The Condition of The Internet in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is one of the best connected countries in the Caucuses in terms of Internet access. This is a legacy of the Soviet occupation during which the country's technological capabilities were developed. However, while the country has invested in telecommunications technology and web connectivity, the state still retains a high level of control, which may affect future growth in usage.
The latest available figures for Internet usage in Azerbaijan detail that as of December 2010, 44 percent of the population had access. This represent some 3.7 million people. The percentage of Internet connectivity in the country has risen steadily. In 2007, the figure was 10 percent, in 2008 it had risen to 18 percent, while in 2009, 30 percent of citizens had Internet access. The majority of citizens access the Internet through public spaces, such as cafés, places of work and schools. Of those who have access, less than 47 percent own a computer. The high cost of PCs is the primary reason for this comparatively low figure. The majority of connections remain dial-up.
Fixed line telephony systems, including those used for dial-up Internet connections, are administered by a state-owned company called AzTelecom. Internet Service Providers must pay for connections via this system The costs are the same for any company wishing to provide ISP services, so there is an agreement to charge customers the same price for unlimited Internet access. Companies that try to contravene this agreement have had their ISP services blocked by the government company. The primary ISP provider is called Delta Telecom, which provides 95 percent of the country's Internet connections. In the last two years, mobile connectivity has increased, particularly within the younger generation. The main mobile operator in Azerbaijan is Azercell, while Bakcell and Azerphone also compete in the market.
Azerbaijan continues to solicit foreign aid to develop and broaden its telecommunications capacity. It position between Eastern Europe and South-west Asia mean that it is ideally placed to facilitate the flow of information and business between these two regions. The steady rate of increase in Internet use over previous years suggests that usage will continue to rise, the two factors intertwined: as the country gets more trade, so more of the inhabitants will be able to afford Internet access. This will no doubt be helped by the Ministry of Communications and Technology which has instigated the Program on Information of the Education System, which aims, by the end of 2012, to connect every school in Azerbaijan to the Internet. The impediment to increased access is the controlling influence of the government which can affect the price of services. Furthermore, while the government does not censor media, as it did when under Soviet control, it does monitor Internet usage, and arrests have been made for online content considered to be anti-government in nature. The government has also waged a protracted campaign to portray social media such as Facebook and Twitter as portals of criminality, vice and obscenity. The increasing popularity of mobile technology may be a result of this government interference.
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