Statement by Matilda Dimovska, UNDP Resident Representative in Uzbekistan at BPO Summit in Samarkand within ICT Week in Uzbekistan 2022

October 25, 2022
Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Assalomu alaykum hurmatli honimlar va janoblar!

Janob Shermatov,

Aziz do’stlar va hamkorlar,

On behalf of United Nations Development Programme, I am pleased to welcome you to this forum on Sustainable Transformation of Digital Uzbekistan through Business Process Outsourcing.

This is not the first time we discuss together strategic issues of Uzbekistan’s digital development. In fact, it is third multi-stakeholder dialogue with such focus.

One issue that we already agreed is that - to leverage digitalization for accelerate Uzbekistan’s growth it is critical to ensure that the process is more inclusive and resilient. This point still stands very relevant and shall be reflected in any discussion around digitalization.

As today we focus on BPO, I wish to make three points: a) that BPO is an opportunity to accelerate the digitalization in Uzbekistan, b) that Uzbekistan is a country with vast potential for BPO, and c) for that potential to be utilized the prevailing challenges need to be addressed.

  1. Importance of BPO for sustainable digitalization in Uzbekistan

The picture of the world is rather grim. Human Development is reversing for a second consecutive year, setting us back to levels recorded at the start of the 2030 Agenda for SD.

The world is confronted with unprecedented confluence of crises - wars and pandemics, happening against a backdrop of dangerous planetary change and rapid technological innovation at par with the second Industrial Revolution.  For confronting them, we have to step up and go beyond conventional ways of understanding and doing things.

In a world of dynamic change, being able to drive sustainable value through intelligent operations is paramount. Business process services and BPO now reinvent business performance and bring development benefits:

  • Increased outsourcing of customer and business services by call-centers, logistics, insurance and software companies, among others, generate new job opportunities for women and youth.
  • In 2014-2020, exports of digitally deliverable services from developing economies grew 5% annually, while the exports of traditional services have experienced significant setbacks due to the pandemic.
  • In 2021, the global BPO market size is estimated to have grown by 6% (to $246 billion in 2021).

Hence the general conclusion that intelligent operations, BPOs bring sustainable, development value, and are necessity for sustainable digitalization in Uzbekistan. For a double landlocked county and times of transportation disruptions, BPO are in fact big opportunity to integrate into the global digital economy.

  1. Uzbekistan’s potential for BPO

The potential of Uzbekistan to smartly use digital technologies and intelligent operations is high – in terms of growing digital connectivity, human potential and improving environment.

With its large young English-speaking population, Uzbekistan has great opportunities to integrate into the global value-chains through BPO and export of digital services.

The Government is aware of BPO importance and is taking actions to enable it:

  • By the end of this year, 98% of urban settlements and 60% of international highways will be covered by high-speed mobile Internet.
  • IT Centers are spread throughout the country to among other strengthen the digital skills.
  • A network of BPO centers will be established in each region of Uzbekistan with the first such center already launched in the Tashkent region.

The results are coming: number of BPO companies has grown from 45 in 2021 to 132 this year. In nine months of 2022, Uzbekistan exported IT services worth $82 million, of which 47% – or $38 million – come from the BPO.

  1. Challenges to address

While these results are commendable, there are still challenges for full realization of country’s potential in outsourcing business processes and digital exports. Some of them relate to:

  • affordability of Internet in the regions and uneven digital development across the country (90% of IT services are in concentrated in Tashkent)
  • limited access to fast developing and growing global markets, new technologies and innovations, so much needed for being competitive
  • existing gaps in digital and linguistic skills and competencies of youth, women and entrepreneurs
  • lack of high-quality data and evidence about the scope and nature of the national IT sector and digital economy.

UNDP’s Digital Engagement in Uzbekistan

With this understanding and based on the long-term engagement on creating inclusive and resilient digital ecosystems, UNDP is supporting the partners in addressing these challenges.

We aim to contribute to:

  • Holistic and data-driven digital transformation through (1) comprehensive review of the country’s IT sector ability to expand and diversify the BPO sector and digital economy; (2) assessing the Gender Digital Divide and advising policies to close the gap between women and men in taking part in and enjoying the benefits of digitalization
  • Enhancing national digital capacity through building digital skills of civil servants, women, youth, entrepreneurs. In 2022, we supported digital entrepreneurship training for 2,000 women from 13 regions, and 10,000 youth on e-commerce;
  • Creating digital public goods for development, such as (1) setting of Digital Pulse platform, an online tool to assess and increase digital maturity of SMEs, (2) digitizing business processes and value-chains of selected youth-led companies.

Let me finish by reiterating that:

  • intelligent operations, BPOs bring sustainable, development value, and are oportunity for sustainable digitalization in Uzbekistan.
  • The potential of Uzbekistan to smartly use digital technologies is high – in terms of growing digital connectivity, human potential and improving environment.
  • to fully utilize its BPO potential, Uzbekistan will have to further look into the access to global markets, affordability, digital ability of its human capital and data.

There is a strong commitment, intention and high energy of the Government and the people of Uzbekistan to digitally transform.

Events like this are to inform and inspire this determination. For actors like UNDP to also adjust its perspective so that we better support Uzbekistan in its journey toward sustainable and inclusive digital society.

I hope that opportunity will be used and wish us all a productive dialogue.

E’tiboringiz uchun katta rahmat!