The state of Big Tech in Uzbekistan
Technology is one of the great opportunities for poorer countries to develop in the 21st Century. It is one of the major reasons why Estonia’s GDP per capita was $100 in 1991 and in 2019 had a higher HDI than Italy and the UAE. Uzbekistan on the other hand has not utilised new digital technology and Big Tech nearly as much as their counterparts who were both in the USSR. The lack of digitisation has held back Uzbekistan from achieving its potential. The clearest example of this was the mass power cut that left Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan without power. These kinds of power cuts threaten future investments that could choose to invest in areas where there is a more stable power connection.
Image credit: Roads & Kingdoms
Moreover, some of the big social media companies have their sites blocked in Uzbekistan. Twitter, TikTok, V Kontakte, and Skype were all disrupted in Uzbekistan in 2021 by the cutting of the internet speed going to the sites. This means that many Uzbeks have to access these sites by turning on a VPN. Again this shows that although the current Uzbek President, Mirziyoyev has dramatically changed Uzbekistan from when his predecessor died in 2016, it shows that there is still a long way to go until Uzbekistan is fully modernised. Despite this gloomy outlook, Uzbekistan has modernised a bit and become more technologically advanced with over 1.035 mobile phone subscriptions per person in 2017. However, this achievement has to be tempered with the fact that only a mere 40 percent of the Uzbek population is active online.
Although Big Tech is much maligned by many in the West, they are still seen by many as a great equalising force by making it easier for not only communication through social media but also access to information and trade. As Estonia has proven, technology can rapidly advance a country into being prosperous, and whilst Uzbekistan are partially there, they still have a long way to go before being considered to be in the same bracket as Estonia.