As the ICT sector continues to grow in size and importance in Azerbaijan, there have been a number of directives designed to promote technology in the country. The newest project is sure to introduce a new age of opportunity, and construction of the Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway (TASIM) is underway.
TASIM will be “super“ in every definition of the word, with plans to connect Frankfurt to Hong Kong through a new, low-latency fiber-optic route. With an initial cost of $100 million, the current 11,000km route for this project is to pass through China, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and then through Europe to Germany. The initial bandwidth of TASIM is 2 TB/s. A reserve transit line will pass through Russia, Ukraine, and Poland.
The TASIM project will provide innumerable benefits to Azerbaijan and other countries in the region. In addition to improving regional and global internet connections, TASIM also introduces route diversification, offers greater resilience in the wake of disasters, and will bring about innovation and ICT modernization capabilities to the region. TASIM will connect the largest information exchange centers of Europe and Asia.
The construction of this megaproject will proceed in two different stages, as highlighted in a 2013 MoU signed by all participating countries. The first stage, which has been in progress since 2013, is devoted to readying the infrastructure of the region. Azerbaijan and other key countries in the project will construct modern transportation and transit pathways that will eventually connect TASIM from Asia to Europe. New infrastructure modifications are necessary to make TASIM a commercially sustainable service in the quickly growing and international IP transit network.
The second phase will be carried out in connection with a 2013 UN general assembly resolution, which supported Azerbaijan’s motion for the establishment of the Eurasian Connectivity Alliance (EuraCA) in the construction of TASIM. EuraCA works to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience and is a platform that encourages regional cooperation and partnerships. It also helps promote policy dialogue between the Eurasian countries that are involved in the TASIM project.
In the second phase, with the essential transit infrastructure in place, countries can leverage this service to enjoy access to more affordable internet rates. This has the greatest positive effect on landlocked Eurasian countries that do not have access to the ocean. Countries with access to the ocean have the luxury of accessing fiber-optic networks that are laid across oceans via underwater lines. These underwater connections allow for a direct fiber-optic connection to other continents, from Europe to North America, for example. Countries that are landlocked, on the other hand, cannot utilize this marine fiber optic network and consequently end up paying more for internet access. The TASIM project will change that.
Speaking on the monumental impact that this project will have on the future of Azerbaijan, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Dr. Ali Abbasov has been quoted as saying that once TASIM is completed, it will be “as important as TANAP,“ referencing the $10 billion Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Project. The Minister’s remarks are born out of the far-reaching implications of this project. TASIM will provide an international foundation from which further ICT ventures can come to fruition in Azerbaijan.
In the finance realm, the already burgeoning e-commerce industry in Azerbaijan will receive a boost as a result of the widespread broadband web connectivity that TASIM will offer. E-services, including e-government initiatives, will be bolstered in importance and enjoy greater accessibility at cheaper rates. Facilitating a new range of e-services will encourage industrial development and expansion in the country at a time when diversification is paramount. As more companies will be able to offer e-services, economic competition will increase as well, driving up efficiency and quality to the benefit of consumers. The increase in ICT services will also bring additional benefits to the agriculture, health, and education sectors of Azerbaijan. Along with these tangible benefits comes an increase in the human development potential of the country. TASIM, at its most basic, will help create an information society in Azerbaijan.