Telecoms & IT

High-Tech Kids

Youth in ICT

A rapidly increasing population has led to a weighty proportion of Azerbaijan being under 35 years of age. The ICT sector has exciting potential as it looks to attract Azerbaijan's large pool of bright young talent.

One of the most exciting truths of the next 10 years is that people will be using technology that does not yet exist and working in jobs that have not yet been created. It was less than 10 years ago that Facebook became publically available for social media users and even less than that since Twitter was invented. For some, life without these technologies is now almost unimaginable. Innovation in technology is highly popular among young communities, and with 40% aged under 25, and 60% aged under 35 according to World Bank figures, Azerbaijan’s ICT sector looks set to form a crucial part of the non-oil sector in the coming years.

Azerbaijan is set to invest $4 billion in the ICT sector by 2020 according to the Ministry of ICT, while revenues are proposed to reach between AZN8 billion and AZN8.5 billion, approximately 10% of GDP. If this target is reached, Azerbaijan will have not only made considerable strides in developing its ICT sector, it will be well on the way to fulfilling the national objective of strengthening the non-oil sector and creating a diversified economy.

Telecommunications companies in Azerbaijan arguably have the most visible marketing strategies, especially through their CSR programs. Regular CSR and educational programs have been established by each of the three telecom giants (Nar Mobile, Azercell, and Bakcell) with the outcome that many young Azerbaijanis, especially those enrolled in secondary and tertiary education, are given access to not only new technology, but also to education and training in the field of innovation. Azercell has introduced schemes such as the Azercell Regional Student Program as well as the “Life is more beautiful without smoking” campaign; Bakcell has supported hundreds of children with disabilities under its Bakcell Stars program; Nar Mobile has also been visibly active as the primary Telecommunications sponsor of the first European Games.

The increasing importance of BakuTel is another example of the emphasis placed on ICT. Games consoles were situated in the front lobby while robots provided entertainment for guests and encouraged younger attendees to participate actively in the event. Youth have also played a major part in supporting the Virtual Karabakh ICT Center, a center that was established to provide information about Karabakh. Three youth organizations partner with the center: Azerbaijan Student Youth Organisations Union (ASYOU), Our Generation Regional Youth Development Association; Refugees & IDPs Youth Organisation, allows the younger population the opportunity to learn more about topical parts of Azerbaijan through the medium of ICT.

The project to create e-government facilities has become an important method not only of sophisticating government communications, but also promoting interest in politics for a young population. E-government is not, of course, only for the sake of a youthful population; however, it improves accessibility and brings an increasingly young community closer to politics.

International interest, however, is still fairly low, and there will need to be more impetus to ensure that the sector modernizes and innovates quickly enough to support an ambitious youth population. A number of international companies were present at the ever-important BakuTel while countries such as Qatar, UAE, and Iran have recently demonstrated interest in cooperating with Azerbaijan in the ICT sector. Considering that Azerbaijan currently spends more money on science than any other CIS country and there has been significant focus on technology in tertiary education, the ICT sector is potentially an exciting sector for Azerbaijan.

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