• KGS/USD = 0.01118 0%
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  • KZT/USD = 0.00222 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09131 0%
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Artificial Intelligence in Central Asia: Applications and Regulation

The debate on the need for worldwide regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining momentum, given that over the past year AI has become a key tool for millions of people. With a growing number of organizations applying AI in various fields, including medicine, politics and judicial decisions, the urgent question is how to integrate AI into legislation. In Central Asia, in 2020 the National Bank of Kyrgyzstan authorized remote identification of individuals at banks using AI, machine learning and other predictive algorithms to process customer biometric data. Bishkek also introduced a facial recognition system based on artificial intelligence which allows data about wanted persons to be entered, and cameras to automatically identify them and transmit information to law enforcement. Artificial intelligence has also found its application in the political process. In 2020, the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan Party used a digital bot farm during the elections which generated approximately 150 profiles a day, automatically wrote comments and then self-liquidated. In Tajikistan, where the use of AI is not widespread, MegaFon stands out for its introduction of the Dono chatbot in 2019. This artificial interlocutor interacts with around 14,000 subscribers per day, freeing humans from routine tasks and allowing them to deal with more complex issues. In Uzbekistan, meanwhile, the government is taking active measures to stimulate the development of AI technologies. A presidential decree has established comprehensive steps towards the digitization of the economy and the social sphere. Digitization of government data in various sectors, such as justice, communications, finance, education and healthcare are becoming an integral part of the development strategy. The application of AI technologies, starting with image recognition and navigation systems, has already become a tangible part of task-solving in large enterprises, and the country is actively working to create an enabling environment to further expand the use of AI. In Kazakhstan, AI is being actively introduced in the judicial system, and over the past two years AI systems have been used to analyze court cases and predict their outcomes. The authorities believe that this approach helps minimize errors and improves the quality of justice. In the field of healthcare, since 2022 Kazakhstan has been successfully operating the PneumoNet program based on artificial intelligence. This program makes it possible to detect 17 of the most pathogenic lung diseases, including pneumonia, tuberculosis, and cancer. Currently, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan do not have specific laws regulating the creation and use of AI. Despite this, the Strategy for the Development of Artificial Intelligence in the Republic of Tajikistan until 2040 notes that during the implementation of the first and second stages of said strategy, legal, institutional and infrastructural frameworks will be developed, and the necessary specialists will be trained. Unlike its neighbors, Uzbekistan adopted a presidential decree "On measures to create conditions for the accelerated introduction of artificial intelligence technologies" as early as 2021. This document has become the legal foundation for the further development of AI in the country, defining its main directions. The resolution emphasizes the need to develop...

Children in the Fields, Not at Their Desks: Turkmenistan Continues to Use Child Labor in Cotton Harvest

Turkmenistan continues to use forced labor of adults and children during the cotton harvest, according to experts from the Committee on the Application of Standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO). "The preliminary findings of this observation mission indicate direct or indirect evidence of mobilization of public servants in all regions visited, with the exception of the city of Ashgabat," the report by the committee states. Another report by independent Turkmen human rights groups published last year documented widespread systematic forced labor in Turkmenistan - alongside widespread corruption. Under its ILO commitments, Turkmenistan has pledged for years to eradicate this practice, but the reality is different. The Business and Human Rights Resource Center notes that the Turkmen Government obliges farmers to submit a certain quota of cotton each year. Failure to meet these quotas can result in the land being taken away from the dekhkans (smallholder farmers) and given to others, or the issuance of a fine. At the same time, the government maintains a monopoly on the purchase and sale of cotton, sets an artificially low purchase price, and does not disclose information about either the income from cotton or the use of that income. Employees of government organizations are systematically forced to harvest cotton. They are not provided with proper working or living conditions, and are often forced to find housing and food at their own expense. In addition, they face such problems as unfavorable weather conditions - cotton harvesting starts in the summer heat and continues well into winter's sub-zero temperatures - contact with chemicals used to treat the fields, and travel costs. Despite this, human rights advocates haven't received any complaints about the authorities' misconduct. This is likely due to the fact that workers are afraid of losing their jobs in the public sector, where the majority of Turkmenistan's population is employed. Despite local laws prohibiting the use of child labor - and a ban on the use of child labor in the cotton sector has been in place since 2008 - the practice is widespread during the cotton harvest. The Cotton Campaign, an international coalition of labor groups, human rights organizations, investors and business organizations, has repeatedly spoken out against this practice. Schoolchildren in Turkmenistan often go to the cotton fields themselves to earn money for clothing and food, as well as to help their parents, who are obliged to pick cotton. Turkmenistan is the tenth largest cotton producer in the world and has a vertically integrated cotton industry. Despite the boycott of cotton picked using forced labor, the U.S., Canada and EU countries cannot always control the supply chain of cotton from third countries. Thus, Turkmen cotton harvested by forced and child labor filters into global cotton supply chains at all stages of production. The Cotton Campaign has called on governments, companies and workers' organizations to take action and pressure Turkmenistan to end forced labor and protect the basic rights of its citizens. Uzbekistan is a successful case study in the effort to eliminate...

Kazakhstan to Report to UN on Events of January 2022 Unrest

Kazakhstan will report to the United Nations (UN) Committee against Torture on measures taken after the events of bloody January (Qantar) 2022. This is according to the Deputy Chairwoman of the International Bureau for Human Rights, Roza Akylbekova, who added that information on urgent recommendations, which primarily concern Qantar, should be provided no later than May 12th, 2024 "This is information about what happened, how many people were affected, and, of course, about deaths in closed institutions and how Kazakhstan is investigating them," Akylbekova said at a news conference at the office of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law. In addition, according to the human rights activist, the Ministry of Defense of Kazakhstan will have to prepare information on the deaths of conscripts. It has been 25 years since Kazakhstan joined the UN Convention against Torture, since which time the Coalition of NGOs of Kazakhstan against Torture and the National Preventive Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture have been established created. Furthermore, Kazakhstan added an article on torture to the criminal code and opened up a path for individual appeals regarding torture directly to the UN Committee. At the same time, however, torture remains a pressing problem in the country. According to the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, 200-250 people apply to the Coalition of NGOs against Torture every year. In 2022, 190 appeals were received in connection with the January events, and another 88 episodes that had no connection to the mass riots of that year. Since Qantar, the number of complaints has not fallen, with 283 appeals in 2023, during which year over 20 systemic recommendations were issued to Kazakhstan. Earlier this year, the European Union (EU) funded a three-year project by Kazakhstani human rights defenders that aims to eradicate torture. As part of this project, the Kazakhstan NGO Coalition against Torture and the Prison Reform International (PRI) office will analyze individual cases of criminal prosecution for torture which do not reach trial. However, these cases are difficult to identify and prosecute. "In Kazakhstan such crime as torture is adjacent to other articles of the Criminal Code: in addition to 'torture,' the concepts of 'ill-treatment' and 'abuse of power' are used. Therefore, the official statistics on those prosecuted for 'torture' (Article 146) do not give an understanding of how many cases are actually hidden behind the lighter articles. At the same time, Article 146 itself has been divided into two parts: 'torture,' which will be investigated by the prosecutor's office, and 'cruel and inhuman treatment,' which is left to the Interior Ministry, whose employees are most often the beneficiaries of torture," the press service of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law reported. The UN Committee against Torture was established in January 1987. It consists of 10 independent experts, who currently represent the United States, Turkey, China, Japan, Russia, France, Morocco, Moldova, Latvia, and Mexico. They monitor the implementation of the Convention...

Record Numbers of Pink Flamingos Are Wintering in Turkmenistan

This year the Turkmen coastline of the Caspian Sea has hosted a record number of wintering birds. According to the international ornithological expedition, more than 207,000 birds have flown there since the fall. Pink flamingos, listed in the so-called Red Book of endangered species, are the emblem of Turkmenistan's Khazar State Nature Reserve. Scientists at the reserve counted 30,392 of these migratory birds in total. Turkmen ornithologist A.A. Shcherbina commented that "this is an official record, both according to recorded data and observations in our sector of the sea, which I have been engaged in since 1971." In Latin flamingo means fire or flame. This species is most commonly found in Africa, Southeast and Central Asia, the Caucasus, Central and South America, and the Mediterranean. In Central Asia there is a red-winged species of flamingo, which is usually called 'pink'. Nomadic peoples across Asia believe that seeing one will make them happy. Scientists carefully study, photograph and keep records of all coastal animal species of the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea. Specialists have noted that in the past years, endangered flamingos preferred to spend their winters in Iran. The current relocation of the birds, it seems, is caused by favorable changes in the water of the Caspian Sea and its coastline. Thanks to the efforts of staff from the Khazar reserve, natural conditions for nesting are improving on the Turkmen coast -- and the food base for protected birds is growing. According to their calculations, there are 50,000 more migratory birds this season than last season. The reserve, founded in 1934, took its name from the ancient name of the Caspian Sea -- Khazar. Most of the reserve's 270,000 hectares fall on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Major Kazakh Oil Company Fined Over Fire that Wasn’t Extinguished for 200 Days

The Buzachi Oil Company has been fined 350 million tenge ($777,536) over a fire at the Karaturun field that burned for 200 days. As a result of a large methane leak at the field in June 2023, natural gas ignited at well number 303.  The fire was finally extinguished on December 25th. Consequently, representatives from a regional Department of Ecology office conducted an unscheduled inspection of Buzachi Oil LLP, and according to the data gathered, the maximum permissible concentration (MPC) of methane in the air in the vicinity of the field was 480-times higher than normal. Furthermore, the concentration of petroleum products in the soil was 168.13 mg/kg higher than the permissible limit. According to a since deleted post on petrocouncil.kz, the fire started on June 9th when a gas-water mixture was released during the lifting of the drilling tool and ignited. Members of Parliament subsequently called on the government to terminate the contract with Buzachi Neft and return the field to the state. It transpired that the well had been drilled a year earlier than it should have been - not in 2024, as indicated in the permit, but in May 2023. "Based on the results of the inspection, the enterprise was issued a prescription on the need to develop a remediation program to eliminate the environmental damage caused, as well as compliance with the norms of emissions into the environment. Four administrative protocols were drawn up. According to preliminary calculations, the fine will amount to more than 350 million tenge," the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources said. Experts estimate the volume of methane leakage at the field in Mangistau region amounted to 127,000 tons. If these estimates are correct, the methane leak at Karaturun may be the second largest in the history of observed leaks. Speaking to The Times of Central Asia, environmentalist Timur Yeleusizov said that Kazakhstan needs to open a full-scale inspection of multiple enterprises, hold them accountable, and fine them. Yeleusizov claims that multi-million dollar fines are imposed in theory, but it's not known how many of them have been levied in practice. "This is not the first such case. Last year Kazzinc dumped cement dust, then the Ulba River was colored white, and now it is green," Yeleusizov told TCA. "How long will this continue and how long will our state inactivity last? Recently, there have been frequent cases of waste discharged into water bodies and rivers from which people drink. This problem concerns all the enterprises of Kazakhstan, because the issue of waste processing has not been solved so far. Moreover, companies can [afford to] pay these multi-million dollar fines without harming themselves." Yeleusizov also emphasized that the areas where hotels and resorts are located are in great danger, as none of them meet environmental standards. "I've repeatedly raised this issue with the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources. We are now developing ecological tourism - glamping and camping in specially protected areas. Nevertheless, not a single mountain resort in Kazakhstan meets...

Eco-Activists Tackle Dust Storms on Karakalpakstan’s Aral Sea

Forestry workers and ecological activists in Uzbekistan’s northwestern Karakalpakstan region have begun planting desert plants on dried up sections of the Aral Sea.  Salt and dust carried in the wind cause significant damage to areas adjacent to the Aral Sea and their inhabitants. Every year more than 100 million tons of salt, dust and sand are blown from the bottom of the former Aral Sea and mix into the air.  Up until the late-1990s, the land surrounding the Aral Sea was still cotton fields; today, it’s largely an expanse of salinized grey emptiness. The desiccation of the landscape has led to these vast toxic dust-storms that ravage around 1.5 million square kilometers. Spreading nitrates and carcinogens, these storms - visible from space - used to occur once every five years, but now strike ten times a year. Once a thriving agricultural center, Karakalpakstan, home to the remaining section of the so-called Large Aral Sea, is now one of the sickest places on Earth. Respiratory illness, typhoid, tuberculosis and cancers are rife, and the region has the highest infant mortality rate in the former USSR. “This year we plan to create green plantations in the most vulnerable places, where the winds with salt and sand come from,” said Zinovy Novitsky, a project manager from the Research Institute of the State Forestry Committee. “We plan to plant trees on 150-200,000 hectares. The country is introducing an effective policy to combat this problem.”  Between 2018 and 2023, 1.7 million hectares of forests were planted on the bottom of what used to be the Aral Sea. To date, forestry enterprises have collected and prepared for sowing 192 tons of desert plant seeds, including 71 tons of saxaul seeds. Similar plans are being undertaken across the border in Kazakhstan, where, according to the International Fund for saving the Aral Sea in the Republic of Kazakhstan, the so called “Green Aral Sea” being created will make a massive contribution to the process of achieving carbon neutrality. “One saxaul retains up to 4 tons of sand, 1 hectare of four-year-old saxaul absorbs 1,158.2 kg of carbon dioxide and releases 835.4 kg of oxygen per year, [whilst] the shrubby plant, salsola richteri kar absorbs 1,547.8 kg of carbon dioxide and releases 1,116.4 kg of oxygen per hectare. Accordingly, 1.1 million hectares will consume about 1.3 million tons of carbon dioxide.”

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