Nikolai Nikiforov: ''Federal money was not given to Innopolis this year''

Nikolai Nikiforov: ''Federal money was not given to Innopolis this year'' Photo: minsvyaz.ru

The 2017 Gaidar Forum dedicated to the discussion of priorities of Russia in internal and foreign economic policy continues in Moscow. Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications of Russia Nikolai Nikiforov is one of the speakers of the conference. Journalists did not let the functionary go after one of the discussions. Nikiforov had to answer questions of the media, which were very topical at times. A correspondent of Realnoe Vremya did not lose the opportunity to talk to the person from Tatarstan.

Digital import substitution

Has the IT Development Fund been founded?

There were two amendments to the project after 7 December. To my best knowledge, the document reached the government again. It is just a formality. We are waiting for the appearance of formation documents to be ready in the short run.

Question from Realnoe Vremya: Mr Nikiforov, how is import substitution of OS in state bodies carried out? Will functionaries refuse Microsoft?

We don't have any task to refuse one kind of OS and switch to another one. That's fine, the roster of Russian OS with 2,500 products was created. We see more often that Russian developers start challenging certain tenders, purchases of state bodies and requiring to explain the necessity to buy foreign-made OS for some reasons or direct cancellation of explanation of why a Russian product was purchased. It is such a working support measure. We expect that control and pressure on state customers will be increasing in 2017.

Nikolai Nikiforov: ''The state is not going to invest money in this project.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

Federal budget gave no penny to Innopolis

Question from Realnoe Vremya: as you come from Tatarstan, could you tell how much money Innopolis will get from the federal budget this year?

Federal money was not given to Innopolis this year as well as last year. The state performed its key task having provided a corresponding basic infrastructure. Innopolis is a necessary engineering infrastructure for the city through the Ministry of Economic Development within the special economic zone. The Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications created all necessary infrastructure – buildings for the university. Everything works effectively. On 9 July 2017, there will have been five years since the foundation stone was laid. I will remind it was done with the prime minister on 9 June 2012. The city has been having a full-fledged life for at least one year. 2,500 people live there. There are over 50 residents in the special economic zone. People from all parts of Russia, near abroad come there. Families appear, kids and new companies are born. The state is not going to invest money in this project.

Question from Realnoe Vremya: what companies are ready to appear there?

There are over 50 residents and about 350 vacancies. About one hundred of people find a job there every month. The growth pace of the city is natural. Companies must invest. You are welcome to open an office. You are welcome to build a property to provide dwelling.

Image of Russian hackers

What do you think about statements that Russian hackers are guilty of cyber attacks on the USA and that they affected the elections?

I see the only positive moment. It enhances the quality image of preparation of IT specialists in Russia. Speaking seriously, any hacks and cyber crimes are, first of all, crimes. It is our attitude towards it. We are fighting against it. Last year many efforts were put at the state level, you know. The prime minister held separate meetings on cyber threats. As a state, we are against it. We don't support but criticise it.

Nikolai Nikiforov: ''We are ready to actively cooperate with American and European companies. We certainly don't support politically motivated sanctions and think that it has a destructive effect.'' Photo: euronews.com

Donald Trump will become the president. Is your ministry waiting for any serious changes in cooperation with the States in your sphere?

From a perspective of information technologies, we always were open to cooperation. Unfortunately, you have seen politically motivated sanctions in the last years. Particularly they infringed interests of citizens and business, especially the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol. By the way, one of the terms of inclusion of software to the roster of Russian OS is that they can work in the Russian Federation without any exception. This is why here we are ready to actively cooperate with American and European companies. We certainly don't support politically motivated sanctions and think that it has a destructive effect.

What about the preparation of the ministry to the industrial Internet of Things? What should be done in terms of interdepartmental interaction?

I don't see any problems in interdepartmental interactions. This sphere will certainly be considered within the general programme on digital economy. And digital economy must be about digitalisation, not about laying line in a village or preparation of programmers. The industrial Internet, Internet of Things, things that in the industry are usually called a full industrial cycle system when creation, and design of products, all chains are digitalised. What should the state do? What laws and amendments should the government adopt to make it all real? Today it often looks like a patchwork. But the examples are surprising. Every sale of a bottle of vodka is performed in a transaction mode in cloud infrastructure. Cash registers are substituted, all transactions are sent to the cloud. It will lead to a significant whitewash of the economy, resolution of imbalances that arose because we could not accompany that process technologically. So we will be able to increase our competitiveness, that is to say, well being. It is today's macroeconomic omission.

Future lies with digitisation

There was a project on separation of Universal Service Fund. At what stage is it now?

It was prepared but not approved at the moment. Now we will look how we should correlate the task of the Universal Service Fund within the budgetary limit, which we managed to defend for 2017 and 2018, and inclusion of all health centres. If necessary, we will adopt it. If a balanced situation is needed, we won't adopt it. We don't have a task to separate it. The separation problem appeared when money was taken from one source in 2015 and 2016 even if communication providers sent it there. Almost a half of the funds were withdrawn and expended on budgetary tasks. Then the separation task appeared. Firstly, we managed to defend the money. There will be 14,5bn rubles every year instead of 8,5bn rubles. Secondly, we will think how to correlate these tasks. If separation is needed, we will adopt it. The bill is ready. We understand that the financial sector of the government will be against because it reduces the possibility to perform situational money redistribution. We are also against these redistributions because we think this money has a target.

1/6 of these debts were returned at the end of the year…

And 1,2bn rubles additionally.

Will you still stand up for this money?

I would not like to make forecasts. But serious withdrawals equal to billions of rubles from this fund were carried out in 2015 and 2016. At this point, there is a preliminary feeling that we won't be able to keep to the schedule of the project on elimination of digital inequality without return of these funds. Consequently, it poses the inclusion of establishments of the health system under threat. Now 65% of the establishments have already been included. The rest of them are the most problematic territories. We are synchronising these plans. We will finish in January-February and talk to the government within budgetary processes, investment solutions how to correlate these two projects and fulfil them. I don't exclude that we will ask to restore the financing, which was taken away in the 2015-2016 because it destroyed our general chronological plans and will be an obstacle now to fulfil the project. In 2016, about 7 billion rubles were taken away. The sum was smaller in 2015.

The task of Universal Service Fund is to provide a settlement that has a hospital or polyclinic with optical fibre. But to lay a cable from the post to the hospital is up to the region. The region paid for the Internet and fact of connection because the hospital is a property and publicly financed by the Russian Federation. We work on it with every region in detail. Such a project can be fulfilled on manual control principle. We don't think that Universal Service Fund must expend money to lay a cable inside a health centre and to buy computers. It was not planned. Together with Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova we quickly cooperate on this project. A team was created. We will actively discuss all deviations where decisions will be needed. By the way, governors actively joined us. We are actively discussing joint plans.

Nikolai Nikiforov: ''The task of Universal Service Fund is to provide a settlement that has a hospital or polyclinic with optical fibre. But to lay a cable from the post to the hospital is up to the region.'' Photo: sia.ru

When will fulfilment of the project start?

It is almost in process.

You said you will structure all points of digital economy at the beginning of the year. Whatexactlywillyoustructure? Thereisnothingexact. What will you add there?

Bureaucratically, we will introduce a passport of a new area of digital economy. Now there are 11 areas – education, health, roads, etc. Key indicators will be defined in numbers. Then we will offer certain projects within an area. The most important thing is that we are getting rid of is acting complicated formal procedures. If we discussed the federal programme now, we would be sending it between ministers for a year. The format of digital interaction allows us to move forward after discussing goals, tasks and indicators at the level of meetings of vice-PMs of the government quickly. Probably it is impossible to apply this format to all work of the government and areas of work. This is why there are priorities, there must be a limited number of them. It is important for us that digital economy be such a priority area. It happened on 1 December during the president's address. We will make this priority formal in the next months when we come to an agreement on the passport, the new area. Information technologies are one of the horizontal projects that refers to all sectors of agriculture. I won't agree that there is nothing to structure there. We should not be afraid of digitisation but head this process.

By Timur Rakhmatullin