The development of human capital within the transition of kazakhstan to industry 4.0: directions, achievements and risks

Abstract. In this article, the author examines in detail the tasks that must be undertaken for the successful implementation of the State Program “Digital Kazakhstan”. The article considers the directions, achievements and risks for each type of task.

In the next five years, the State Program “Digital Kazakhstan” intends to digitize virtually all sectors of the national economy; make the transition to a digital proactive state; ensure the effective operation of the country's digital infrastructure; and form its own innovative ecosystem. In particular, it is planned that there will be a significant increase in indicators in such areas as job growth and labor productivity due to digitalization; and growth in the share of public services consumed by citizens in electronic form, etc. [1]. It is obvious that a prerequisite for the implementation of the goals and objectives which have been set is the preparation of the population for the the way in which life will now be organized; and the creation of the conditions for the full development of human capital to meet the demands of the new technological order.

The tasks that are faced today in the context of preparing the population can be divided into four components.

First, there is the task of bringing about within the education system a transformation and adaptation to the requirements of the new technological structure.

Second, there is the task of increasing the level of digital literacy of the population.

Third, there is the task of creating the conditions in which the risks of a backlog in terms of the skills and competencies of Kazakhstani workers in relation to the development of technologies can be minimized.

Fourth, there is the task of training specialists in the field of information technology and security.

Let’s consider the directions, achievements and risks for each type of specified directions. Transformation and adaptation to the requirements of the new technological structure of the education system is the cornerstone of the efforts made by the state to ensure the preparation of a new generation of citizens. Reform of the education system is done through

  • extension of digital tools used in the learning process;
  • revision of approaches to the content of educational programs and their placement at various levels of the educational process; and
  • automation of education and science management.

In all directions, the high rates of development and the introduction of new mechanisms are being consolidated. Special attention is being paid to the secondary sector and, in particular, to equipping rural schools. Currently, 99% of Kazakhstan’s schools are connected to the Internet; 47% of schools are connected to WiFi; but only 62% have access to broadband [2].

The second task affecting the Kazakhstani education system is the revision of approaches to the content of educational programs and their placement at various levels of the educational process. Thus, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan, taking into account the experience of the OECD member-states, began the introduction of the subject “Information and Communication Technologies" in elementary school. Before, the subject was introduced into the curriculum when students moved to secondary school; but now students start to get basic knowledge about information technologies in elementary school from Grade 3. At the moment, experts are considering the feasibility of introducing an academic discipline as early as Grade 1.

In addition, a complete set of multimedia equipment in schools allows for the integration of digital interactive content into the educational process. For example, more than 40 thousand video lectures and interactive lessons in Kazakh, Russian, and English have been posted on the internet resource-areas “Bilimland”, “iTest” and “iMektep” [3]. Kazakh teachers and students can also use international educational internet resources adapted to Kazakhstan realities [4]. The proposed interactive lessons are focused not only on providing the necessary amount of knowledge, but also imply the fostering of functional literacy and creative thinking in students.

Over the past six months, there has been an eightfold increase in the number of robotics clubs and classrooms. If at the end of last year there were 372 of them [1], then at the moment such classrooms operate in more than 3000 educational institutions [5]. This involves not only the resources of the formal education institutions, but also the possibilities of the non-formal education structures. So, robotics classrooms are created not only in schools, but also in Schoolchildren’s Palaces, on the basis of which a network of children's technology parks is currently being created.

The third direction is the automation of the process of managing education and science and includes a wide range of mechanisms, most of which are most successfully used in the system of higher and postgraduate education, as well as in the field of scientific research [5]. The key objective of this direction is to ensure fast access of consumers of services to all relevant information and, consequently, the transparency of the activities of structures operating in the education and science systems.

Despite the recorded positive dynamics of the digital infrastructure development in the education system, it seems logical to draw attention to a number of emerging risks.

First, against the background of the modernization of the education system, adequate mechanisms and criteria for assessing impact have not yet been developed. Reporting contains, as a rule, indicators of how well educational institutions are provided with access to broadband internet; multimedia equipment; and academic disciplines, within the framework of which instruction is provided in an interactive format, etc; but these indicators do not provide an opportunity to assess change in the quality of education. In 2018, the Ministry of Education conducted a comparative analysis of student performance indicators and the number of interactive lectures which had been downloaded from Kazakhstan's educational portals. The analysis showed a direct relationship between performance and the intensity of use of interactive content [6]. The result is quite to be expected and corresponds to the concept of digital interactive learning. However, the question is: how far the factor of subjectivity was taken into account when teachers assess schoolchildren’s knowledge?

Second, there are risks that in the pursuit of modernizing education the introduction of interactive methods will become an end.

Third, businesses express dissatisfaction with the quality of university graduates. In part, the marked discrepancy between the quality of specialists graduating from universities and the needs of the labor market is a consequence of the lack of attention of the business itself to the process of preparing specialists - the reason lies in the accelerating process of the changing requirements for the skills and competences of specialists.

Next, we turn to increasing the level of digital literacy among the population. The growing importance of information technology will lead to the situation where a citizen, not having the skills to use digital devices, will not be able to use e-government services or represent their interests in other areas.

It should be recognized that Kazakhstanis in their daily life actively use the opportunities provided by digital technologies; and at the consumer level there is the high potential for adaptation to new conditions. The level of internet penetration in Kazakhstan is about 76% and the level of digital literacy 77% [7]. Kazakhstanis actively use the internet via mobile devices [8]. According to opinion polls, only 16% of citizens are ready to abandon devices in order to make savings and instead Kazakhstanis are more likely to agree to overtime [9].

However, the presence of internet surfing skills and social-media accounts does not mean that citizens can use digital signatures, receive government services in digital format or conduct business based on smart contracts. The question of the competencies and skills of Kazakhstanis in protecting their information resources and data from the actions of cyber attackers remains open.

The objectives this year included the development of teaching methods and curricula; the training of trainers; the development and testing of mechanisms for teaching the population; and an increase by 1.5% of the proportion of the population possessing the relevant basic skills. Most of the key tasks have already been resolved; and a digital-literacy education campaign started on June 1 [10]. The aim of the campaign is that every Kazakhstani citizen, regardless of where they live, can learn basic competencies; obtain public services; use Open Government resources; or make online purchases and sales.

Given the importance of the process for the further development of a proactive digital state and the construction of Industry 4.0, it is advisable to take into account a number of associated risks.

First, the population can ignore the importance of the issue of expanding their own digital skills. On the other hand, for those who decide to undergo training, the issue of training time becomes a priority. In this context, attention needs to be paid to the readiness of employers to free up part of the working time of their workers for training in digital skills.

Second, as society’s dependence on digital technology grows, threats from cyber-attacks also increase. Obviously, against the background of the already announced areas of public education, more attention should be paid to the protection of their own information resources and cyber-safety.

Minimizing the risk of professional skills lagging behind technology development is an issue. At the same time, the transition to Industry 4.0 substantially increases the risk of professional skills and competencies lagging behind the development of technologies. Fulfillment of this risk will lead to the polarization of the labor market and the growth of social inequality [11]. In addition, this situation will have a negative impact on efforts undertaken in other directions.

In the short term, the labor market in Kazakhstan will maintain a positive trend; but, in the medium term, the automation and digitalization of production will create new requirements for the competencies of professional personnel. Conducted in conjunction with experts from the Fraunhofer Institute of Applied Research, as well as experts from the Swedish mining industry and Nokia, an analysis of Kazakhstan’s industry showed that only 20% of manufacturing enterprises and 40% of mining enterprises have enough technological, organizational and personnel base for the transition to Industry 4.0. The lack of qualified personnel was indicated as one of the limiting factors for other enterprises [12].

Expert forecasts regarding the state of the Kazakhstan labor market suggest that the expected growth in labor productivity by 20-30% will lead to a reduction in the next five years of about 60-80 thousand people working in the basic sectors of the economy [13]. On the other hand, it is predicted that by 2022 up to 300,000 new jobs will be created due to digitalization [14]. At the same time, it is obvious that the problem cannot be solved within the framework of simple arithmetic.

The factors that increase or decrease social risks are the intensity of the labor release process, the speed of creating new jobs, their geographical location, the demographic transformation of the labor market, the willingness of enterprises to invest resources in retraining their professional staff, etc. Given the speed of development of new information technologies as well as their practical application, it is logical to assume that the process of staff development should be permanent. In this case, the responsibility for the retraining of professional staff falls on the shoulders of the employer. At the same time, the official statistics for the previous six years shows that the share of enterprises' costs on training their own personnel in the field of information technology is extremely small; in the main Kazakh enterprises were oriented towards attracting external specialists [15]. At the same time, specialists were mainly required in the field of cyber defense and system administration. Under the new conditions, the range of categories of employees whose skills in working with information technologies need to be updated has greatly increased. Tactical decisions can be different, from organizing one’s own innovative laboratories to concluding agreements with educational organizations. The creation of Competence Centers at leading universities in the country was one of the mechanisms of interaction of educational institutions with the business environment and the public sector.

We next turn to the training of specialists in the field of information technology and security. Transition to Industry 4.0 will require a large number of not only advanced users capable of managing automated production, but also specialists directly in the field of information-communicative technologies - information systems and information security system designers, database management system developers, software developers, etc. To meet the growing demand for specialists in these sectors, the state announced an increase in the state educational order for ICT specialties to 20% of the total number of all specialties. By 2020, it is planned to produce at least 25 thousand specialists annually. In addition, 5 social initiatives voiced by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan in March 2018 suggest that already in the 2018–19 academic year another 20 thousand grants will be allocated to 54 thousand state grants allocated annually for training Kazakhstani youth, 11 thousand of which for bachelor’s degrees on technical specialties [16]. It is logical to expect that some of the additionally allocated grants will be used to train specialists in the field of information and communication technologies.

In a narrow professional context, the request for cybersecurity experts is updated.

Already, 85% of all cyber-attacks to the countries of Central Asia fall on Kazakhstan. According to the Kaspersky Lab's interactive cyber-attack map, the number of cyber-attacks on its infrastructure ranks in the corridor from 16 to 23 in the world rankings [17]. However, the problem is not only in the intensification of actions taken by the attackers. A serious challenge is the rapidly changing landscape of the mechanisms they use.

An analysis of the current situation shows that Kazakhstan is experiencing an acute shortage of personnel in the field of cyber security. Out of 93 universities, where ICT specialists are trained, only seven offer courses in cyber security [18]. At the same time, against the background of a shortage of personnel in the field of cyber defense, it is estimated out of aproximately 32,000 specialists in 2017, only 543 students with this specialization were trained by higher-education institutions [19]. In order to eliminate the indicated deficit, an audit of standards for training specialists in the field of cyber defense was carried out, as a result of which it was concluded that it was necessary to introduce specialties such as information security techniques into the curriculum. In addition, an agreement has been reached between the Ministry of Defense and Aerospace Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan to increase the number of trained specialists in the field of cyber security in the period from 2018 to 2021 to 500 people per year [19]. The Bolashak program also introduced cybersecurity specialization for internships abroad. At the same time, considering the specifics of the specialty and the speed of changes in this sector, it seems logical to reconsider the way in which highly- qualified specialists are trained in universities.


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Year: 2019
City: Almaty