Baku, June 16, AZERTAC
On the initiative of Microsoft, a video conference has been held between President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the company’s Vice-President Philippe Rogge, Head of Corporate, External and Legal Affairs in Central and Eastern Europe Nanna-Louise Linde, and other Microsoft representatives.
Greeting the participants of the video conference, President Ilham Aliyev said:
- Good morning!
Microsoft Vice President Philippe Rogge: Good morning!
President Ilham Aliyev: It is very nice to see you!
Philippe Rogge: Same here. Several years have passed. I am very glad to see you in good health. Thank you for taking the time.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you! I recall our meeting in Baku a few years ago.
Philippe Rogge: When we could come over in better times.
President Ilham Aliyev: Yes, but we have to adapt to the current realities now.
Philippe Rogge: Absolutely! Thank you for this opportunity. I am joined by several colleagues. From our side, there is Mrs. Anke den Ouden, Regional General Manager, our representative for government relations Mrs. Wildfang and, of course, our General Manager for Azerbaijan Gachay. As I said, of course, I would like to personally visit your beautiful city. You understand the situation around the world. We convey our greetings. As for me, I convey my greetings from my homeland, Germany. The meeting with you is a great opportunity for us. Thank you for your attention in such a difficult time. First of all, I want to say that I was glad to hear that the impact of the pandemic in your country is under sufficient control. I keep in touch with world leaders, so I know that this is not always the case. Finally, you are probably aware that, in addition to technology and all the work we are doing, the priority for us is human health and life. We congratulate you and your government on the work aimed at protecting the health of every person. However, there is no difference for the pandemic. Therefore, we must be careful. Secondly, we express our gratitude to you again for today's opportunity to have a conversation with you. I would say that in order to determine where our technologies can be effectively used in this difficult time, we have had the opportunity to communicate with many world leaders in the past few months. Therefore, it would be great to speak with you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. Thank you very much! I am very glad to see you again in this new reality. I appreciate your initiative to organize this video conference, because life goes on. Although the pandemic, of course, seriously affects our traditional way of life, we must adapt to the new reality. Thank you for your words about our efforts to overcome the pandemic. Indeed, the World Health Organization has described Azerbaijan as an exemplary country in addressing this important issue. The situation is under control. At the same time, we are not only paying attention to domestic issues, but are also doing work on a global scale. Azerbaijan has already provided humanitarian assistance to 29 countries, and this process continues. We position ourselves as a reliable member of the international community.
Therefore, with regard to our activities and plans for the future, of course, we have been focused on protecting people from the coronavirus and clearly understand that this will have a very negative impact on our economic growth. We had great prospects for this year, and the first quarter of the year was quite reassuring. However, the results of five months show a slight decline in the gross domestic product – by about 1.7 percent. At the same time, some sectors of the economy, in particular those not related to oil and gas, have even registered growth. Therefore, we are agreeing restrictive measures because COVID-19 still exists. At the same time, we are starting to reopen our country and restore the activity of various areas of our life. So I do hope that this balanced approach will help us, first of all, to continue the successful fight against the pandemic. At the same time, we will help the private sector, in particular the sectors affected by the pandemic, restore tourism and related sectors.
As for our cooperation after the meeting held in Baku two years ago, as you know, we signed an agreement. I was informed before the meeting that tens of thousands of licenses had been issued and this work is currently well under way. Our joint efforts against piracy are producing good results. As for our plans for the future, you probably know that we are currently working on a government strategy for digital transformation. We look forward to a good cooperation with Microsoft in this matter. This program is planned for the next five years. At the same time, our agenda includes issues related to the detailed development of an artificial intelligence strategy. Cyber security is always on the agenda because this is a problem all countries must be prepared for. So far, we have not had major issues but no-one is immune. Therefore, this also remains among our priorities for the future. Of course, I looked at the list of completed projects. The cooperation between us is quite impressive, and I am sure that this will strengthen our partnership in the coming years. In addition, the current pandemic situation is forcing us to look at education and distance leaning from a new angle. Although we did not have enough time to adapt to this situation, certain steps have been taken because our schools and universities have been closed since March. We must prepare for the new school year, which begins on 15 September. We do not know what the pandemic situation will be like by then, we do not know whether we can open schools and universities, so we must be prepared for the worst case scenario. If the problem continues and gradually worsens, then we will have to think about it. But we must think about it now, including the issues related to working from distance... This is also extremely important for the country. These are approximately the areas our plans are focused on.
Philippe Rogge: Thank you! I believe that this is consistent with the practice most countries of the world we cooperate with have encountered, and with the current situation. Regarding the topic of education, I believe that this is likely to be one of our biggest achievements in the sense that we have managed to establish communication for almost 1 million of your students. To date, I believe that we have ensured that nothing hinders their future and, fortunately, we are at home. It is clear that this is an important investment for the future. I am proud of the work our teams and partners have carried out together with education workers of your ministry to ensure that overall coordination is carried out in the shortest possible time – in a matter of a few weeks.
The problem we have encountered in other countries is that the number of devices in people’s homes is limited. I understand that this is not a problem for you, and this is good news. In fact, many countries have experienced difficulties in acquiring a sufficient number of devices. A mother, a father and children are at home and they argue about who will use the computer. In your case, apparently, there is no such problem, and this is good.
Speaking about Microsoft’s experience in distant working, Philippe Rogge noted that the company he represents had applied this solution in many countries and come up with creating virtual desktops to provide people with secure access to infrastructure at any time. Touching upon the issue of cyber security, Philippe Rogge emphasized that the number of cyber attacks had increased during the pandemic. The Microsoft Vice President spoke about the work the company is doing to prevent such attacks. Philippe Rogge also talked about “cloud computing” and noted their effectiveness and importance. He emphasized that this technology was already being used in many countries. Philippe Rogge was pleased to say that Microsoft's artificial intelligence platform would soon master the Azerbaijani language. He noted that he was pleased to report this pleasant news and stressed that he was looking forward to the time when the translation service would be available.
Stressing the role of this in the globalization of the economy, the development of online and offline economies and tourism, Microsoft Vice President Philippe Rogge said:
- This technology is also necessary to access the global market because “cloud computing” is the territory of such a global market and everyone has access to it. The most talented people from Azerbaijan can compete in the global market quite effectively. In order for them to truly possess economic power of “cloud computing”, they do not need to work from San Francisco or Silicon Valley. I believe that fundamental changes are underpinned by economic opportunities. My suggestion is to think about these issues, see how we can together promote programs, start-ups on people's digital skills both in the broad sense and in the sense of a startup. I believe that there are many possibilities.
Addressing the event, Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies of Azerbaijan Ramin Guluzade said:
- Mr. President, dear colleagues, we work closely with Microsoft in all areas, in particular such areas as the fight against public key infrastructure, cyber security, use of information technologies in education, the technology of Internet things and staff training. Mr. President, in accordance with your instructions, in 2018 we signed an agreement with the aim of obtaining licensed software for government agencies. We held meetings with the company’s representative office in Azerbaijan, discussed a new proposal and the development of new projects. Thank you for your attention!
Speaking next Assistant to President Shahmar Movsumov said:
- Thank you very much, Mr. President. I believe we have established very good cooperation with Microsoft. We are currently working on an innovative strategy for Azerbaijan to achieve economic development based on innovative approaches. We are cooperating with Microsoft in this matter as well. We encourage Microsoft to become even more active. We believe that Azerbaijan has great potential to create the Absheron Valley similar to the Silicon Valley, in order to become the center of innovation in our region. We greatly appreciate the active participation of Microsoft in this matter. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
President Ilham Aliyev: I also want to note that Azerbaijan is already becoming a regional center for the industrial revolution. This time, during the Davos Economic Forum, Mr Borge Brende and I signed a document on the establishment of the Davos Regional Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Baku. Thus, this center will cover not only Azerbaijan, but also the countries of the region. Therefore, I believe that it would be natural for us to move forward and work with you on the innovation center. Our main strategy, as you know, is to reduce dependence on hydrocarbon resources and achieve sustainable development based on innovation, new technologies and modern governance. Therefore, I believe that joint work on this issue can strengthen our cooperation.
General Manager of the Central and Eastern Europe Multi-country at Microsoft Anke den Ouden spoke about cooperation with relevant ministries of Azerbaijan and innovations the company had prepared.
Emphasizing that the Teams program has been very useful for education workers and teachers, Anke den Ouden said:
- We are not only committed to supporting the Azerbaijani language, but also consider it our obligation to support Teams data. You are one of the most innovative countries in the field of education. We would like to continue this work. In the background are views of Azerbaijan, a beautiful landscape, panoramas of the city. This could be a good photo.
General Manager of Microsoft Azerbaijan Gachay Mirzayev, spoke about the work the company is carrying out in our country. He emphasized that Microsoft Azerbaijan was fulfilling its obligations in accordance with the national strategy.
Philippe Rogge: Thank you, Mr. President, I am grateful to you for taking the time and for your support. This is an opportunity for us. We all look forward to future opportunities and, as a team that intends to continue working, we know that there are many opportunities. First of all, we really look forward to returning to Baku. I was also upset after reading last week that, unfortunately, the Formula 1 Grand Prix will not take place for obvious reasons. At least you had a virtual Grand Prix and I saw it. I wish you success in the field of healthcare, in the economic sphere, and you can count on our help in continuing to invest and create a roadmap for transforming the future. We are at your disposal, you can use our capabilities as you see fit. We are here for you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much! I thank you for this video call. This is a good opportunity to review the work done after our meeting in Baku in 2018 and plan further actions. I believe that the partnership that has been going on for more than 15 years since the start of Microsoft’s activities in Azerbaijan has great potential and a great future. We will be partners for the coming years. Thank you again. It has been a pleasure to see you. I wish you success. I hope to see you in Baku after the pandemic.
Philippe Rogge: Certainly! I am personally grateful to you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you!
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