On the initiative of CISCO, a videoconference has been held between President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and the company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kelly Kramer, Vice President Guy Diedrich and other executives of CISCO.
Welcoming the President of Azerbaijan, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of CISCO Kelly Kramer said:
- Good morning, Mr. President.
President Ilham Aliyev: I am very pleased to see you, good morning. Rather, good evening to you – it is an evening for you.
Kelly Kramer: Yes. I am very delighted to see you. We last met in Davos, but apparently a lot of time has passed since then.
President Ilham Aliyev: Indeed, I am very glad to see you again. It is great that we have the opportunity to talk and review the work done since the meeting in Davos and outline our further plans.
Kelly Kramer: Yes, this is true. I think that many interesting events are taking place. I simply wanted to thank you again for meeting with us. With your permission, I want to touch upon one more question. In fact, it makes a pleasant impression that you have shown leadership in organizing a meeting of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States and a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in connection with the COVID-19 virus. This made a huge impression. Thank you again for leading this work.
I must also say that it was great to see the use of CISCO telecast technologies. In short, if we were of help in that, it is very delightful. We also appreciate the opportunity to see you. Thank you for that.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you!
Speaking next was Vice President of CISCO Guy Diedrich. He said:
- I am very glad to see you. I appreciate your time today. I will talk about three areas. The areas we want to discuss are: “Smart country”, education and cyber security. All of them are related to your top priorities. You set them before us about two years ago. Twice a year, at meetings in Baku or Davos, we brought our innovations to your attention.
You probably remember our “Smart City” project. We essentially started with a “Smart Bus Station” and added to this everything that relates to this area in the city. In fact, we took this step in the format of a comprehensive experiment. The result was incredibly successful. We have received numerous positive reviews. Very good data was collected.
Guy Diedrich spoke about the joint projects being implemented in Azerbaijan and noted that they had produced excellent results. The CISCO vice president pointed to a very successful cooperation with relevant agencies of Azerbaijan and noted the importance of this cooperation in terms of gaining experience. He also touched upon the prospects for cooperation between the company he represents and Quantela and mentioned the work towards creating a unified data system, emphasizing that this would contribute to growth of the gross domestic product, job creation and the application of innovation. Touching on the “Smart Schools” project, Guy Dietrich said:
- Mr. President, our common goal is to create inter-related “Smart Schools” and educational programs in order to achieve global leadership in this area. The scale and commitments you have indicated are quite comparable. We can cope with that and increase the level of education. Thanks to these interconnected schools, your status in the world will further increase.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much! You rightly noted that we used your remarkable equipment to organize two important events. I can say that from a technical point of view, both events went well, although it was not easy. While the Summit of Turkic-Speaking States covered only a few countries, the second event brought together more than 40 participants. International organizations were also present there. By the way, the Non-Aligned Movement and the European Union participated in one event together for the first time. This had never happened before. Azerbaijan initiated these two important international events. Of course, both of them were associated with coronavirus and the fight against it at the international level. I can tell you that technical support was excellent. Thank you for this opportunity. We are currently using this opportunity to speak to you. By the way, I can tell you that I have spoken with colleagues, i.e. heads of state, several times using your excellent system. However, this is the first time I have talked with company executives in this way. I think it is a pleasant coincidence that this happens to be CISCO.
This demonstrates a very close and, I would say, strategic partnership between our countries. The first company I have such a conversation with represents the United States. In fact, let me tell you that I received a letter from President Trump yesterday. He congratulated me and the Azerbaijani people on the upcoming Republic Day. In his message, President Trump writes that the United States and Azerbaijan have cooperated for nearly 30 years to strengthen international security, diversification of energy supplies and political reforms. In the letter, he emphasizes that our two great states will do even more work in the future. This is a very important manifestation of friendship between the USA and Azerbaijan.
As for the issues you have mentioned, we have already discussed them before. I am glad that we have made great progress since our meeting in Davos. My team informs me that work in these areas, in particular in the field of the “Smart City” project we discussed, is going well. And now you have come up with the idea of a “Smart Country”. Along with urban infrastructure, transportation, parking lots and some other urban infrastructure, there is also a global concept of a “Smart Country”, which we fully support. It covers, as you said, education, cyber security, healthcare and, as we have already discussed, I would add agriculture and management of water resources. I will come back to this. However, I was first informed about your cooperation with Quantela. Of course, we fully support this. I think it would be very useful to do a full study of the agenda, a kind of a “roadmap” to develop the “Smart Country” project.
After that, the picture will become completely clear. A plan of upcoming actions will be ready, the final result will be determined and we will know what resources will need to be collected to achieve that. In the current situation, “interconnected schools” and the support you provide to the educational program are very important, because I want to inform you that our schools and universities have been closed due to coronavirus since the beginning of March and definitely will not open until the end of the school year. We also need to see how the situation with the coronavirus will develop. Today it is under control. The number of dead is very low and thanks to serious restrictive measures, the number of infections is relatively low. However, we can say that, like all countries of the world, we are now in the process of lifting the restrictions. Therefore, the possibilities for distance education are very important. If we have a system that provides full connectivity for all schools, this will be a great opportunity. In this case, as you said, Azerbaijan will become one of the leading countries.
As for the issue related to cyber security, we have discussed it before. As we previously discussed and as I noted, the main goal on the new reforms agenda is to increase gross domestic product, create jobs and use innovative technologies for this.
In the current conditions of the coronavirus, as I noted earlier, these issues are very important because it is possible to say that the gross domestic product of all countries has been affected. At the same time, in four months of this year, our gross domestic product grew by 0.2 percent. We appreciate that this indicator is likely to drop next month. Things in the industrial sector are better. Growth in our non-energy industry exceeds 13 percent. Of course, coronavirus strikes at gross domestic product and jobs. We will certainly calculate growth of unemployment, but we have engaged a very serious economic and social package in the amount of 2 billion euros to prevent it. We are doing this to protect people who have lost their jobs in sectors of the economy that are completely closed today. For example, tourism. It is currently at zero level. In a word, these issues are of the greatest importance today. I believe we will focus on that.
In addition to the issues just raised, I believe we can work in other areas too. I know that you are already in contact with us on issues related to digitalization of agriculture. In the current situation of the falling oil price, this sector will become one of the leading ones. Therefore, agriculture means employment, food security and exports.
To achieve tangible results, we must have a system of very serious electronic control over water resources. I have recently signed an order establishing a special state commission led by the deputy prime minister. It has already started to operate. Many ministers are members of this commission because we have suffered major losses. Last year we also faced a severe drought. It is expected this year too, though not as severe but it is an unpredictable phenomenon. Weather conditions change suddenly.
Thus, the correct assessment of water resources, the determination of project priorities, electronic management of water resources and balance are the most important issues for us in the coming years.
Considering the fact that most of the infrastructure projects in Azerbaijan have already been completed, this will be the number one infrastructure project. As a result of its implementation, we will ensure control over water resources, management and equal distribution. One of the biggest concerns here is that when distributing water resources, local executive bodies sometimes do this in an unequal manner, as a result of which a group of companies gets an unreasonable advantage. This injustice, in turn, creates serious difficulties. Therefore, I believe that this issue can also be included on our agenda. Thus, we will have a clear idea of what work needs to be done in the future.
Guy Diedrich: Very good! Mr. President, we love challenges. Water management is a challenge everywhere in the world. We have a number of projects and technologies in this area. They are not only about water management and control. This also includes legislation in the relevant field, because there are regions in the world where the infrastructure is very developed but due to damage to pipelines there are major losses of water. I have in mind two projects where, as part of a pilot project, we are engaged in the use of sensory technologies and the collection of data related to water legislation. Of course, we can work in this area with you as well.
Another topic is “Smart Agriculture”. You are far ahead in this area, and relevant technologies are already available to realize your views related to the development of agriculture.
Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan Shahmar Movsumov touched on the “Smart City” project and, speaking of work in this direction, said:
- Thank you very much, Mr. President. We have great cooperation with CISCO. We will work on the idea of “Smart Country” you put forward and approved. I believe that it is very important to have a “roadmap” in this area, a budget and all the necessary indicators. I hope that when the time comes for the implementation of the “Smart City” project, we will have overcome the coronavirus problem and return to normal life. Thank you!
Azerbaijani Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies Ramin Guluzade touched upon the cooperation with CISCO and speaking about projects implemented so far, said:
- Mr. President, dear colleagues. Our collaboration with CISCO successfully continued during the coronavirus pandemic as well. Using the CISCO cloud platform and networking technology, important events were organized in the format of a video conference.
Along with this, using these technologies, we offer government agencies the organization of online meetings and services. We are currently working on eight digital priorities.
President Ilham Aliyev: I think that our discussion today has been extremely important and encouraging. Thank you once again for supporting these initiatives. In an effort to modernize our country, we held numerous discussions, and everyone understands that this would be impossible without modern technologies. Therefore, I think that everything we discussed today will be implemented because all our previously planned initiatives have already been implemented.
Returning to water management, you correctly noted the issue of water losses. We also have such a problem. Sometimes water losses in Azerbaijan account for 40 or even 50 percent. We not only lose water, but also harm the soil, because it is washed out and becomes unsuitable for agriculture. I think that by joining forces and using your experience, we can achieve great success in increasing yields.
We have limited resources of fertile land. We must increase yields in order to provide ourselves with agricultural produce and increase exports. And this is possible only by using state-of-the-art technology.
Addressing the event, CISCO Vice President for Russia and CIS Jonathan Sparrow said:
- Mr. President, I want to echo the words of my colleagues. The cooperation of CISCO with the Republic of Azerbaijan was fantastic and we want it to be continued.
Speaking next was Vladimir Orlov, CISCO Regional Manager for Azerbaijan. He said:
- We would like the International Bus Terminal Complex to become a bright star among all the pilot projects we are implementing in the region. I would like all the technologies that can be applied in the city to be used there, after which we will propose this project to other states. The “Smart Country” project will be useful for the country in the longer term. This project is not only about a single control panel for the country. It can be supplemented with healthcare, oil and gas sector, and other areas you wish. In the field of cyber security, we cooperate with “AzerEnergy”.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. I believe that after the structure of a new format for our cooperation is officially determined, we should have a short-term implementation plan because we need these issues a lot. Security is the number one issue in the modern world. It includes the issue of energy security. Therefore, the importance of protection from cyber attacks will increase even more for us. Recently, during the pandemic, I took part in the opening of the “AzerEnergy” operational center. All operating systems, including SCADA, are functioning there. We have major plans related to the modernization of energy infrastructure. By reconstructing and renovating the existing power plants, we were able to achieve an increase in electricity production of at least 600 megawatts. In other words, by increasing efficiency only through resource optimization, we received large generating capacities. So this will be a priority for us, of course.
With regard to healthcare, everyone understands that this is an important factor in the successful fight against coronavirus. Along with all the restrictive and organizational measures, doctors treating patients play the key role here. Therefore, our healthcare system was restructured in the shortest possible time. We made our best hospitals available to patients with coronavirus. Currently, more than 20 hospitals are in use. I can say that the cause of high mortality in some countries is the shortage of beds in hospitals. They physically cannot accept all patients. In case of a second wave of coronavirus in Azerbaijan, we have enough additional beds. Thus, modernization of the healthcare system is more important than ever because no-one knows how long coronavirus will spread.
CISCO General Manager for Ukraine Oleg Bodnar spoke about cooperation in the field of cyber security. Regarding the losses of water, he said:
- As far the losses of water are concerned, this is an interesting topic. Currently, we do not implement projects in this area in the region. From this point of view, it would be very good to bring European and American experience to Azerbaijan. Thank you for the opportunity to work with you.
Kelly Kramer said:
- This meeting between the CISCO team and Azerbaijan is very fruitful. Mr. President, it is gratifying that a leader like you is so open to technology and ready to use it in the country. I am glad that CISCO cooperates with you in this area, and I believe that we can accelerate the implementation of the issues we have mentioned. We are interested in continuing this cooperation. You are one of the leaders who supports technology not only in the region, but also globally. Thank you for being in the lead. I believe that by establishing this partnership, we will be able to learn a lot about your country.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. Thank you for your cooperation and support. I am sure that our strategic partnership will only strengthen because our agenda is related to the modernization of the country and yours to technology. We have many years of cooperation experience. As I have already noted, the successful implementation of projects is the best manifestation of our joint efforts. Our views fully coincide and, having mobilized our potential, we can do a great job in a relatively short time. And this fully meets our views on the modernization of Azerbaijan. I hope to see you in Baku after the coronavirus pandemic. I remember that I invited you here. Thus, we can continue our discussions in a regional format.
- Of course. We had already planned on everything before this terrible pandemic and will certainly come after the situation improves. Thanks so much for everything!
President Ilham Aliyev. Thank you! I convey to you my best wishes. Thank you for this discussion.
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