Google, Bing, Yahoo, all move aside. In a first for the South Caucasus, Azerbaijan is working on its own web-search service. Officials in the tightly controlled energy-exporter say that both national security and commercial considerations prompted the idea.
Under the guidance of the Ministry of Communications, the government body that oversaw the launch of the world’s first Azerbaijani satellite, Azerbaijani coders have already developed a web crawler and are now working on a software application, Trend news agency reported on September 23.
A government-run technology developer, Dilmanc, said that the national search engine will bring more information security to Azerbaijan. The ministry has not elaborated about perceived threats, but some rights activists likely would surmise that government critics are among the ministry’s main concerns.
The government, however, already has a reputation for pressing for netizen loyalty. Democracy-watchdog Freedom House reports that online activists and bloggers have faced growing harassment over the past few years.
On the other hand, Dilmanc’s director, Abulfat Fatulayev, claims the national search engine offers attractive money-making opportunities -- always a consideration amidst low oil prices and an economy heavily dependent on hydrocarbons.
“No less importantly [than security concerns], [online] advertisement revenues will stay in Azerbaijan instead of flowing beyond the country’s borders as is the case now, thanks to Google and Facebook,” Fatulayev elaborated to Trend.
For now, the South Caucasus trio — Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia — rely primarily on engines like Google and Russia’s Yandex. Earlier this year, neighboring Iran unveiled a national search engine Yooz that was meant to help circumvent US-led online sanctions. Turkey, Azerbaijan’s closest ally, also has plans for a national online search service.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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