(Bloomberg) -- Kyrgyzstan, a landlocked nation in Central Asia, has few natural resources on which to draw. Its gross domestic product is near $11 billion for a population of 7 million people. Russia tries to keep the former Soviet Republic sweet with cheap energy, while the younger generations in the country try to push it toward a more independent future. All in all, the Kyrgyz Republic is in something of a bind when it comes to figuring out the economic conditions that might lead to prosperity.
One big idea that the country’s leaders have hit on of late is code and lots of it. Through a series of government-backed and private programs, Kyrgyzstan is in the process of training tens of thousands of software developers. As I explore in the latest episode of the Bloomberg Originals series Hello World, early signs suggest the programs are working. Companies like Codify and Mad Devs, led by women, have boomed and helped unlock the talents of bright, engineering-minded youth throughout the country.
On This Episode
The coding efforts are one part of a nationwide gamble on technology. The Kyrgyz government has put massive tax cuts in place for tech-leaning companies that pull in most of their revenue from overseas. It’s also debating similar tax breaks for internet creators and has opened its borders to digital nomads.
It’s very early days for Kyrgyzstan’s attempt at a tech revolution. But, from new schools to an all-female team building the country’s first satellite, the initial wave of results have been promising.
Things You Will Learn
A huge portion of the Kyrgyz economy comes from remittances — money that expats send back to the country. Many Kyrgyz citizens head overseas, particularly to Russia, seeking more economic opportunity, and then send portions of their salaries back to their families.
Dinara Ruslan is the rare example of an expat who has returned to the country, hoping to help it thrive. She grew up in Kyrgyzstan and then went to the US to work in the tech industry. A few years ago, Ruslan returned to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital city, to start Codify and help spread her tech talents throughout the country. Ruslan has also tried to serve as something of a role model to Kyrgyz women, many of whom are expected to work in the home even after obtaining university degrees. Ruslan, outspoken and daring, has drawn a generation of Kyrgyz coders into her classrooms.
Things to Do After Watching the Episode
Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful, mountainous country filled with warm people. I’ve never experienced more generous hospitality.
I went there in the winter and do not recommend visiting during a similar time of year, especially if you plan on staying in Bishkek. The smoke from the many coal fires burning throughout the city gets trapped in the valley surrounding the city and leads to some of the poorest air quality in the world.
If, however, you go during warmer months and are a sucker for Soviet architecture, then Bishkek is full of wonders to see. The city center has tremendous Soviet government buildings and monuments, which are offset by more modern structures. This gives Bishkek a unique, haphazard feel as if it’s caught between two worlds.
When you’re ready to get out of the city, a wonderful first stop is the Ashu Guest House. It takes about three hours to get to Ashu by car from Bishkek, and you’ll be rewarded for the effort with what’s more or less a hotel amid the mountains. You can visit villages, go on hikes or just relax at the sauna and indoor pool.
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