This is a bit of a surprising move by the Serbian government to me, given the EU candidate status of Serbia. Even if the two directions in which Serbia’s government and different generations look, the EU on one side, and Russia on the other, stand out clearly for all who visit.

When I was regularly working in Kyrgyzstan a few years ago Kyrgyzstan joined the EAEU, in my perception halfheartedly. Mostly because there seemed to be no consequence free way to not do so, as their neighbours Kazachstan and Russia basically are responsible for absorbing most of their exports, transports through Kyrgyzstan from China, as well as Russia being the biggest source of remittances of by Kyrgyz working in Russia.

Read Serbs Ignore EU Warning Over Plan to Join Russian-Led Trade Bloc

Serbia’s plan to join a Russian-led economic union is drawing ire from the European Union, which the Balkan nation says it wants to be part of.

The UNDP has published the open data readiness assessment for the Krygyz Republic. From November 2014 to June 2015 I visited Kyrgyzstan three times for a week on behalf of the World Bank. In collaboration with the Kyrgyz Government and the UNDP, as well as local companies, civil society organisations and the coding community, we looked for the right starting points for open data in Kyrgyzstan, and which steps to take to get going.

The UNDP has now published the resulting report, which is embedded below. Download link here.

I spent a bit more than a week in Kyrgyzstan, at the invitation of the Kyrgyz prime minister and on behalf of the World Bank, to start an open data readiness assessment and present and facilitate at the Kyrgyz Open Data Days.
Kyrgyzstan is a lower middle income country, with a parliamentary democracy. The people I met are frank, straightforward, and action oriented. Anything longer than 6 months seems to be perceived as long term. This meant that with the right introduction it was possible to arrange meetings with high level officials at short notice. Like arranging a meeting with a deputy minister during lunch for later that afternoon. I did not get to see anything really from the city or the country, except from what I could see from the car that brought me from one office building to another, and from hotel to conference center.

In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Press coverage of Prime Minister opening the Kyrgyzstan Open Data Days, and my name tag in cyrillic

Towards the end of my stay the Open Data Days took place, for which many other open data people from Moldova, Georgia, Russia, USA, UK, Germany and France came on behalf of the World Bank. It was good fun to meet them, and together we pulled off a good program to kick start open data (also see World Economic Forum blog) in Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz government adopted an e-governance strategy only last week, and open data is part of that new strategy. Our visit was therefore very timely. The first morning was spent explaining open data and sharing experiences with the Kyrgyz prime minister and full cabinet attending, followed by good discussions in the afternoon when we zoomed in on a slightly more practical level. There was quite a bit of press interest, and I had the opportunity to get misquoted in the Kyrgyz press. The second day we did workshops with civil society organizations, and the business community, followed by a developer meet-up in the evening. Two more meetings on the last day completed my program, before the 10 hour flight back home.

In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Mountainview on a clear morning from my hotel room, and a group photo at the end of the Open Data Days

Bishkek is only a short distance from the mountains (the country’s highest peak is over 7000m), and on clear mornings form a great backdrop for the city. It was a snowy day when I left, so no views of the mountains as the plane took off. Instead I made triple selfies with Victoria from Moldova, and Vitaly from St. Petersburg in departures, as we were on the same flight back. Odd, spending a week 6000km away from home, and more or less no idea where you’ve been. I may return however in January and late spring, both for completing the assessment as well as providing ealry implementation support.