Azerbaijan International

Spring 2002 (10.1)
Page 52

Ther Birth of AzEcon
Student-Run 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 - 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 data.

Left:, a new Web site created by Azerbaijani students living abroad, is designed to make economics information about Azerbaijan easily accessible.

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 Azerbaijani Economist."

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 optimistic.

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 with AzEcon.

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


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