GIGA Steering Committee held its first meeting in Kazakhstan

In 2021, thanks to the GIGA initiative, 38 Kazakhstani schools and almost 20,000 children gained access to the Internet

18 February 2022
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2021/Ruslan Karsamov
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2021/Ruslan Karsamov

NUR-SULTAN, January 24, 2022 – Today, the first meeting of GIGA Steering Committee was held in the capital under the chairmanship of Askhat Orazbek, Vice Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The Committee was established in 2021 as part of the Memorandum of Cooperation signed between the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan (MDDIA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). He plays a leading role in the coordination of the project by the Government of Kazakhstan.

At the first meeting, the members of the Committee reviewed the results of the work of GIGA project office, the results achieved over the year, namely the connection of 38 rural schools in the Turkestan region to broadband Internet, and discussed the tasks for 2022, in particular, to monitor the speed of the Internet in connected schools together with Information and Analytical Center JSC(MES RK), as well as on the creation of a safe and reliable digital space for the protection of children on the Internet.

Vice Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan A. Orazbek at the first meeting of GIGA Steering Board thanked UNICEF and ITU for implementing the initiative in Kazakhstan. He noted that despite the restrictions due to the pandemic, certain positive results were achieved last year: “In Turkestan region, the first steps were taken to connect schools to broadband Internet. On the part of the Representative Office of the UN Children's Fund in Kazakhstan, a long-term work plan has been developed to provide all Kazakhstani children with access to the Internet over the next five years. In conclusion, the Vice Minister reaffirmed Kazakhstan's commitment to the goals of the agreements reached in 2020 between the Government of Kazakhstan, UNICEF and ITU.

The Akimat of the Turkestan region shared the experience of a successful model of connecting schools for its dissemination in other regions of Kazakhstan. The connection in the villages of the Turkestan region, established thanks to GIGA initiative, has a positive effect on the schools of the region. Schoolchildren have access to educational online resources.

The meeting was attended by UNICEF Kazakhstan, the ITU Regional Office, the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Zerde National Information Holding, the Astana International Financial Center, the Corporate Fund International technopark of IT startups "Astana Hub", EE Almaty Management University, Akimat of the Turkestan region, Information and Analytical Center JSC of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

GIGA is a global initiative by UNICEF and ITU to connect every school to broadband Internet, which Kazakhstan has joined to provide every child with a wide range of opportunities for quality education and further career choice. To date, 1,000,000 schools have been mapped by GIGA in 41 countries around the world, and 3,200 schools have partnered with the initiative, including 38 rural schools in Turkestan region.

UNICEF Representative in Kazakhstan Arthur van Diesen noted that in order to provide quality education services, it is also important to improve the competencies and digital skills of teachers. Therefore, in December 2021, teachers from 60 primary and secondary schools in the Turkestan region connected to the Internet as part of GIGA initiative completed a 72-hour UNICEF online blended learning program with the possibility of methodological support through the platform on the course of inclusive blended learning. Blended learning involves combining traditional forms of classroom learning with elements of digital learning. Mr. van Diesen said that in February 2022, as part of a pilot project to monitor the speed of the Internet connection, in cooperation with the Information and Analytical Center (IAC) under the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan, work will begin in schools on installing software that transmits information about the real speed of the Internet , to monitor and evaluate the quality of Internet services.

“Despite the progress made, children in Kazakhstan still face challenges. The digital divide still exists between rural and urban children. It is a consequence of low speed or lack of Internet. This hinders access to educational resources, undermines the quality of education and the development of the child's potential. I hope that today's meeting and the decisions taken at it will help to continue connecting schools to high-quality Internet in other regions, which will reduce the digital divide and improve the quality of education for every Kazakhstani child, regardless of where they live,” - Arthur van Diesen said.

Natalia Mochu, Regional Director of the ITU Regional Office for the CIS, noted that one third of all Internet users in the world are children. According to her, this trend is also observed in Kazakhstan, where 85 percent of children aged 6 to 15 are Internet users. The opportunities provided by the Internet also come with risks. “That is why connecting schools should be accompanied by increasing the knowledge of all Internet users, especially children and youth, about the safe use of information and communication technologies,” - Ms. Mochu said. At a meeting of the Steering Committee, ITU proposed a review of regulatory and other measures taken, including by the ICT industry, to create a safe and secure digital space to protect children online, by joining the efforts of ITU and UNICEF. This review is expected to be based on the ITU Child Online Protection Guidelines. Ms. Mochu added: “The Steering Committee is the platform where, by joining forces, we can connect every rural school and make these schools hubs for connecting rural communities.”

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