Tajikistan has the lowest household fixed broadband penetration rate in Central Asia

10 months ago Web Desk 0

According to her, during the global fight against COVID-19, digital connectivity became a lifeline that offers the opportunity for governments, individuals and businesses to cope with social distancing, work from home, get access to distance learning and telehealth, as well as maintain business and service continuity.


The COVID-19 crisis has reportedly underlined the connectivity chasm – the digital divide between those who are connected and those who are not.  This digital divide is worsening existing social inequalities and is hampering economic growth in the region, Ms. Burunciuc noted.


Recent studies show that countries with robust connectivity infrastructure can mitigate up to half of the negative economic impacts resulting from pandemics. The COVID-19 pandemic hit hardest those countries which were lagging behind in digital development and, by 2020, had not managed to build a reliable digital infrastructure, provide digital public services (including healthcare and education), build people’s digital skills or introduce digital technologies in the economy.


In Central Asia, access to high‐speed internet is still limited and costly for individuals and businesses, with the household fixed broadband penetration rate in Central Asia varying (according to TeleGeography) from 3.1 percent in Tajikistan to 35 percent in Kazakhstan and both fixed and mobile broadband Internet speeds significantly below the global average across Central Asia countries.  The region’s limited international broadband connectivity has led to delayed adoption of broadband technologies and lower Internet usage, especially in rural areas.


Central Asia is a landlocked region, situated far from major fiber-optic lines that lie under the sea.  This complicates the provision of broadband connectivity, particularly in the mountainous countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and in the double-landlocked Uzbekistan.  As a result, the region is grappling with a number of connectivity issues, including cost, quality, and speed of the Internet, particularly in rural areas, the level of digital skills and digital leadership, the availability of leading digital infrastructure which could enable the transformation to the next level of digital government and digital economy.


Central Asia’s connectivity issues are mostly due to lack of sector reforms, including significant remaining barriers to entry, particularly on international connectivity, state owned enterprise monopolies, as well as inadequate regulation, lack of independent regulatory authorities, and low levels of private investment.


During the online event, the World Bank digital development team presented several recommendations on improving access, affordability, and security, as well as on increasing competition, attracting private investment, and modernizing sector governance.  World Bank experts stressed that Central Asia needs to focus on strengthening regulatory authorities, removing any remaining monopoly rights and limiting market dominance of incumbents.


Recognizing the need to harness the power of the digital economy, the countries of Central Asia launched strategic digitalization programs and set ambitious goals for connecting the unconnected, providing digital services, and improving skills.  The World Bank is helping governments of Central Asia strengthen digital connectivity across the region through financing, knowledge, and building partnerships.


As part of the region-wide Digital Central Asia-South Asia program, the World Bank is funding digitalization projects in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan and is preparing projects for Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan, with the support of the World Bank, is also preparing a project to support digital development in the country.

Source: Asia Plus