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Artificial Intelligence in Russia Issue 15, November 20, 2020

The Russia Studies Program
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The Artificial Intelligence in Russia newsletter features a summary of recent Russian-language reports on the Russian AI and autonomy ecosystem, divided into the following sections:

  • Governance and Legal Developments
  • Military and Security Developments
  • Corporate and Market Developments
  • Education and Training Developments
  • Spotlight: Russia's National Defense Management Center
  • In Brief: AI in Russian agriculture

The following preview shows the first item in this issue:  

1. Government updates parliament on “Digital Economy” program

On November 3, Maksut Shadayev, head of Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media, spoke for the first time at the Federation Council (upper house of Russia’s parliament) about how the Russian government has adjusted the Digital Economy national program to account for the pandemic and new priorities. As discussed in past issues of AI in Russia, this program is a key vehicle for the Russian government’s civilian AI efforts.

Program goals and hurdles

Shadayev stated the program’s goal is to stimulate the development of digital services that will bring comfort and convenience to the lives of Russian citizens, and elevate them to a qualitatively different level. He emphasized that this is applicable to the Russian business community as well, and that digital services should reduce costs, stimulate access, and improve business competitiveness in new markets. 

However, he added that the government must solve five problems:

  • Ensure that the population has high-speed internet access.
  • Teach citizens to use digital services and increase their digital literacy.
  • Protect the personal data of citizens and resist cyber threats.
  • Allow the high-tech industry to take its rightful place in the world market so that Russia has every opportunity to compete with foreigners.
  • Digitalize public administration.

The education sector

Shadayev noted that the government is rewriting parts of the national program to focus on solving practical problems and ensuring quick results, with a particularly large portion of the program now devoted to schools. He stated that schools are now being connected to the internet as part of a project to provide socially significant facilities with information infrastructure. While this does not mean that every classroom will have access to the internet, the authorities agreed that by 2024 schools will have WiFi connections that make it possible to connect all classrooms to the internet easily and quickly. There is also a problem in that teachers lack necessary equipment, so the national program includes a section providing all teachers with personal tables for work use. The pandemic revealed an additional challenge for the education process: the lack of domestic solutions for video conferencing. According to Shadayev, Russia’s two largest internet companies, Yandex and Mail.ru Group, are independently investing in their online communications platforms with Rostelecom (Russia’s largest digital services provider) to find video conferencing solutions, and these services should be available by 2022.

Internet for everyone

Shadayev also discussed the importance of ensuring that all Russian regions, even the most remote, have internet access. Within the framework of the national program, the government is working to provide internet access to these areas through such means as underwater cables and satellites. All settlements with 100 to 500 people will also receive mobile communications and 3G/4G mobile internet. Overall, the ministry head said,this means the Russian government will ensure that 97 percent of households in the country have internet access. Though the government previously announced that it was cutting the program to eliminate digital inequality implemented by Rosetelecom, Shadayev said this is no longer the case. He stated that the government had found a solution with the Ministry of Finance that, starting next year, will allow it to restore full financing for this project and connect remote settlements.

5G networks and personnel

Shadayev said the government decided to require that all 5G network equipment be made domestically, adding that it will provide additional funding for this purpose. He did not specify the frequency for the 5G network, but said it will not use the prospective global range of 3.4-3.8 GHz. The government did prepare a plan for conversion of the spectrum and agreed to clear the frequencies of military equipment by moving them to other bands.

On the personnel side, Shadayev said that Russia plans to increase the number of jobs in ICT specialties by 2.5 times. At the largest universities, the government will organize in-depth training programs in areas such as AI, big data, and the internet of things in order to prepare world specialists. Shadayev said that everyone in all roles should have knowledge of these technologies, and that all training programs in traditional specialties will include a module on developing digital skills and the use of digital solutions for industry.

State information systems

Shadayev also emphasized the need to protect all state information systems, and said that, starting next year, his ministry will conduct independent tests of all key state information systems to find vulnerabilities and increase their level of protection. In addition, he said that another aspect of information systems is the need to protect Russian citizens from cyber threats, such as spam and phishing attacks. He said this is a matter of law enforcement, which must, first of all, ensure a quick response to these cases by quickly blocking numbers committing fraudulent acts, blocking phishing sites, and working on personal data leakage cases.

Shadayev also discussed import substitution, saying that the government plans to help companies implement import substitution measures. He stated that state-owned companies are still using foreign software, and said that the next phase of the ministry’s work is to ensure these companies purchase domestic solutions.

Digitalization of the government

Lastly, Shadayev discussed digitalization of public administration, saying that Russia faces two main tasks: the digitalization of public services, and the digitalization of state data. He said that they had managed to create a complete centralized database based on data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Federal State Registration Service [Rosreestr], which helped reduce the period for obtaining a certificate by at least five days thanks to improved interdepartmental data exchange. In addition, he discussed the details of a pilot project for using digital duplicates for documents instead of the originals, which is set to begin in December 2021 in Moscow. Through the program, the Russian government will allow digital counterparts to be used for driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, hunting licenses, and even passports.

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DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT A. Approved for public release: distribution unlimited. 11/20/2020

Details

  • Pages: 24
  • Document Number: DOP-2020-U-028630-Final
  • Publication Date: 11/20/2020
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