Azerbaijan: Technology Boom?
Occasionally, blips flit across the news ticker about Azerbaijan and its desire to develop into an information and communications technology hub. A little ways back, I wrote about Azerbaijan’s proposed East West Informational Superhighway, a regional project to increase access to information via the Internet, among other media. It looks like a fairly unique project to which, geographically, Azerbaijan is well-suited. However, we can’t forget that Azerbaijan has some very real obstacles when it comes to technical savvy. Today’s story from Trend illustrates this well:
Azerbaijan ranked the fifth amongst the countries where a broad penetration of the Trojan program of Win32/Hodprot was recorded since the beginning of the year, the ESET Company reported.
Trojan Win 32/Hodprot has been designed for download to computer for various malicious software aimed at remote banking services.
The first three countries, who have infected with Trojan Win 32/Hodprot, include Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, where there is also the activity of other families of banker Trojans.
Yikes. That’s not a ranking anyone seeks out. Yet, it’s not really a surprise. Going to internet clubs in Azerbaijan can be a shady prospect, as picking up viruses from the common-use computers on your flash drive is highly likely. It’s not rare that a number of computers, even at well-administrated computer centers, will be rendered useless by the malicious software invading the systems. All of these issues can be attributed to user errors. Azerbaijanis, in my experience, are not well-educated on the various dangers from downloading songs, movies, and others. And they aren’t good at sniffing out various internet scams.
In addition to that, we also know that Azerbaijan is a ‘leader’ in software piracy. I wrote about that last year as the Economist released research showing both Armenia and Azerbaijan among the worst trespassers of intellectual property laws. This is true, again, even at the best computer clubs in Azerbaijan. The local IREX information center started up last fall with all brand new computers. It took a very short time to figure out that all of the versions of Windows were counterfeit copies. And that’s at a computer center administrated jointly by USAID and an international development agency. We should have higher expectations for those entities, right?
In spite of these obstacles, Azerbaijan is still aspiring to becoming a informational and communications technology leader. Certainly, we can be impressed that I can have high-speed internet at my home in a less-developed region of the country. The president has staked out a position that seeks ICT development as a serious part of Azerbaijan’s future economy. The Information Technology Minister claims to be targeting students for better IT education.
Identifying the IT sector as a viable economic driver and focusing on IT education is an important start. Yet, if Azerbaijan is really seeking to become a leader in this sphere, they are going to need to work on basic internet safety knowledge for its population. Picking up viruses by going to internet clubs is not good for a computer’s health and usefulness. At this point, the education system is not equipped to give students an adequate education on computer basics, so most of the learning is either through computer courses by people who aren’t well-trained or through using the pirated, virus-laden software. Azerbaijan will also have to focus on actually enforcing anti-piracy laws. It’s incredibly difficult to take seriously an IT effort when everyone is using pirated and corrupted software. If I’m going to be trusting Azerbaijan with an information superhighway, I’d like to know that the technology they are using isn’t copped off and corrupted. And we certainly don’t want to be putting information on systems that are chock-full of Trojan viruses that will steal our money.