I had the pleasure to attend a Eurasian Economic Union Forum on the Digital Agenda held in Almaty (Kazakhstan) on February 2. The panel I was part of was hosted by the prime minister of Kazakhstan and included six prime minister from EAEU countries, including Russia.
As many westerners who have limited knowledge of the region. I did not know what to expect about their level of readiness and real commitment to digital transformation. However as soon as I was there I realized that I had never seen six prime minister sitting all together at the same event to discuss about digitalization anywhere else in the world. Indeed there are meetings at the European Union level, between the so-called Digital 5 countries and others, but I am not aware of so many top political leaders meeting just to discuss digital. I also realized that the Russian prime minister was attending the forum despite the huge celebrations in Moscow for the 75th anniversary of their victory in the Stalingrad battle, which was a clear sign of the importance he gave to this forum.
Although each PM had less than ten minutes to talk, their addresses were refreshingly down to earth, and their will to cooperate and learn sounded truly genuine. In subsequent one on ones with a couple of them, I had the opportunity to observe an acute understanding of their specific issues and a genuine desire to prioritize their actions, together with an acceptance that this is going to be a very long journey. There was no bombastic announcement nor proud exhibition of achievements as we often witness in other parts of the world.
Later on I had the chance to spend time with officials from Kazakhstan to discuss about digital government maturity and was pleasantly surprised by the level of engagement and transparency.
It was also an interesting opportunity to learn about habits and attitudes in a very different part of the world. I was truly amazed by their honest and straightforward communication, by their candor and kindness and by their attitude to face and solve problems (including interpersonal ones) before they grow in complexity. One can perceive a sense of community and a level of human decency that are a lesson from a Muslim country to the rest of the world.
I truly hope I’ll be able to follow digital developments in this beautiful country and in the whole region.