I had a unique opportunity to meet with Almaz Bakenov, an attache with the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic and speak with him about eGovernment. Almaz has a Masters degree in Computer Science and one in Electrical Engineering as well. Our conversation focused on four areas of eGovernment:
- IT as a driver in economic development - IT can provide an opportunity for economic development in underdeveloped countries. Kyrgyzstan has few natural resources and has to rely on its workforce, which is surprisingly well educated, to drive economic growth.
- IT as a driver in societal growth and change - IT can provide information and communication more cheaply than many alternatives. For example, wiring schools and libraries is expensive, but it provides access to information and knowledge that changes society (we can debate whether for good or bad).
- IT as a means of managing society - this is the classic eGovernment angle and focuses on how to use IT to run the government and, in a democracy, let citizens understand what government is doing and impact the way it operates.
- Infrastructure - the other three depend on this and infrastructure is a classic role for government. When the US was young one of the first public works projects was a turnpike. In the 21st century, networks are as important as roads and in most countries, government is the only one who can afford to build them.
We talked a great deal about economic development since that provides resources for the other initiatives, if its successful. There's a waltz required however, since you can't just do one without also working on the others. I enjoyed my talk with Almaz very much and think he has some interesting challenges ahead as he tries to work through all this.