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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
  • International Collaboration
  • Spotlight: Russian Military Engineers and Sappers To Get Robotics Technologies

The following preview shows the first item in this issue:

1. Lawmakers discuss advanced technology development at Sberbank conference

At a digital transformation conference held January 21 at Sberbank’s corporate university, government deputies and industry experts discussed potential legislation aimed at promoting further development of advanced technologies. State Duma chairman Viacheslav Volodin said legislators need to create the conditions for developing digital technologies, and expressed the view that Russia needs to become a leader in this sphere. As Volodin put it, “If you own technology, you own the world.”

However, Anatoly Aksakov, chairman of the Duma Financial Market Committee, said Russia is still at the beginning of the road in many areas of development of the digital economy with a major lag behind the leading countries. He said it will not be possible to overcome that lag quickly, because such progress will require passing relevant laws, though he also said the Duma is actively working to this end. Aksakov expressed hope that the Duma will accept some new laws aimed at this development in the spring session. According to Alexander Zhukov, first deputy chairman of the Duma, the laws being considered by the Duma include those related to the protection of personal data.

The conference participants specifically discussed the development of AI as a priority, with Vladimir Zhironovsky, head of the LDPR political party, stating that the most important thing is the search for intelligence equal to the level of human development. Some participants, such as Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Communist party, expressed a nuanced view of the topic. Zyuganov said that AI is a tool to help humans solve problems, and that, when inventing an AI product, the creator must remember their moral responsibility to humanity, as they will be responsible for how it is used. Aksakov also warned of the consequences of ignoring risks in the digital sphere, saying there is a need to regulate the ethics of the relationship between humans and AI.

2. Government cleans house after failures in implementing digital transformation

In January 2021, the Russian government announced that it would fire and replace 10 out of 62 deputy heads of government for digital transformation, for failing to carry out the tasks entrusted to them. These deputies received low ratings for their performance in a number of related areas, including preparing for departmental digital transformation programs and implementing AI projects.

According to the Russian deputy prime minister, only 18 federal agencies have so far demonstrated high performance in the field of digital transformation. They include the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Federal Tax Service, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Agriculture, Roskomnadzor, Rospatent (the federal service for intellectual property), and Rostekhnadzor (the federal service for environmental, technological, and nuclear supervision). The agencies that showed the worst performance included the Ministry of Natural Resources, Rosarkhiv (the federal archive agency), Rosmolodezh (the federal agency for youth affairs), and Rosmorrechflot (the federal agency for maritime and river transport). 

The assessment of the departments and chief digital transformation officers took into account a variety of matters, including the quality and pace of implementation of government orders and the fulfillment of budgetary obligations.

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  • Pages: 30
  • Document Number: DOP-2021-U-029210-Final
  • Publication Date: 2/16/2021