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Kazakhstan: Oddities of the Digital Present

In the most recent counple of weeks the Kazakhstani blogosphere – usually heavily politicized – was focused more on the developments in telecoms sector and Internet-related novelties in Kazakhstan. The country's authorities are still aiming to enter top 50 of the most competitive countries, although the Economist's index of “e-readiness” still puts Kazakhstan on 64th place among 69 countries between Pakistan and Vietnam. World Economic Forum ranked Kazakhstan 73rd among 122 countries in 2007 – 13 lines lower than in the previous year.

Nevertheless, enthusiasts don't lose hope and try to come up with new projects, while the officials try to get use of them for promotion of Kazakhstan's international image. Thus, for example, neweurasia's Lena B-va reports that an ambitious project – Second Astana – can be a step towards promotion of the brand called “Republic of Kazakhstan” in the world:

Social service Second Astana is something more than Google Maps (city hall of Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan is already finishing creation of the city's 3D map). The first spots of the Kazakh land in popular virtual world of Second Life. Developers say it was their own project – not the official one – and plan to expand the SL area to Almaty, Turkestan and Borovoe – the major tourist destinations in Kazakhstan.

Online shops are also gaining more popularity in the country for cheaper prices – most of the major retail chains offering home appliances and electronics now have Internet-based shops. Moreover, some of them orientate their business specifically for expats and foreign customers. Syedin, a blogger and an editor of a glossy magazine, recommends Art Of Central Asia website to the lovers of ethnic arts [ru].

It's a kind of online gallery of works of the Central Asian artists and craftspeople for the outer world. The goals are high: to open Central Asia's modern art to the connoisseurs from all continents.

Social networks are capturing minds and time of the people across CIS – highly popular Russian resource called Odnoklassniki (analogue of classmates) will launch localized versions in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, writes utkir-aka [ru]. The owners of social service do not exclude creation of Kazakh and Ukrainian language versions.

However, not everything is shining and happy here. For example, the news about publication of a trilingual e-terminology dictionary was met with irony and bewilderment. The book in Russian, Kazakh and English languages was co-sponsored by the Cisco Academy and Digital Kazakhstan magazine. Habrahabr reacts [ru]:

In Kazakhstan they translate everything, even such international words like “airport” or “computer”. Now the dictionary is going to be published. Most of the terms have just got a Kazakh suffix, but widely used words like “USB” or “adapter” are not “adapted”, but translated!

Master-mahno, a well-known IT expert, is very critical concerning the prime-minister's order to “facilitate adoption of the State Concept on Development of the Kazakhstani sector of Internet” [ru]:

Today KazNet accounts only for 5 percent of the traffic in Kazakhstan; 86 percent goes to Russian websites and the rest – to the West. Now the authorities want to select 30 “most demanded resources, including 20 state-run and 10 private, and to promote them”. What is that about? Promote them among those 5 percent of users who visit Kazakh websites? How? Install billboards on the streets?

So, the Soviet-style administrative measures and state regulation is expanding not only on the energy sector, but also online. At the same time, tuganbaev, a key figure in the Russian blogosphere, producer of several Internet projects and an ethnic Kazakh, is very praiseful towards Kazakhstani blogosphere [ru]:

My morning in the Internet starts with Kazakhstan. People are up earleir there – both geographically and traditionally. In their blogs they don't compete in a hangover degree, don't complain about Mondays, and rarely dig up in emotional self-reflection. Kazakhs earn money on their resources and will soon become a major foreign investor in Russia. They build elite housing in downtown of Moscow; they bought land near the Domodedovo International Airport to build warehouses. They own banks in Russia and erect their own tower in Moscow-City business district – so that young Kazakh businessmen – who got Western degrees due to the president's educational program – could have a place to occupy.
I read Kazakhstani bloggers and try to understand the secret.

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