Updated: Aug 31, 2020
I travel the New Silk Road, reporting on the developments that are shaping the 21st century.
As Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey join together and engage in major infrastructure projects, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, to revive their historic role as a land bridge between east and west, Armenia has been conspicuously left by the wayside. However, Armenia has taken a different path. Rather than diving head first into the promises of the New Silk Road or industrialization, they’re wagering their chips on a completely different table: technology.
Armenia is a landlocked country in the bowels of the Caucasus with scant natural resources. It doesn’t have any ports. It isn’t on the road to anywhere. You can’t even enter or exit Armenia from the east or west, where hostile relations with both Azerbaijan and Turkey have resulted in long closed borders. All the country has is human capital, which it’s doubling-down on as high-tech research and development has become a national priority—a do or die objective to connect and do business with the outside world and break the blockade that’s building up around it.
While Armenia has been making strides towards developing its high-tech sector for many years, it wasn’t until the Armenian Revolution of 2018 that momentum really started to build. Suddenly, the little, insignificant country hidden deep in the centerfold of the world map was full of hope and looking forward to a future that seemed unusually bright.
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“The Armenian nation has never really been able to live for itself. It’s always had someone dominating it or ruling it or manipulating it,” explained the half-Armenian Reddit cofounder, Alexis Ohanian, as we sat together in Yerevan. “This could mark the start of the first time when this country and especially the young people—the ones who are the most hungry, the most driven, the most optimistic—to actually have a chance to determine for themselves the fate of the country and where it heads, and that is a part of the Armenian experiment that has not really ever happened.”
A new outlook was established, and the power of technology was one of its driving forces: IT, software development and high-tech startups would form the backbone of the newly reemergent nation.