• KGS/USD = 0.01118 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00221 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09125 0.11%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01118 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00221 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09125 0.11%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 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...

Stepping Out of Stalin’s Shadow: Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Demarcate 90% of Border

Representatives of the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan met in Bishkek on February 5th to complete negotiations on another 3.71 km of the common state border, the press service of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic has reported. The next meeting will be held in Tajikistan, with no date yet specified. Currently, approximately 90% of the border has been demarcated, with the remaining 10% still considered disputed. A long-standing source of conflict between the two nations, it is emblematic of the problem that even the length of the border - sometimes cited as being 975-kilomtres long, and at others times 972-kilomteres - is rarely agreed upon. As of January 2023, Tajikistan’s President Rahmon stated that 614-kilometres had been settled upon, backtracking on a previously stated figure of 664.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="14394" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]In a sign of thawing relations, however, on November 9th 2023, the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic announced that a further 17.98 kilometers of the border had been agreed. With its scant natural resources and dwindling water supplies, the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan has been the scene of numerous skirmishes for many years. In 2014, all borders between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were closed indefinitely to Kyrgyz and Tajik citizens following clashes over a bypass road in disputed territory; mortars were fired and both armies suffered casualties. Trouble spilled over again throughout 2021 and 2022, reportedly starting over a water dispute in the Vorukh enclave, and leaving an unknown number in the hundreds killed, and up to 136,000 people evacuated.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="14397" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]An enduring example of the chaos left behind by the USSR, the arbitrary division of Central Asia into Soviet Socialist Republics wholly disregarded existing cultural and geographical realities. This is exemplified by Stalin's application of Lenin’s policy on the “self-identification of working people,” a classic divide-and-rule play which saw culturally Tajik cities such as Samarkand and Bukhara being incorporated into Uzbek territory. In exchange, Tajikistan was given the inhospitable Khojand landmass surrounding the Fan Mountains. As late as 1989, Tajikistan petitioned Mikhail Gorbachev for the ‘return’ of Samarkand and Bukhara.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="14400" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]This haphazard division also isolated around 100,000 residents in the Ferghana Valley from their central governments, creating eight large enclaves. Although three of these enclaves had populations fewer than 10,000 and two were used exclusively for pastures, the remaining three - Sokh (Uzbekistan within Kyrgyzstan), Vorukh (Tajikistan within Kyrgyzstan), and Shakhimardan (Uzbekistan within Kyrgyzstan) have repeatedly proven problematic, particularly when countries enforce strict border regulations in response to disputes and disagreements over demarcation arrangements. These enclaves have been hotbeds for conflict: between 1989 and 2009, the Ferghana Valley witnessed approximately 20 armed conflicts, and in 2014 alone, Kyrgyzstan reported 37 border incidents.

Electronic Devices Banned From Classrooms

The use of personal electronic devices has been banned in schools, the head of Tajikistan’s Ministry of Education and Science, Rahim Saidzoda has said in an interview with Omuzgor. "We have made significant efforts to prevent students from using electronic copies [of materials] while they are in school. We have nearly finished supplying the necessary number of [physical] books to schools. Students were permitted to use electronics in class until recently - this was because of a lack of textbooks. Presently, the circumstances have changed; funds are sufficient, and the books have been published," the minister stated. Another reason for the ban is that parents frequently protested that their childrens' phones were taken away from them at during random searches at some schools, and that some administrators were even demanding payment in exchange for returning the device. Teachers and parents appear split on the issue. The first group feels that gadgets keep kids from studying and they haven’t figured out how to use these devices for learning; the second, on the other hand, feels that new technologies need to be introduced in order to stay up to date. A look at how the issue is handled in Kazakhstan – where children are banned by law from using phones in class - may shed light on the issue. In Kazakhstan, if the school has special boxes, children leave their devices in there, and if not, they are to remain in the children’s backpacks. The Deputy Minister of Education of Kazakhstan, Natalya Jumadildayeva, said she agrees with parents in Tajikistan who believe that use of electronic devices during classes will lower the results of both those using them, and their distracted classmates.

Earthquakes Rekindle Fears Over Lake Sarez

On the evening of January 30th, an earthquake struck in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province on the border between Tajikistan and Xinjiang. Though this instance only had a magnitude of 4.4, it comes in the wake of the magnitude 7 quake which pounded the China-Kyrgyzstan border on January 23rd, shaking buildings in Almaty. As recently as February 2023, a series of earthquakes, the largest measuring 6.8, hit forty miles west of Murgab on the border between Tajikistan and China’s Xinjiang province. This was the eighteenth such instance measuring 6.5 or more over the course of the last century, and serves to focus attention on extremely remote Lake Sarez in Tajikistan. [/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="14212" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]Plan of Lake Sarez and the Usoi Dam, 1913 At five-hundred-meters deep and 47 miles long, mountainous Lake Sarez contains more than 3.85 cubic miles of water. It was formed in 1911, when a 2.2 billion cubic meter landslide caused by an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 6.5-7.0 blocked the Bartang River’s path. The sound of the quake was recorded over 2,350 miles away at the Pulkovo seismic station near St. Petersburg. Thus, the tallest natural dam in the world, the three-mile long, 567-meter high Usoi Dam was formed, whilst the villages of Usoi and Sarez were buried beneath the landslide and the lake, respectively, killing 302 people. According to the two survivors, the dust clouds cleared only after some days to reveal a mountain where the village of Usoi used to stand. The lake has been a potential disaster waiting to happen ever since. In 1968, a landslide caused two-meter-tall waves to rock the lake, and with glacial melting causing water levels to rise by eight inches a year, pressure on the natural dam is building. As early as the 1970s, plans were hatched to harness the lake as a hydroelectric power station, but technical issues and its far-flung location saw the scheme come to nothing. In 2018, a deal was signed with Hong Kong-based Heaven Springs Harvest Group to sell the lake’s “blue gold” as drinking water, but inaccessibility again largely scuppered the project.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="13414" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]Murgab Bazaar, Gorno-Badakhshan - Photo: Times of Central Asia Back in 1997, a gathering of experts in Dushanbe concluded that the Usoi Dam was unstable. Their findings suggested that a powerful earthquake could precipitate a collapse of the dam. However, a study conducted by the World Bank in 2004 contradicted these conclusions, arguing that the dam was, in fact, stable. Nevertheless, the main threat identified was not the dam's general stability but a specific geological feature - a partially detached mass of rock, approximately 0.72 cubic miles in size. There are concerns that this precarious massive rock formation could detach and plunge into the lake. This event could trigger a catastrophic flood, and, as such, while the dam itself may be stable, the potential for disaster still looms large. In this earthquake-prone environment, were the dam to be breached a tidal...

European Parliament Condemns Repression in Tajikistan, Underlying Issues Persist

On January 18th, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on human rights in Tajikistan which condemns the ongoing crackdown against independent media, government critics, human rights activists and independent lawyers, as well as the closure of independent media and websites. Parliament members urged the authorities to stop persecuting lawyers defending government critics and journalists, and immediately and unconditionally release those arbitrarily detained and drop all charges against them, including human rights lawyers Manuchehr Kholiknazarov and Buzurgmehr Yorov. In the resolution, the European Parliament members insisted that respect for freedom of expression in Tajikistan should be taken into account when assessing the application of the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) for Tajikistan and negotiations of a new EU-Tajikistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. In December 2023, the chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Ben Cardin sent a letter to the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, urging him to cease acts of domestic and transnational repression against political opponents and religious minorities. “There are persistent reports of arbitrary arrest, denial of judicial due process, as well as acts of violence including torture, assault and even instances of murder of journalists, political dissidents, as well as community and religious leaders,” Cardin wrote. In recent years, several Tajik journalists, activists, and opposition politicians have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms largely based on accusations of collaborating with organizations labelled as extremist or banned in Tajikistan.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="13842" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]Still a relatively young country, the official date of the independence of Tajikistan - a front-line state facing the extremism of the Taliban - is September 9th 1991. Whilst criticisms are warranted and accurate, particularly through the prism of western democracy, the crux of the problem would appear to be endemic corruption and weak institutions propagated by kleptocratic wealth and organized crime. As to how high up the criminality goes, in 2000 the Tajik Ambassador to Kazakhstan was arrested in Almaty with 86 kilos of heroin in his car. In 2001, the Deputy Minister of the Interior was murdered, the prosecution in the case arguing he’d been assassinated for refusing to pay for a shipment of 50 kilos. A statement released by the UNDP in 2001 estimated that drug money accounted for between 30 -50% of the Tajik economy. The year Tajikistan took over policing of its border with Afghanistan from the Russians, seizures of heroin halved. Piqued by the critical international response, President Rahmon levelled counter-allegations of Russian complicity in the heroin trade. “Why do you think generals lined up in Moscow all the way across Red Square and paid enormous bribes to be assigned here?” he complained to U.S. officials. “Just so they could do their patriotic duty?”

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan continue to work on harmonizing state border

Topographic working groups of the two countries gathered in the city of Batken in the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan between January 10 and January 16, and agreed on another major 38.35-kilometer section their state borders, the press service of the Kyrgyzstan Cabinet of Ministers reports. "In accordance with the agreement reached in the period from January 10 to 16, 2024 in the city of Batken of Batken oblast of the Kyrgyz Republic held a meeting of topographic working groups and working groups on legal issues of the government delegations of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Tajikistan on delimitation and demarcation of the Kyrgyz-Tajik state border," reported Cabinet of Kyrgyzstan on its website. The Kyrgyz authorities note that the meeting was held in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual understanding, and a protocol was signed following the meeting. The parties will continue work on the description of the remaining areas at the next meeting, which will be held in Tajikistan. The previous meeting was also held on the territory of Tajikistan from December 17 to 23, 2023. At that time, almost 12 kilometers of the state border were agreed upon. It should be noted that as of today, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have agreed on 90 percent of the territories of the state border, the total of which is 975 kilometers. Next year, the authorities of both countries plan to finalize the delimitation. Issues related to delineating a common border between the two countries arose after the collapse of the USSR, particularly with regards to lands rich in water resources, given that irrigation of agricultural lands and private plots is critical in this arid region. More than 30 years have passed since the collapse of USSR, and the parties still have not agreed on the disputed territories. This has caused periodic conflicts between the citizens of border villages and residents of enclaves and border guards of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, including the use of heavy weapons. The last such conflict took place on the territory of Batken oblast of Kyrgyzstan and Sughd oblast of Tajikistan in September 2022, where hundreds died deaths on both sides and civilian infrastructure was destroyed. Since May 2021, land and air communication between the countries remains closed. The presidents of the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan have repeatedly discussed the delimitation and demarcation of the state border, and have decided to put an end to this ongoing issue after the above-mentioned most recent conflict. Since then, meetings of topographic groups have been held on a regular basis. The situation on the disputed territories is also monitored by the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Both countries are members of the CSTO.

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