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Disruptive digital forces in Kazakhstan

Mike Kujawski - Kazakhstan

A few weeks ago I was invited to Astana, Kazakhstan by the United Nations Development Program to deliver a workshop on the latest strategic digital / social media marketing and communications best practices being used by the public sector here in Canada and around the globe. The audience was composed of about 40 Press Secretaries and Heads of Communications for the various Ministries in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is currently undergoing a major disruptive change as a result of mobile broadband really taking off over the course of the past 18 months. While the demand has been there for far longer, there had been coverage issues that prevented any significant smart phone penetration to occur. With this shift (as nearly everywhere), come new citizen expectations in terms of service delivery, transparency, and general communication on part of government. Here are some general digital statistics for Kazakhstan:

  • Population: 17.9 million
  • Internet Penetration 73%
  • Press Freedom Status: Not Free
  • Percentage of Population with a Facebook Account:  27%
  • Active (at least monthly) Social Media Users: 17%
  • Broadband (3G & 4G) smart phone penetration: 33% (and growing rapidly)
  • Top social platform after Facebook: VKontakte

Many of the communication challenges public servants in Kazakhstan are currently facing are not surprisingly very similar to what our government bodies went through here in Canada:

  • Government messaging is increasingly being diluted in an ocean of user-generated social content (dominated by online influencers)
  • Blocked access to certain platforms internally
  • Inability to use/own smartphones as a public servant
  • Lack of resources to respond to inquiries via social channels
  • No online service standards, guidelines, etc.
  • No digital governance in place
  • Fear of engagement / general risk aversion
  • Dealing with multiple official government languages
  • Unwillingness to give up “perceived” control of the brand
  • Insufficient monitoring / analysis in place

One thing I kept reminding the participants of is that while they may sometimes feel like they are playing catch up, they are at an advantage in that they can learn from mistakes other international government bodies have made in this space over the years. In addition, there are plenty of existing resources, tools, and templates that can be used to set up governance and the general infrastructure for engagement (i.e. terms of use, policies, interaction protocols, training guides, etc.).

Judging from the level of engagement and participation at the workshop (even with dual simultaneous translation in place), I can safely say that everyone seemed passionate about improving government efforts in this space and ultimately advancing citizen service delivery in Kazakhstan. There was quite a bit of media interest as well (here’s a sample).

I hope to return in the near future and continue working closely with the wonderful folks over at UNDP Kaz.  All in all, an incredible experience.

Spasibo / Raqmet Sizge !








Spasibo / raqmet sizge

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