V Astana Economic Forum / Connect 2012

Report from Stephen Ibaraki

At the V Astana Economic Forum / Connect 2012 Forum (AEF), I had an opportunity to share and talk with top-ranking leaders and executives from business, industry, governments, academia, notable organizations and media. The total including remote interest in the V Astana Economic Forum / Connect 2012 Forum included over 148 countries and more than 78,000 professionals.

Of particular interest and highlight was the opening keynote of Kazakhstan President N.Nazarbayev who set the stage for the AEF, http://www.aef.kz/en/news/279122/, where the President provided an extensive background on important issues on global economic transformation including Kazakhstan’s rapid rise and vision for the future.

I would highly recommend active participation in future Astana Economic / Connect Forums for executives and leaders since Kazakhstan is definitely a defining model for innovation presently and into the future. There are 250 million people in the region following the Kazakhstan model so working with them represents a very good opportunity. The collaborative environment and openness fostered good discussions and I had many from Nobel winners to government leaders, academics and industry leaders.

The AEF included 12 Nobel Laureates, world leaders, thought leaders, and leaders from industry. This was the largest concentration of senior officials and executives outside of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. The main outcome of the Forum feeds into the G-8 and G-20, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, United Nations, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. To attend, everyone was pre-vetted with extensive security so there was open access in meeting and collaborating with others.

My Journey to the AEF

At the IFIP World CIO Forum (WCF) in November 2011, as WCF vice-chair IAB, I was approached by the ZERDE (state holding company) vice-chair, Bikesh Kurmangaliyeva, who described their broad national ICT goals, and invited me to participate in their national summit in December 2011 and V Astana Economic Forum / Connect 2012 Forum (AEF) in May 2012. Due to scheduling I was unable to go in December so keynoted in the opening plenary at Connect 2012 in May 2012. Connect 2012 is the ICT focused international forum as part of the Economic Forum.

Prior to the AEF, at the UN/ITU World Summit (WSIS-May 2012) in Geneva, I participated in the Kazakhstan country session on their e-Government program where there was high interest in their innovative ICT programs and platforms. This progress was also noted by the ITU Secretary General Dr. Hamadoun Touré. As a side note, I had a good chat with Hamadoun at WSIS and an interview with him appearing with IFIP IP3. The ITU, the specialized UN agency for ICT, hosted WSIS representing over 190 countries, all major corporations and international organizations. The ITU is the global standards and governing body for ICT.

It was clear from WSIS that many countries were modeling the success and ICT innovation leadership of Kazakhstan, and of particular note was the 2nd place global ranking in E-participation out of more than 190 countries and rising ranking in other areas of ICT. A remarkable achievement! Moreover, in examining the e-government strategy and implementation, it was also evident that all countries could learn from the demonstrated leadership. I could see that elements of their platform and programs as more advanced than most Western countries using the benchmark of the Global Innovation Policy Index from the IT Innovation Foundation, the Washington DC Think Tank. Contributing to this success is their over 99% literacy rate and nearly 100% university transfer rate.

After a week at WSIS, I then flew to the AEF (May 19th) and with about 12 speakers was invited to a pre-event meeting on May 21st with Askar Zhumagaliyev, the Minister of Transport and Communications, and ZERDE Board Chairman Nurlan Izmailov. In the open exchange I posed questions to them and talked about my positive experiences at WSIS on their ICT strategies. Minister Zhumagaliyev outlined their extensive programs and commitment to innovation and demonstrated a strong vision for the country which had an impact to all present (international executives from many countries). Their investment in ICT is world leading with the implementation being led by ZERDE Board Chairman Izmailov and his strong leadership team—amongst the finest group of executives in the world. The formal Connect 2012 Forum commenced after the breakfast meeting, beginning with Minister Zhumagaliyev’s opening remarks where he set the stage very ably by highlighting the main ICT priorities for the country. The ZERDE Chairman, Izmailov expanded on these ICT strategies in his opening keynote.

As an opening plenary keynote, my talk included ICT trends and then models for innovation based on five themes: seven core policies and country models, education, entrepreneurship, international standards organizations (IFIP as one), and workforce professionalism (where I focused on IFIP IP3, professionalism and broad industry support). I designed my talk and presentation as actionable models that could be examined and then used by the region in their strategies and in fact, received many requests for copies including from the first day moderator, Igor Vittel who indicated he was unaware of some of the models I talked about. Interestingly, I stayed at the same hotel as Igor and we took the same arranged car to go to the event Monday morning. I had a good chat with him—a most interesting person with a 13 million audience for his business program widely viewed on television in most countries. After my presentation, I was requested to do about 6 interviews and two videoed interviews. Here is one:


At the official Connect 2012 dinner that evening I was seated between the Minister Askar Zhumagaliyev (on the left) and the Board Chairman Nurlan Izmailov (on the right) where I had a good opportunity to talk with them further about their goals and their growing leadership in many areas.  Moreover, I learned of their extensive backgrounds – world class in training, experience and executive leadership.

That week, after I presented, I was formally invited to advise the region on their ICT programs.

On Thursday evening I was invited to the AEF Connect 2012 concert, which I attended with the ZERDE chairman. An incredible series of national talent! The chairman provided background during the many performances which I found very moving—thus context combined with live performance and commentary from Nurlan yielded an incredible and memorable experience.

I received an invitation “to the official reception on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan to be held on the occasion of V Astana Economic Forum on May 23, 2012 at 20:00.” The venue was the Radisson Hotel Astana. The guests numbered over 100 (that is my guess) with the Prime Minister Karim Massimov leading the reception and giving a key speech. It was a delight to see so many top senior leaders from government, industry and academia, in an open and collaborative exchange of ideas—all of this encouraged by the Prime Minister. The ability for westerners to engage was refreshing—I noted this during my time in Geneva talking with Kazakhstan leaders and my entire stay at the V Astana Economic Forum / Connect 2012 Forum.

At the reception, I sat with Nurlan, the ZERDE Board Chairman, and investment executives. I talked with many of the guests including a good discussion with Halil Akinci, secretary general of the Turkic-speaking countries co-operation council, who had an interesting background and great ambitions for the region. When the evening was finished, I had a discussion with Catullus Helmer (senior advisor to the prime minister) about Kazakhstan’s long term vision, leading role in the region and world stature – and related my experiences from WSIS in Geneva, my analysis and examination of the technologies and innovation, and my time in Astana freely engaging with officials.

My general impressions: I’m impressed with the energy, passion, commitment, openness, education and talent of the country. I see a remarkable future in the short and long term and good relations with IFIP, IFIP IP3, IFIP programs and IFIP societies and international organizations.