CAREC at 20: Reimagining Regional Cooperation Through Digital Transformation
Tuesday, 4 May 2021, 3:30 pm–5:30 pm , GMT+8
Minister, Ministry of Economy, Azerbaijan
Introduction of Speakers
Director General, Central and West Asia Department, ADB
ADB: Shixin Chen
Vice-President, Operations 1
AIIB: Joachim von Amsberg
Vice President, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
EBRD: Zsuzsanna Hargitai
Managing Director for Central Asia, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
IsDB: Bandar M. H. Hajjar
President, Islamic Development Bank
Afghanistan: Mohammad Khalid Payenda
Acting Minister of Finance
Azerbaijan: Mikayil Jabbarov
Minister, Ministry of Economy
People’s Republic of China: Qiangwu Zhou
Director General for ADB/World Bank Group, Department of International Economic and Financial Cooperation, Ministry of Finance
Georgia: Lasha Khutsishvili
Minister, Ministry of Finance
Kazakhstan: Alibek Kuantyrov
Vice-Minister, Ministry of National Economy
Kyrgyz Republic: Sultan Akhmatov
Deputy Minister, Ministry of Economy and Finance
Mongolia: Javkhlan Bold
Minister, Ministry of Finance
Pakistan: Saeed Ashraf Siddiqi
Joint Secretary (ADB), Economic Affairs Division
Tajikistan: Nematullo Hikmatullozoda
Assistant to the President on Economic Issues
Turkmenistan: Muhammetgeldi Serdarov
Minister, Ministry of Finance and Economy
Uzbekistan: Oybek Shagazatov
Head of the Department for Cooperation with International Financial Institutions, Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade
Director General, East Asia Department, ADB
Deputy Editor and Head of Digital Strategy, The Economist
This high-level session brought together officials from Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) member countries and development partners to reflect on the opportunities presented by digital transformation. Participants deliberated over how regional cooperation can enable members to overcome barriers and realize the benefits from such a transformation.
Moderator Tom Standage set the discussion by highlighting the role of digital technology in driving economic growth and explaining that digital technology has convincingly demonstrated positive impact in developing countries. He noted the several opportunities across the five operational clusters of the CAREC Program where members can integrate digital solutions to improve efficiency.
The CAREC officials focused their discussion on the following:
1. The wide-ranging opportunities for digitalization given the various areas of common focus for CAREC countries. Digital solutions will not only provide economic benefits but also allow member countries to develop robust solutions in important areas such as health and education. Participants highlighted the key role played by telecommunications infrastructure in this process. They also discussed the various solutions for CAREC’s operational clusters, such as developing digital trading platforms, introducing tools for digital taxation, integrating automated payment systems for rail and road freight, etc.
2. The barriers to digital transformation that preclude access to digital technologies for many segments of the CAREC population. These barriers include issues relating to physical infrastructure and the lack of a supportive policy environment. A lack of interoperability among existing systems and insufficient private sector investment were also identified as barriers complicating the digital divide problem. It was suggested that integrated approaches be employed for developing solutions to these challenges.
3. Leveraging the CAREC Program for facilitating solutions via regional cooperation. Participants identified three ways for the CAREC Program to support member countries on their journey toward digital transformation: 1) by strengthening public and private sector dialogue for expanded participation of the private sector in mobilizing technical and financial resources needed for digital transformation; 2) by enhancing knowledge sharing through improved coordination; and 3) by harmonizing standards and policies through a unified vision.
The participants appreciated CAREC’s initiative to bring together high-level officials to exchange views and discuss opportunities for further collaboration and knowledge sharing for digital transformation in the region.