The Central Asian country of Uzbekistan has a population of approximately 30 million. In order to understand the country's current situation in terms of Internet service, it is necessary to establish a few facts about Uzbekistan's history.
Uzbekistan was part of the extinct Soviet Union between 1924 and 1991. This means that while other countries were immersed in the development of Internet services, Uzbekistan was barely appearing as an independent nation in the international scene. As a result, the country has lagged behind other Eurasian nations in terms of technological development, as the Internet only made its first appearance in Uzbekistan towards the end of 1995.
One of the major factors to take into consideration is the fact that a large percentage of the country's population is employed in primary sector industries, such as agriculture and mining. For the most part, individuals employed in these sectors have no regular access to the Internet, or no access at all.
Main Internet service providers in Uzbekistan
EVO offers Internet access to individuals and companies, although the conditions and quality of the connection vary throughout the country. Uzonline, Sarkor Telekom and TPS ard one of the main and popular internet providers. There are also 3G and GPRS connections available via mobile phone with providers like Ucell and Beeline.
Quality of service and current issues affecting the Internet in Uzbekistan
Internet speeds are notoriously low in Uzbekistan and dial-up connections are still predominant in the regions. Although fibre optic cable infrastructure is available, all communications go through a leased connection in Moscow, with results in frequent bottlenecks. There are wifi hotspots scattered around the capital, but it is a quite hassle to find them in other regions of Uzbekistan.
In Samarkand, there is a cafe with Free Wi-Fi ionly a 5 minute walk from the Registan Hotel – Magistr Cafe – and that Cafe has very good, fast, free internet service, so you may want to tell guests to go there to get reliable internet. In Bukhara, situation is worse. Other regions are generally internet free zones.
As for the country's Internet penetration rates, it looks as if things are improving. Uzbekistan has gone from having 1.8 million users in 2007 to 9 million in March 2012.
Although the current situation in Uzbekistan is not particularly buoyant, there are certainly opportunities for growth and development in the field of Internet technologies. Some positive indicators include the country's 7 per cent economic growth rate and the signature of a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States, which may help accelerate the introduction of online technologies.
Similarly, and according to the HSBC Global Economics Report for January 2012, Uzbekistan is one of the 26 “fast growth” countries expected to benefit from technological advances such as the Internet over the next ten years.
Uzbekistan's high literacy rate, which is in the region of 99.3 per cent, along with its predominantly young population, are factors that Internet companies can capitalise on. The educational sector presents huge opportunities for development, as there are 600,000 new university graduates every year.
Another area of opportunity concerns the future development of websites in Uzbek, as opposed to Russian, which is still the predominant language in most sites that have a local .uz domain.