Since our launch in 2017, TajRupt has focused on development of critical thinking skills among high school and university students in Tajikistan through a tailored civic education curriculum that is delivered after-school. Hundreds of students have completed the English language curriculum, while learning concepts across public policy, global affairs, gender empowerment, markets, and media. In the process, we have adopted an active learning methodology centered around in-class student engagement and have digitised our course materials through the use of Canvas as the learning management system.
Upon implementing several iterations of the curriculum, we came to realise that there was a sizable demographic of students at TajRupt who were passionate about fields within science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This was particular interesting to us since we had initially expected to attract students with a primary focus on social sciences. Further research showed that this trend was characteristic of Tajikistan’s public education system, that places an outsized emphasis on theoretical knowledge in STEM subjects, rather than practical.
This pointed us to a host of challenges that could be converted into opportunities to bring Tajikistan competitive advantage in the age of tech. Today, a student in Tajikistan with a demonstrated talent in STEM is likely to focus on theory as opposed to practice in secondary school, have limited opportunities for applied research at university, and further face shortage of opportunities on the job market down the road. These three areas emerged as the founding pillars of TajRupt.AI – Central Asia’s first artificial intelligence research center that we are planning to launch in Tajikistan this summer. TajRupt.AI seeks to concurrently address these areas in the following way:
- Education: Talented high school and undergraduate students in STEM fields will receive educational training in computer science after-school. The curriculum will be designed to train the students in the fundamentals of data science and AI (Artificial Intelligence) and include several levels of tracking of student progression.
- Applied research: University students, both at undergraduate and graduate level, will receive access to workstations in order to conduct specialised research on AI applications for social good. The tools of machine learning and deep learning will be prioritised in the process of applied research.
- Entrepreneurship: Student entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to commercialise their products through an incubator space and mentorship resources. One specific area of work will include establishment of local ventures, providing global companies with outsourcing services for AI-related programming work, replicating the success of eastern European countries in becoming hubs for IT outsourcing in the past two decades.
The reason we have decided to prioritise artificial intelligence in the work of our organisation is due to the immense potential for growth in the sector over the coming decades. Research by McKinsey Global Institute has estimated that the increasing adoption of AI can deliver additional economic output valued in trillions of dollars by 2030. More mportantly, the demand for high-skilled AI talent is expected to far exceed the supply in the near future, presenting an opportunity for developing countries like Tajikistan to emerge as regional AI hubs.
TajRupt.AI’s mission is rooted in accelerating Tajikistan’s economic growth through development of a tech sector powered by AI, an ambitious goal that could positively alter the country’s development over the next decade. The three-pronged approach encompassing education, applied research, and entrepreneurship outlined above, will allow talented STEM students in Tajikistan to fully unleash their potential and carve a path towards a brighter future.