How First Day of Go Viral Festival Takes Place in Astana

“Seven, six, five, … one – let’s start!” Hosts of the Go Viral Festival in Astana started the countdown in an unusual way, not from ten, but from seven. This number was not a randomly selected number. The seventh festival uniting young people of all five republics of Central Asia started on June 23, 2023.

“Go Viral is a valuable project of IWPR. Go Viral lets us support younger voices, more breath-taking and energetic voices. This is the festival of communications and technologies. This platform is for incorporation, inspiration and collaboration. Go Viral is about you, your energy, your ideas and your dreams,” Anthony Borden, executive director of IWPR, said to festival participants, whose number exceeded 700.

Photo of: Speech by Anthony Borden

Judy Kuo, deputy ambassador of the United States in Kazakhstan, said that Go Viral exists so that people could learn from each other, seek solutions for common (for the United States and Central Asia) challenges. And such search is a team work.

Photo of: Judy Kuo

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. We want to see people going together, inspiring each other, working together, making Central Asia stronger, with stronger ties, more protected and more prospective,” Judy Kuo said in her speech.

Go Viral participants started their joint work right at the event: they added new values to the symbol of the festival – the five hands entwined symbolising the five republics of Central Asia. “Entwined hands” were depicted on A4 sheets, and the sheets were attached to the display stand. Participants approached and wrote their wishes to the festival, friends and themselves. If everything comes true, Go Viral and Central Asia can expect bright future.

To build the future, young innovators and leaders need new knowledge and skills. And they found it at eight sessions held on day first of the festival. The sessions were devoted to the four areas, which were initially in the spotlight of Go Viral. These are business, technologies, culture and media.

Important questions by the media world

Fakes news became the challenge for new media and digital environment in general. Festival participants discussed how to fight them during the panel discussion “Critical thinking against fake content in the media space.” Moderator of the session, expert in PR and anti-crisis communications, Nurken Khalykbergen, emphasised the biggest risk of fake news – the state began to use this tool.

“How often do you have to deny news from speakers speaking on behalf of the state?” he asked Duman Smakov, editor-in-chief of

“The main problem of Kazakhstan-based media is that they convey information from the speaker as it is, without checking if it is true or false,” Smakov said and made an example, “Some deputies take data, which never existed, they make it up, maybe, I don’t know. Some media outlets publish and then delete false information as if nothing was ever published. This is how they fight false information. There’s no such thing as apologising to the readers, or ethical issues.”

However, unethical work of individual journalists kills the profession. This is the opinion of Karala Dzhamankulov, president of international foundation of freedom of speech “Adil Soz”. “So, I stand for highly ethical, professional behaviour,” Dzhamankulova said.

There is also an acute issue of “quality” of those who receive information, especially people of the older generation, who often trust fake news. Evgeny Khabarov, director of public foundation “TAUAN”, manager of media literacy projects, said that he teaches media literacy to adults for two years.

“We have had old women who did not want to study, and they did not want to change their mind. But when old women want to change their mind, they do it. We urge you to work with your grandparents. It might be very difficult, but it is important,” Khabarov said.

Life hacks from successful people

Participants of Go Viral received specific life hacks on how to make content and publish on the Instagram account of Apple. Photographer Darkhan Zhagiparov, whose mobile photographs have been published on Apple account three times, is confident, “If you want to make your creativity visible, you need to regularly make pictures, post them on your accounts on social media, follow accounts of major brands and take part in their challenges and competitions.”

“You are what you speak about,” this phrase can be called the essence of the speech by journalist and entrepreneur Dinara Satzhan, who gave recommendations on personal brand building. Its value is that it helps attract new opportunities for career development.

“You should define clearly what you want to achieve with your personal brand. What do you want to teach people? What problems do you solve? What do you want to be associated with? Your personal brand must be based on your true values and hobbies. Invest your time and efforts to develop your skills and knowledge in the your preferred area. Become an expert and share your experience with others,” said Satzhan.

How to win the market

The panel discussion was held at Go Viral on failures in business, which eventually led to success. According to Miras Ibraimov, owner of franchise “Lepim i varim”, absolutely everyone has encountered failures in life and business, regardless of experience or social status. However, real success, according to him, is how people respond to failures and use them as the impulse to new heights.

“Don’t be scared of involving investors. The mistake I and my partners have made was that we wanted to own 100 per cent of our outlets, but it was otherwise in reality. So I arrived at a conclusion that it was better to own 10 per cent of stock of a large and developing company as this approach is more successful and beneficial for all,” Ibraimov said.

Dana Kanapina, founder of pastry shops La Crème and Delish City Coffee Club, shared her opinion.

“You should never try to open business under the slogan “I like cooking, and I want my own pastry stop.” In most cases, this is an obviously losing approach, which will lead the investor to failure. Stop, breathe out and think about what you really like and what you are skilled at,” Dana Kanapina said.

Other speakers emphasised lack of patience and unwillingness to lose the invested money as the key “weakness” of aspiring entrepreneurs.

Abdilda Shamenov, chair of the board of “Fond nauki” [science fund], said that the first method to earn on innovations is to make your own start-up. It requires efforts, entrepreneurial spirit and a team of like-minded people, yet can offer great financial opportunities.

“The second method is to invest in innovative projects. Many investors actively seek prospective start-ups, which can become the next big name in the industry. Investment in such projects can yield substantial profit to you if you assess their potential and risks correctly,” Shamenov said to the audience.

Photo of: Vijay Menon

“I want to speak out to ask you plan your path for the next 10 years,” said Vijay Menon, listed on the Forbes 30 Under 30 and founder of Butter Payments, payment technology that drives revenue growth by optimisation of current payments. “I sincerely wish that everyone in this hall would find their place by 2030 and speak on important things for a wide audience.”

“You must have heard a lot about the Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and other hubs that are centres of technology development. But in my opinion, Central Asia should not be neglected because it has become the motherland of decent developments,” he said. And Menon knows what he says because he made up his multimillion business when he was travelling along the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Voices of different people

“When you connect people, magic happens,” said Ashken Grigoryan, executive director of DCN Global, in charge of intercultural communications and digital community development.

She told about the Influencers Hub Ukraine. This project collects all known voices from the digital space into series of webinars and incubators and supports them in creation and implementation of projects in online communities. Their team has gathered stories from emergency shelters and shared them in social media and on various platforms to make voices of Ukrainians heard.

Photo of: Katerina Suvorova

Katerina Suvorova, Kazakhstan-based director of documentaries, spoke about how a documentary gives people an opportunity to speak out.

“Documentaries often bring voices that have never sounded in the whole world, not to speak of Kazakhstan,” Suvorova said. “If the author turns to be vulnerable and a man of fine fibre, while being originally from a village, he can bring a good story from summer spent at home, where he understands the context and feels at ease (this is important for a documentary), which could never be made up in Almaty in a gaming concept.”

According to her, the power of a documentary is that it can give voice to people, especially those who are in vulnerable position.

Journalist, scriptwriter, political activist Assem Zhapisheva gave advices on how to write scenarios.

“There is no need to write prettily, it interferes with the text,” she said. “Journalist is a technical profession, script writer is also a technical profession. First of all, you need good research, many good materials, to hold an interview, to go and talk to people.”

Photo of: Assem Zhapisheva

However, Assem Zhapisheva believes that the story of millions is not interesting, but the story of one person is always interesting.

By the way, the story of one participant of Go Viral will surely change. Changes will happen to the winner of the Go Viral Festival Challenge, he/she will get a certificate for a trip to the USA to language courses. To win the main prize, you need to create an original publication about the Go Viral Festival Astana and post it on Instagram. Visit to know who’s the winner.