Armenia’s Infrastructure: An Overview of Challenges and Possible Solutions
By admin February 21, 2018

Presence of well-functioning road and communications infrastructure is the cornerstone of economic progress and an inclusive society. Since its independence in 1991, there has been an urgent need in Armenia to rehabilitate the poor road conditions and upgrade the road system inherited from Soviet Armenia to meet the current political realities of the country and the Caucasus region as well as the economic needs of the country.

A rehabilitated road system is of crucial importance for Armenia’s development for several reasons. As mentioned above, the Republic of Armenia inherited the road systems of the Soviet Union which are not sufficient to meet the needs of the current political realities of the country and the region. Being a landlocked country and economically devastated from the breakup of the Soviet Union and a war during its early years of independence, Armenia needs to account for a good road infrastructure to ensure its easy access to the sea and, therefore, to export opportunities, for the remote areas of the country. In addition to fostering export opportunities through upgraded road conditions, the rehabilitation of the road system would boost domestic economy, positively impact tourism, and promote a more inclusive society by giving those residing in the remote rural areas increased access to educational and economic opportunities.

However, in addition to, and even because of, the condition of the road infrastructure in Armenia, political and geographic realities in the Caucasus region, communications infrastructure is of critical importance to ensuring Armenia’s economic prosperity. The rapidly growing importance of and reliance on a well-developed communication network in economic development, security and other fields makes an enhanced communications infrastructure strategically important. In the case of Armenia, the importance is also substantiated with the fact that there is limited physical access to neighboring markets and prospects of worsened impacts of the closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan as a consequence of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad project. Considering Armenia’s isolation and its poor road infrastructure, improving access to computers and internet becomes highly important to ensure access to global economic opportunities that has become increasingly less dependent on the physical road infrastructure and more on remotely accessible and controllable technologies.

Armenia’s economy is currently in a stagnant state, and urgent rehabilitation of the existing road and communication infrastructures to ensure the reliable transport of goods and services is needed. Internal (slow GDP growth and, therefore, a decrease in the budget allocated for road rehabilitation) and external (closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, possibility of war) conditions halt Armenia’s full usage of its road infrastructure for the external and internal exchange of goods. Considering the rapid growth rate of demand for service provision that is possible remotely via computers and internet connections as well as Armenia’s disadvantaged position to use its road infrastructure for improving its access to external markets, access to computers and internet becomes of strategic importance for the country.

Despite the fact that further research should be done on the topic to determine what policy changes/inception would work the best in the context of Armenia’s economy and overall infrastructure, some suggestions could still be made:

  • Research shows that the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technologies has not updated data available on computer and internet access; data after 2013 is not available. It is important to collect and analyze the data related to computer ownership and access to internet.
  • Transparency regarding the completed and ongoing projects should be improved: currently, no information on the “Computers for all” project is available on the website of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation tools should be developed to measure the results and possible impact of implemented projects.
  • A needs assessment should be an essential part of project design which should include an impact evaluation as those are integral steps of any project implementation cycle.

It would be beneficial for the Armenian government and development partners to focus on strategies and projects increasing young peoples’ access to computers and internet. Such policies would yield the most benefits from the investments as young people use computers and internet more, and more young people own computers than their older compatriots. Considering the fact that the younger generation is more skilled in terms of computer and internet use, increasing access to computers and internet among youth in rural areas would increase their education and economic opportunities considerably; the latter has obvious benefits considering the vulnerability of rural youth in terms of access to information, education and economic opportunities.

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