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Kazakhstan: National Search Engine Debated by the Bloggers

On December 11, 2008, Kazakhstani blogger Nurlan wrote in his blog, dedicated to IT development issues, about a possibility that so-called KazNet (a Kazakhstani segment of the world wide web) soon may have its own search engine and quotes an advertisement placed on the official website of the Governmental Agency on Informatization and Communications (AIC) [ru]:

Dear users,
The department of information technologies at the Governmental Agency on Informatization and Communications is pleased to inform you that we plan to create a National Search System within the framework of KazNet development. The search system will be society-oriented. In this regard, we ask the Internet community to help us in choosing a name for the search engine.

In the below-the-post discussion threads bloggers have been debating not only possible names for the search engine, but rather the overall necessity of the whole innovation.

Thus, Zhomart thinks [ru], that this is “just another way of money laundering”. Valentin doubts the AIC's technical ability to make it good [ru]:

“It's fishy. The best they can do is to create a websites catalog. Actually, what is the reason of making something that already exists? They will not have enough capacity to create something better than the existing search engines. It's going to be some fake at the expense of taxpayers’ money”.

Assasin believes that the agency should solve internal problems first [ru]:

“What are you talking about, a search engine? They cannot even do a dns server properly. Look – aic.gov.kz doesn’t return the page, only http://www.aic.gov.kz works. There was an online conference with Kuanyshbek Esekeev, the AIC chairman on “e-government”. He was not able to respond to concrete questions! A search engine… It would probably take 50 years for them to make one”.

There is a lot of skepticism, and that's quite understandable. What is the need to invent a bicycle? What is the need to create a new search engine (irrespectively of who is helping to do it – Yandex, Google or Microsoft), if the already existing search engines provide correct indexing and perfectly find all Kazakhstani websites. They do not require any additional time or financial investments, especially in harsh times of economic crisis.

Besides, the new resource is being publicly positioned in a quite strange way. In particular, it remains unclear what stands behind the “society-oriented” nature of a search engine. Besides, if the Internet is meant to unite countries and to remove borders, why Kazakhstan needs a localized search engine, however functional it may be? What is it: a self-affirmation complex, a reason to spend the agency's budget or a real technical necessity?

While bloggers are passionately discussing the issue, organizer of the Annual Kazakhstani Internet Award and one of the first and most respected bloggers in KazNet, Alexandr Lyakhov quotes some figures [ru]:

According to the paragraph 8.1.1 of “the Program of fighting Internet inequality in Kazakhstan for 2007-09″ (it is being implemented by AIC), KZT 28,8 million (nearly $242,000) was to be spent in 2007 and 2008 from the budget for the development of an “intellectual search system”.

Blogger Valentin bitterly jokes that it could be cheaper to hire people that would receive requests, google for them and send back results to the users.

But the matter has already gone beyond jokes: several days ago blogger Zhomart published in his blog a draft open letter to Mr. Esekeev, the AIC chairman, describing the problem and demanding to stop the project. He also asks bloggers to sign it and send the letter to Astana.

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