Tokayev Outlines Priorities for Kazakhstan’s Science, Technology Development

Tokayev Outlines Priorities for Kazakhstan’s Science, Technology Development

ASTANA – President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev set goals for the advancement of science and technology in Kazakhstan during an April 12 meeting of the National Council for Science and Technology, reported the Akorda press service. The event marked the Day of Science Workers.

Photo credit: Akorda

Welcoming the meeting participants, Tokayev drew their attention to the current situation in the country.

“Severe floods that have not been experienced in over 80 years caused significant damage to the country’s several regions. Many settlements are flooded. In general, the situation is very difficult,” he said, emphasizing that global climate change has led to an increase in the number of natural disasters throughout the globe.

In 1980-1985, nearly 1,700 disasters were recorded in the world, and in 2010-2015 their number exceeded 3,700. Almost half of them were related to water. According to Tokayev, this poses a serious threat to all humanity. The world faces an extremely urgent task to prevent such emergencies and ensure the safety of the population. Science should be one of the tools to implement this task.

“During the current floods, we especially acutely felt the shortage of qualified specialists and scientists in the country. I have repeatedly emphasized the importance of developing domestic science. It is clear that this cannot be done in a day or even in a year. This will require years of long and hard work,” the President emphasized.

Tokayev emphasized the critical need to rebuild the nation’s scientific potential. Today, countries that prioritize scientific progress have taken leading positions in the world and Kazakhstan needs to be one of those countries.

“Last year it was decided to allocate 625 billion tenge (US$1.4 billion) for the development of science during three years. In the future, the state will keep progressively raising the science budget,” he said, highlighting that the scientists’ salaries have doubled.

According to Tokayev, it is critical to promptly adjust to changes and continuously seek out new opportunities for growth to ensure the country’s continued progress.

In this regard, the President outlined five pressing problems that should be resolved to strengthen the potential of domestic science and create conditions for the widespread introduction of innovations in all spheres of life.

Science as a tool in predicting natural disasters

The President underlined how critical it is to use science’s full potential to forecast both man-made and natural disasters and combat climate change.

“Science cannot exist in isolation from pressing issues of state development. It should serve society and the country, and, therefore, be not abstract, but applied in nature, and be useful in everyday life. Life itself confirms that the lack of a scientific approach is fraught with serious negative consequences,” he said.

Science should contribute to the progressive development of the economy

Despite the measures taken to industrialize the national economy, its raw material nature has not yet changed significantly. The government faces the task of building a new economic model, the core of which should be sustainable value chains. According to Tokayev, the petrochemical and oilfield services sectors have a lot of promise in this area (production of plastic, carbon nanotubes, carbon fiber, graphene).

“Scientific endeavors must not only address academic needs but also consider the strategic objectives of national development and economic requirements. To do this, clear research priorities should be determined based on the best international experience,” he said.

Tokayev also focused on the commercialization of scientific developments.

“Domestic science faces serious challenges in light of the need to decarbonize the economy of Kazakhstan. Many developed countries are implementing projects on renewable energy sources and already have the appropriate technological potential for the transition to carbon-free development and the creation of new economic clusters. To keep up with global trends in this area, we need our own scientific developments given our features,” the President noted.

Accelerated development of artificial intelligence

According to some estimates, artificial intelligence will make up 7% of global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030 and by 2027, the capitalization of the global artificial intelligence market will significantly exceed $400 billion.

“In Kazakhstan, artificial intelligence is efficiently used in security, medicine, banking services, logistics, and education. … At the same time, for the successful development of the industry, comprehensive government support is required. We need to create an ecosystem that provides shared access to data and technology infrastructure,” Tokayev said.

It is important that the development of artificial intelligence take a creative approach. Thus, creating ethical guidelines, safeguarding data, and preventing cyberattacks need to get more focus in this field.

Development of university science and scientific infrastructure

Effective reforms in science and secondary education undertaken in recent years have led to an outflow of personnel from the higher education system. Qualified teachers with academic degrees began to move to schools and scientific organizations with higher salaries, Tokayev said.

“Today, among university professors and teachers, the share of specialists with an academic degree is just over 40%. These trends cannot but affect the quality of training not only for master’s and doctoral students, but also for bachelors,” the President noted, instructing the relevant ministry to take concrete measures.

Strengthening the human resources potential of science

Tokayev outlined the need to strengthen the training of specialists for priority sectors of the economy and provide comprehensive support to young scientists.

“It is crucial to provide our scientists with the opportunity to undergo internships abroad under postdoctoral programs. At the same time, it is important to ensure a decent scholarship to allow them to concentrate on research,” the President said.

Tokayev noted that the share of doctoral students among all students in Kazakh universities remains low, and urged relevant bodies to address this issue in detail and take adequate measures.

The development of science is a strategically important priority for Kazakhstan, the President emphasized. It is crucial to create conditions for talented and capable youth to engage in science. Creation, innovation, knowledge and dedication to science are the main qualities that a truly advanced country needs.

“Schools should encourage students’ interest in science. We must direct all our efforts to promote knowledge and science,” Tokayev said.

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