades ICT sector has increased 7-8 times in Azerbaijan. Average annual increase made up 25-30%. Only in 2012 it consisted 17.3%, and income in ICT sector was more than AZN1.5 billion.
70% of population in Azerbaijan is Internet users, and 50% of country population use broadband internet. Number of foreign Internet channels has been increased for 2.3 times and reached 200 Gb/s, populated territory of the country has been covered with 93% digital TV.
Currently, 3 operators are providing 3G services in the mobile communications field, one of them began to apply 4G technology in 2012.
187 e-services out of 417 are provided by the “single window” principle through e-government portal and 40 public agencies have been connected to this system.
Generally, up to 600 e-signature certificates were issued, and more than half of these users are physical users.
21% of capital investments made in Azerbaijan’s ICT sector consist of foreign investments. How does it reflect in our economy?
It is necessary for Azerbaijan to apply innovations, modern technologies and leading experience in the field of creation of effective business models of other countries. All of these allow ensuring of interests through providing consumers with quality services.
Note that suitable conditions are being provided in the country for new business. Registration period of business entities have been reduced for 20 times (from 60 days to 3 days) through “single window” system applied within e-government project, and the number of required procedures for creation of new business entities has been reduced from 13 to 5.
According to the “Global competitiveness” index indicated in the “Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013” of the World Economic Forum, Azerbaijan advanced 9 steps forward and took the 46th place among 144 countries and so maintained its leadership in the CIS. According to the statistic data of the World Bank “Doing Business 2013”, Azerbaijan has improved its positions after 2005 year and took the 13th place among 50 countries. Generally, Azerbaijan is in the 67th place among 185 countries.
More than $2.5billion was invested in ICT sector of the country over the last 10 years. In 2012, the amount of investments made in this sector was $413 million.
Is the involvement of new investments expected within the near future?
New investments will be directed to the modernization of telecommunications, development of knowledge-based IT products and space industry. The State Oil Fund will make investment in the amount of approximately $500 million in the development of ICT infrastructure and broadband internet services.
The State Fund for Development of Information Technologies and High Technologies Park will speed up the involvement of foreign investments in the ICT sector of the country. We will witness the capital investment to be made in the national space industry.
Preparatory work for the launch of satellites will be continued. On February of the current year Azerspace, the first telecommunication satellite of Azerbaijan, was launched into the earth orbit. It is planned to launch a low-earth remote sensing satellite in 2015, and launch of the second telecommunication satellite into orbit in 2016.
Do the local business structures make investment in ICT sector?
Local capital investments made in the ICT sector is of great importance. So, local business structures account for half of the funds invested in this field during the recent 5 years.
Please, speak about the activity of the State Fund for Development of Information Technologies.
The Fund was established for stimulation of activity in the ICT sector. This body is still in its development stage. One of the activity directions of the Fund is provision of financial support in the form of grants to the newly started projects.
The winners of grants will work out examples of advanced software and ICT products. They will enlarge the application area of ICT. One of the activity directions of the Fund will be venture financing.
Is it planned to provide transition into digital television (DVB-T format – terrestrial broadcasting) in 2013?
According to the “Program for application and development of the DVB-T digital television system in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan” confirmed by the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers on February 10, 2011, and in accordance with the decision of the National TV and Radio Council (NTRC), 9 republican and 1 Turkish channel (AzTV, Medeniyyet (Culture), Sport, Azerbaijan, ITV, Lider TV, Space TV, ATV, Khazar TV, ANS TV and TRT-1) are broadcasted in the main package.
This broadcasting covers 93% populated area of the Republic. It is planned to use digital television in the country and termination of analogue broadcasting in 2013.
How will be realized broadcasting of foreign channels after transition into DVB-T format?
Currently, the main (open) digital TV package in the territory of the Republic is broadcasted by Teleradio PA of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies. Commercial package of the digital broadcasting is implemented by the companies determined by the NTRC. Regulation of TV programs, as well as broadcasting of foreign TV channels, issuance of licenses to companies and operators and control over them are also implemented by the NTRC.
At present, Trans-Eurasia Information Super Highway (TASIM) project is under implementation. This project provides for establishment of link between two regions - Europe and Asia having high development level of ICT. The project will cover 20 countries and enhance relations among representatives of governments, private sector and civil society.