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Sherzod Shermatov: “In the Near Future We Start Introducing Effective Foreign Experience”

This is the second part of the publication of the Temporarily Available Project with the participation of the acting Minister of Information Technologies and Communications. Answering questions from readers, Sherzod Shermatov dwelled upon the benefits for IT companies and the fight against various black schemes, about the future of UMS and Uzmobile, the problems of generating national content on the Internet and much more.

Anvar Narzullayev: We would also like, as abroad, to introduce such a concept as startup, and to provide startup companies with even more benefits. What do you think about it? For example, today Internet services for legal entities are very expensive, and for young companies that are taking the first steps, this is a big expense. Startup companies overseas should be provided for a limited period (for example, from 6 to 9 months) with renting premises at an affordable price in co-working territory.

For example, Malaysia. We recently with a group of programmers created the company iQalam Dastur (www.iqalam.net.). As a startup, we rented a room in the building of the MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation Center) in Cyberjaya at a very inexpensive price - $ 50 per month. This price includes free and unlimited Internet 100 mbps, conference rooms, rooms to meet with clients, secretarial services and others. In addition, trainings and meetings with investors are conducted on a free basis. How do you look at creating the same conditions in Uzbekistan? Thank you.

Another question: why major IT projects are transferred to foreign companies, although our companies have the ability to perform this work?

Sherzod Shermatov: “As for the benefits, our country has already achieved considerable progress in this direction. As you know, the President recently approved a Decree according to which the Mirzo Ulugbek Innovation Center is being created in our country. It is determined that its residents will receive considerable incentive benefits. First, they are exempt from all taxes and payments. Another problem in IT companies was the payment of salaries: as is well known, it is high among programmers and, accordingly, income taxes and salary-related payments in some cases reached 55%. This created a precedent for the prosperity of various black wage schemes. With the creation of the Mirzo Ulugbek Innovation Center, the rate is reduced to 10-11%, which will help to apply exclusively legal schemes for the payment of salaries. And one more very important point: IT companies will be able to pay their employees in foreign currency to international bank cards such as Visa, MasterCard. This innovation will stimulate the entry of our companies into international markets, the fulfillment of orders by foreign partners.
To date, the position is being developed about the Mirzo Ulugbek Innovation Center, with its approval within the next month, our IT companies, both start-ups and those existing, will have a real opportunity to take advantage of these benefits. For this it will be necessary to conclude an agreement with the directorate of the Innovation Center. The Directorate will be located in Inha University in Tashkent. By the way, the office is already ready for work.

The Mirzo Ulugbek Innovation Center assumes that its residents can work in any locality of the republic. But at the same time, the issue of construction of an industrial park on the territory of Inha University in Tashkent specially for IT companies is under consideration. Here, not only technical conditions for their work will be created, but also preferential rent of premises. One of the main advantages is the neighborhood with students, from which they will be able to educate for themselves enterprising specialists.

In Malaysia and other countries, the government allocates large funds to create conditions for start-ups and to subsidize them. For the time being, our state budget does not allocate funds for such purposes because the state budget has much more pressing tasks such as providing water supply to the regions or creating normal conditions in polyclinics and schools.

As for the second part of your question, it should be noted here that for many customers of such large projects there is a stereotype, that our local companies will not be able to implement major orders. Therefore, the process of formation of large IT companies is under way, which could be trusted to implement major projects. For example, in order to adequately implement a large-scale project to build a large architectural structure like Hyatt Hotel, we conclude an agreement with such a large construction company as the Trust12, which employs several thousand subcontractors to implement a major project. But if there are problems in the project, the customer does not look for those subcontractors, but the general contractor answers all the questions. In the area of IT projects, large contractors should also appear on the market, which, interacting with subcontractors, could implement large-scale projects. At the same time, for the implementation of projects in the field of e-government, it is advisable to create a large system integrator that could be responsible before the customer, in this case before the state, for the quality of the work performed.”

Tashpulat Maksudov: It is known that now in Uzbekistan a project is being prepared to saturate the Internet and domestic social networks with national content. Do you think, is it possible to steal the show? We must admit that foreign companies are also not asleep: for example, mail.ru, Facebook and many other companies already have an interface in the Uzbek language.

Sherzod Shermatov: “In order to talk about the issue raised by you, it is first of all necessary to understand that the creation of social networks is one matter, and filling the Internet with national content is another.

I believe that it is wrong to raise the issue of creating a national social network on a republican scale, because the essence of a social network is to embrace and create the conditions for communication to as many people as possible. This idea was successful in Korea, China, Japan due to the fact that there are hieroglyphs, their own specific graphics and they were able to start earlier than international systems entered their market. In Uzbekistan all know Cyrillic and Latin, the most part of the population talk Russian and English languages. Especially as you said all these popular social networks already have interface in Uzbek.
In any case, all successful examples of creating social networks in the world are not state projects but the projects of private investors.

At the same time, we intend to create effective mechanisms for generating local content, which, ultimately, should lead to an increase in the number of unlimited tariffs and an increase in the number of Internet users. The first time in parallel with the current TAS-IX will be developed another new system, in which the unsolved problems of the first will be solved, and then life itself will show which system will further work. In the current system the content generator that is website editorials are in rather bad condition, they are forced to pay providers for hosting. In the new system, everything will be changed; we will create such conditions when providers will ‘seek the attention’ of the content generators. Thus, the generation of high-quality Internet content will be a profitable business; it will contribute to saturation of the Internet with high-quality domestic content. The introduction of the alternative to TAS-IX envisages the solution of a number of existing problems of resource exchange between providers, from which websites buy hosting. We intend to start implementing this project this year.”

Zafar Rustamov: Why do not our cellular operators give free access to the TAS-IX network? It is specifically designed to ensure that the providers do not charge a fee for exchanging traffic.

Sherzod Shermatov: “Why, it is practically free at Uzmobile. As for the other operators, I must say that the TAS-IX is an NGO, and as is known, the government does not interfere with the activities of NGOs. But the situation should change with the introduction of a new system, of which I spoke in the previous comment. When we streamline the issues of resource exchange between providers, it will be more profitable for cellular operators to provide free access to local resources.
In general, it is necessary to accelerate the process of transition to unlimited tariffs, then there will be no difference TAS-IX or not.”

Vitaliy Bolbas: What is the future of the mobile operator UMS? Is it planned to attract foreign investors to the company? Is the possibility of merging the government-controlled UMS and GSM-unit Uzmobile into a single state mobile operator operating in the GSM standard?

Sherzod Shermatov: “While there is no specific answer to this question, a detailed study of possible options remains to be carried out. It is possible that both companies will continue to work, including with the involvement of foreign investors, but at the same time, the option of merger is possible. Time will show which option will be implemented, as well as the calculations of economists.”

Sergei Stanovkin: Dear Sherzod Hotamovich, several agencies are always responsible for the formation of the country’s brand. However, branding is primarily communication. At present, the vector of communications connected with the national brand of Uzbekistan is directed into the country. External communications of Uzbekistan are not yet systemic and do not use the capabilities of international media. Do you agree with such an assessment and what can your ministry do to correct the situation?

Sherzod Shermatov: “The very idea expressed in the address is very correct, and I, as a citizen, also worry about the image of the country. However, our ministry does not deal with the regulation of the media market, it is the competence of the Uzbek Press and Information Agency, and I hope the experts of this department can provide you with accurate information about what is being done in this direction. We, on our part, are trying in every possible way to promote the improvement of the image of the country.”

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