Language is a sensitive issue in Kazakhstan. Some Kazakhs resent the continuing dominance of Russian in the country and want the government to be more aggressive in requiring the use of Kazakh. The government, concerned about alienating its significant Russian minority as well as other Russian-speaking ethnic minority communities, has adopted a cautious, gradual approach to making Kazakh—currently the state language—the sole language of public life. President Nursultan Nazarbayev pledged in his State of the Nation address that Russian would retain its current constitutional status as the language of international communication.
The government has undertaken a number
to increase knowledge of the Kazakh language in the country, with the goal of 95 percent of the population speaking Kazakh by 2020 (from the current 63 percent). It has increased the number of schools
providing instruction in Kazakh, added more adult language instruction classes, and supported the establishment of more Kazakh-language media sources.
Astana has been particularly proactive in promoting the Kazakh language on the Internet. The government partnered with the WikiBilim Public Foundation
to increase Kazakh content online by promoting Creative Commons licenses and supporting Kazakh-language material on Wikipedia by bringing in more Kazakh-language editors and improving the quality and number of articles published in Kazakh. It has also created an “intellectual video portal” in Kazakh and opened a free online library of Kazakh authors.
WikiBilim’s efforts have been highly successful. In August, Wikipedia named
WikiBilim founder Rauan Kenzhekhanuly the “Global Wikipedian of the Year” for WikiBilim's success in increasing its number of editors and articles. By December 2011 Kazakh Wikipedia had reached 117,000 articles
Kazakhstan also applied for and was granted a Kazakh-language domain, which will allow Internet users to enter URLs in Kazakh. The .қаз domain will be administered by the Kazakhstan Association of IT Companies and will be the third
to use Cyrillic characters (Russia was first with its .рф domain and Serbia was second with .срб). It will include characters specific to the Kazakh language that do not exist in Russian or Serbian.
Overall, Internet use is growing rapidly
in Kazakhstan—from 70,000 users in 2000 to 5,448,965 users (35 percent of the population) in 2011, according to ITU. Large urban areas have been connected to the Internet, and the authorities are working to expand connectivity to rural areas. Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Communications and Information plans
to ensure that 100 percent of the population has broadband coverage by 2013.