The Importance of Estimating Kazakhstan’s E-commerce Volume and Patterns

Kazakh individuals use their computers and mobile devices to order goods or services online. Photo credit: ADB.

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The reliability of statistics is critical for decision makers, researchers and media to understand domestic e-commerce.


There is a lack of established statistical practice in tracking e-commerce in many countries. Measuring the digital economy is a challenge because of the pervasive presence of technology across sectors and the difficulty of capturing electronic transactions between businesses and individuals (including international money and data flows).

The government of Kazakhstan requested assistance from the Asian Development Bank in revising and formulating a comprehensive statistical methodology to assess domestic e-commerce. The reliability and quality of e-commerce statistics are important to understand the shopping patterns of households and enterprises.

Statistical data on e-commerce produced by the Bureau of National Statistics of Kazakhstan is widely used by decision makers and researchers and often cited by media. Surveys carried out by the Bureau of National Statistics on the use of ICT and e-commerce by businesses and households are largely compatible with international statistical standards set by the International Telecommunication Union, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Eurostat, and OECD. However, data analysis and dissemination need improvement. E-commerce volume figures are also widely criticized by researchers and experts because of the alternative methods used by the bureau and the Ministry of Trade and Integration to estimate them.

Measuring E-commerce Indicators

Statistical data is the basis for analytical studies to understand Kazakhstan's e-commerce market and inform policy and decision-making. The Ministry of Trade and Integration and Bureau of National Statistics agreed to undertake efforts to consolidate data and adopt a unified methodology for measuring e-commerce.

One of the criticisms against the Bureau of National Statistics is the use of alternative assessment methods. For instance, the Ministry of Trade and Integration uses data from the national postal office (KAZPOST) to estimate the volume and patterns of e-commerce by multiplying the number of postal parcels in a given period by the estimated value of parcels.

Even with the statistical standards set by ITU, UNCTAD, OECD and Eurostat, estimating the volume of e-commerce is fraught with difficulties. The diversity of estimates from official and unofficial sources in Kazakhstan requires a detailed assessment of the accuracy of figures.

There are several data sources in Kazakhstan on e-commerce and use of ICT:

  • survey of households and individuals on access and use of ICT, including questions on e-commerce;
  • survey of enterprises on e-commerce;
  • survey of enterprises on their use of ICT; and
  • estimates of e-commerce volume prepared by the Ministry of Trade and Integration using postal data from KAZPOST and reports from private market research companies.

E-commerce among households. E-commerce indicators on households, established by the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development, showed that 86% of Kazakh individuals (aged 6 to 74) use computers, 88.3% use internet (including from mobile devices), and 13% have ordered goods or services online.

E-commerce among enterprises. Data from the bureau’s 2021 survey of enterprises showed the total volume of e-commerce corresponds with the published aggregates: 483 billion Kazakhstani Tenge (KZT) for online sales of goods, 347 billion KZT for services, and 209 billion KZT for online wholesale transactions. To obtain an aggregate figure for e-commerce imports by individuals, total payments made via internet and via mobile phones outside Kazakhstan for 2020 was used as provided by the National Bank of Kazakhstan. This showed an estimated 248 billion KZT in imports by individuals via online transactions.

In the period 2013–2021, e-commerce volume—as measured by total online sales—grew 42% annually for goods, 22% for services, and 18% for wholesale services.

Based on the size of firms, figures showed that small- and medium-sized enterprises were the most active e-commerce players with more than 40% of their turnover from online sales. Large firms, meanwhile, reported only 20% sales from e-commerce. Micro enterprises were sold only one fifth of their supply online.

Sales related to cellular phones, electronic appliances, and cosmetic products amounted to 43% of all retail goods sold online in 2021. The biggest services traded online were: tickets for transportation (8.8% of total), food delivery, entertainment tickets, and accommodation services (4.5%). At the wholesale level, parts for automobiles, computers, cosmetic and pharmaceutical goods are the best-selling products online.

E-commerce indicators for businesses showed they are largely aligned with international standards. However, new indicators are needed to better understand the patterns of e-commerce, including the intensity of e-commerce (ratio of online sales to total sales). Bureau of National Statistics surveys showed an increasing trend for e-commerce in line with the increase in access and use of ICT.

E-commerce volumes. The analysis of e-commerce volumes as declared by enterprises for 2021 in the Bureau of National Statistics survey included breakdowns by: method of payment used, types of goods traded, industry classification/ economic activity, size of the enterprises, contracting platform used by the firm, and selling platform used. It differentiates the sales at retail and wholesale level for goods, as well as those of services.

Figure 1: Volume of E-commerce in Kazakhstan (sales): Retail, Wholesale and Services
(billion KZT)

KZT = Kazakhstani Tenge
Source: Bureau of National Statistics


These are the recommendations presented to the Bureau of National Statistics based on the study:

  • Provide more detailed estimates of individuals’ volume of purchases online by calculating breakdowns by socio-economic and demographic profile.
  • Disseminate microdata of household survey on access and use of ICT to researchers to facilitate the preparation of academic reports on this topic.
  • Include “online” as one of the location of purchase options in the next Bureau of National Statistics Household Budget Survey.
  • Expand the register of e-commerce entities (platforms) of the Bureau of National Statistics to carry out a specific survey on a particular type of activity. Currently, 55 entities are identified for statistical research, and can be further classified by typology of platforms. This register can be extended by including questions in the existing surveys to identify the platforms used by individuals and companies.
  • Collect figures on purchases online by Kazakh companies to foreign firms—as components of their production process or for resale (wholesale or retail)—in future surveys to improve the estimate of overall e-commerce (demand and supply sides).
  • Improve data estimates from postal data by analyzing the delivery of goods (not services) purchased online and analyze the distribution of the parcel values.
  • Use innovative data sources such as website information collected through web-crawling and web-scraping for additional information. However, this should be considered as experimental until further research is made on their representativeness.
  • Work on agreements for data exchange with private platforms (such as KASPI – a major online marketplace), which may provide a sustainable, additional data source. Since the Bureau of National Statistics is subject to statistical confidentiality and has the necessary skills in its staff, it is well positioned to explore such agreements.

Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms of the Republic of Kazakhstan Bureau of National Statistics.

Asian Development Bank (ADB). 2022. E-Commerce in CAREC Countries: Infrastructure Development. Manila.

ADB. 2018. Embracing the E-commerce Revolution in Asia and the Pacific. Manila.

ADB and Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program (CAREC). 2022. E-commerce in CAREC Countries: Infrastructure Development. Manila.

ADB and CAREC. 2021. E-commerce in CAREC Countries. Laws and Policies. Manila.

Committee on Statistics. 2020. Development of Communication and Information and Communication Technologies in the Republic of Kazakhstan 2015-2019.

International Telecommunication Union. 2020. Manual for Measuring ICT Access and Use by Households and Individuals. Geneva.

OECD. 2011. OECD Guide to Measuring the Information Society. Paris.

OECD. 2017. Measuring Digital Trade: Towards a Conceptual Framework. Paris.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). 2020. Manual for the Production of Statistics on the Digital Economy. New York.

UNCTAD. 2021. Digital Economy Report 2021. New York.

José Cervera-Ferri
Senior Project Manager, International Telecommunication Union

José Cervera-Ferri is an international expert in the statistical measurement of digital economy and information society. He authored UNCTAD and ITU statistical manuals on setting statistical standards. He has provided assistance and training on the measurement ICT and e-commerce use in Caribbean countries, Latin America, Morocco, Tunisia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Thailand. He was former CEO of DevStat and digital economy statistics expert at UNDP Saudi Arabia.

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Genadiy Rau
Senior Economics Officer, Kazakhstan Resident Mission

Genadiy Rau analyzes the socio-economic situation in Kazakhstan and develops projections for the Asian Development Outlook. He participates in regional and country specific research projects on inequality, trade and sustainable development. He also manages policy advice and capacity building services under the joint government of Kazakhstan and ADB Knowledge and Experience Exchange Programme.

Asian Development Bank (ADB)

The Asian Development Bank is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region. Its main instruments for helping its developing member countries are policy dialogue, loans, equity investments, guarantees, grants, and technical assistance.

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