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Beyond the Net 19 March 2018

Ferghana Valley IXP – Reducing the Digital Gap in Central Asia

Isabek Asanbaev
By Isabek AsanbaevProject Coordinator, UNICEF Kyrgyzstan Country Office

The Internet Society Kyrgyzstan Chapter is implementing one of its first major projects supported by Beyond the Net Funding Programme. The aim of the Ferghana Valley Internet Exchange Point (FVIXP) project is to establish an IXP in the city of Osh in the south of Kyrgyzstan and to bring more affordable Internet for the residents of Ferghana Valley.

Ferghana Valley is located on the crossroads of three countries – Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan –  and is the most populated area in Central Asia with over 14 million residents. Historically, this area has been a source of regional interethnic tensions due to water irrigation and land disputes, poverty and lack of access to communication services.

Internet prices for end users in Ferghana Valley are higher than in other districts of Kyrgyzstan. Residents in the southern cities pay five times more for the same bandwidth than their countrymen in the capital city Bishkek located in the north of Kyrgyzstan. Users in the neighboring countries of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan face even higher prices due to very limited options for international connectivity and to challenging domestic market conditions.

With this project, the Kyrgyzstan Chapter hopes to increase regional cross-border collaboration between stakeholders and communication between people through lower Internet tariffs, multiplied growth of Internet data traffic, and increased Internet penetration rate. Ferghana Valley IXP will follow principles of openness and neutrality by providing equal access to infrastructure to all stakeholders including government agencies, educational, and healthcare institutions as well as commercial banks. The IXP will help local small and medium Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to minimize traffic costs thus allowing them to invest more on infrastructure.

Considering the above mentioned situation, we believe that establishing an IXP in Ferghana Valley will alleviate the digital divide between the north and south of Kyrgyzstan as well as between the bordering countries. An open and neutral IXP in this region will greatly enhance the utility and value of the regional Internet and promote the growth of the local digital economy.

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