Spring 2002 (10.1)
Ther Birth of AzEcon
Web Site for Economics Research
by Jamal Ismayilov
Last year, a small group of Azerbaijani
college students studying abroad asked themselves: Wouldn't it
be wonderful to have a Web site database of economic information
related to Azerbaijan? It didn't matter that they were spread
throughout the world and could only communicate about this major
endeavor through e-mail. Here co-founder Jamal Ismayilov explains
how the AzEcon Web site - found at http://azecon.info
- got off the ground.
In April 2001 I was getting ready to head back to Baku after
studying a year at Pace University in New York in the FSA Undergraduate
Program [U.S. educational exchange program, Freedom Support Act].
I received an e-mail from an old friend Eldar Aghayev, who was
studying at the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG). He told
me that he had an internship with the American Enterprise Institute
(AEI) and would be in Washington, D.C. for several months.
Two and a half weeks later, we were sitting in Eldar's apartment
discussing everything from schoolwork to the great political
events shaping the world. Of course we talked about economics,
since both of us were majoring in it. Then he started talking
about a Web site project he had in mind.
He suggested that we put together a
database of publicly available information about the economy
of Azerbaijan, such as research papers, dissertations and statistical
a new Web site created by Azerbaijani students living abroad,
is designed to make economics information about Azerbaijan easily
Since most Web sites about Azerbaijan only present a very generalized
overview of the economy, it can be very difficult and time-consuming
for researchers to locate specific information or statistical
data. Much of it is scattered across the Web on various sites
and sources. In Azerbaijan, where access to the Internet can
be expensive, students and researchers have even more trouble
finding what they need.
A centralized database would eliminate this problem by providing
links to newspaper and magazine articles, research that mentions
Azerbaijan and any other economy-related information about Azerbaijan,
grouped according to topics and dates. The Web site would be
divided into three basic categories: Economic and Financial News,
Research & Analysis, and Statistical Data.
At first I was pessimistic since I knew how much work and coordination
it would require. We would need volunteers to research and design
the site. Most of the people Eldar planned to involve were studying
abroad in various countries; some had never even met each other.
I'm sure I would have given up on the idea if he hadn't persisted:
he's the most determined person I've ever known.
When I returned to Baku, I reserved server space for the Web
site at the Internet Access Training Project Center (IATP). As
an alumnus of the FSA exchange program, I was entitled to unlimited
space on the IATP server, free training courses and support for
a Web site.
In the meantime, Eldar recruited a network of nine students from
Bulgaria, Turkey and the U.S. While most of the volunteers are
originally from Azerbaijan, only one of them was currently residing
there. Some of Eldar's Georgian and Kyrgyz friends also offered
their support. Our lead Web designer and developer, Vagif Jalilov,
also studies at AUBG, so most of the work was to be done in Bulgaria.
The future Web site was to be named "AzEcon" or "The
The greatest challenge about building the Web site has not been
the technical aspects, but rather sustaining the vision and energy
of the group, who were only connected via e-mail. "Since
we're all so far from each other and everyone did his or her
part of the work as a whole," Eldar says, "it seemed
like nothing was happening and we weren't getting anywhere. However,
when the project started showing results, we all became more
Six months later, this one-of-a-kind Web site was ready to be
launched. As we had hoped, the entire project runs at zero cost,
if you don't count all the labor of the "AzEconers",
as the volunteers call themselves.
Each researcher is responsible for managing the links for a certain
section of the site. For instance, the editor for the Research
& Analysis section finds new information and articles to
post on the site and builds a network of contacts with economists,
researchers and institutions that would be interested in cooperating
We hope this Web site will inform people around the world about
what is going on in Azerbaijan's economy and serve as a valuable
research tool for students and university researchers and provide
the business community a better understanding of what to expect
when thinking about investing in Azerbaijan.
Jamal Ismayilov is a student
at Texas Tech University. To learn more about the AzEcon Project
or to join the team, visit http://azecon.info.
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