Manas Nazarbaev’s Story: Shaping an Equal Future for His Villagers Through Digital Empowerment

Author: Gulnur Kaypnazarova

September 18, 2023
Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Imagine the taste of salt water on your lips, sand swirling through the air, and endless desert dunes stretching out as far as the eye can see. In this unforgiving terrain, where desert saxauls replace trees, and people stand by the roadside with no visible transport in sight, lies the remote community of Kazakhdarya in the Aral Sea region, nestled in the northern corner of Karakalpakstan. Despite the harsh conditions, this land is cherished by its indigenous people.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Once a thriving hub with around 10,000 inhabitants, today only 4,800 remain. Their livelihoods depend on livestock farming and agriculture, a tough endeavor given the challenging climate. Observers passing through, witnessing the relentless desert encroaching upon the village, cannot help but wonder how these resilient villagers manage to engage in animal husbandry and farming under such conditions.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Yet, amidst the struggle, one can't help but realize that breathing life back into this area is not just about sustaining a village; it's about preserving culture, values, traditions, and the rich history of people who call this place home.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

The vulnerability of the region reflects the vulnerability of its people. In a rapidly advancing digital world, where the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us into our homes, the use of remote platforms and digitalization products has surged. To keep pace with these changes, improving digital literacy is crucial, especially for indigenous communities. Knowledge in this area can open new doors, enabling individuals to work remotely from anywhere in the world and earn a decent living.

Enter Manas Nazarbaev, a young leader in Kazakh Darya in the Muynak district. After graduating from the Faculty of History at the Nukus State Pedagogical Institute named after Azhiniyaz, he made an unconventional choice by returning to his native village.

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Manas recognizes that the challenges faced by his community, exacerbated by climate issues and remoteness, require systemic solutions. He recalls the older generation's struggles, saying, "Despite the land degradation, they invest all their resources into cultivation, only to face disappointment during harvest." This plight deeply affected him, and he resolved to find a way to improve the situation.

His journey from a history graduate to a JavaScript developer was marked by determination and self-guided learning. In his third year of studies, he ventured into freelancing, accepting orders for website development. After university, he assumed the role of youth leader in his community and sought to ignite interest in IT and digitalization among his fellow villagers.

Manas faced numerous obstacles, from the condition of the buildings to the lack of internet connectivity. However, fate smiled upon him when he learned of a joint programme funded by the United Nations Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea region in Uzbekistan. This initiative aimed to provide digital infrastructure to remote communities, including his own. The news filled Manas with boundless enthusiasm and determination.

Even more heartening were the training sessions held as part of the programme, which expanded his digital knowledge. "I've learned so much," Manas exclaimed. "And I'm eager to share this newfound knowledge with my fellow villagers."

Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

In today's rapidly evolving world, Manas believes in the power of digitalization. He says, "Global digitalization is awe-inspiring. It affects our daily lives, our work, government, and business. While it may reduce some professions, it opens doors to new opportunities. For a remote village like KazakhDarya and its residents, IT offers a promising future. It's the sphere of the future, and we must excel in it."

Manas has now embarked on a journey as an educator, shaping the futures of approximately 60 students. These enthusiastic individuals are determined to uplift their community by acquiring digital skills and accessing meaningful employment opportunities. Manas has a profound focus on preparing them for the digital job market, specifically as front-end and back-end developers. He has assembled a cohesive team of individuals who not only possess expertise in these domains but also excel as team players. Manas firmly believes that these specialists will be invaluable in the evolving landscape of Uzbekistan in the coming decades.

Driven by his vision, Manas is determined to not only succeed himself but also to secure financial independence for his fellow villagers. He achieves this by imparting the knowledge of web design and graphic design to newcomers, equipping them with the necessary practical skills. Furthermore, he actively connects them with potential clients and manages the workflow. In Manas' eyes, this practical approach not only enhances the learning process but also offers a genuine opportunity for positive outcomes.

Manas's story is a testament to the transformative power of unwavering determination and a thirst for knowledge. He encourages us all: "Unshakable willpower and a passion for learning can completely transform your life. Don't be afraid to push your limits; success awaits you at the end of the journey."

Within the framework of the Joint Programme of UNDP, UNFPA and FAO which funded by Multi-Partner Human Security Trust Fund for the Aral Sea region of Uzbekistan, trainings were organized for 30 young beneficiaries on capacity building in computer literacy to increase the level of knowledge of rural youth in the field of ICT and, 22.231 beneficiaries obtained access to social infrastructure and technical digitalization of rural public institutions, as part of the programme, the Internet and computers, touch screens and interactive panels were provided for the Muynak, Kungrad, Bozatau districts.

"Unshakable willpower and a passion for learning can completely transform your life. Don't be afraid to push your limits; success awaits you at the end of the journey."
Manas Nazarbaev