Ayrat Khayrullin: “Children born in 2019 won’t get driving licences”

The head of the Tatarstan Ministry of Digitalisation on the future of unmanned traffic and the sovereign internet in the republic

Ayrat Khayrullin has been chairing the Ministry of Digital Development of Public Administration, Information Technologies and Communications of Tatarstan for almost six months already. On 22 November, he invited journalists of the leading newspapers in the republic to tell them about the Ministry of Digitalisation’s development strategy, the infrastructure of the sovereign internet, prospects of IT developments and many other things in an informal talk. Khayrullin is sure that hackers that attacked the portal of state services will be able to earn on it legally soon and assumed that children born in 2019 would never be able to get a driving licence. Read why in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

Informal setting, bright socks

The journalists’ meeting with the ministry wasn’t in the office but in Telegraph Space creative area where even the interior disposes one to have a dress-down talk. However, the minister still had a dress on, as well as a formal business suit. Only blue-and-yellow socks poking out of the trousers broke the official dress code. The talk itself was long (almost two hours) and quite interesting.

Digitalisation as oxygen

The minister began with a point that we all already lived in the digital era. Evidence to it was in everyone’s pocket. It is smartphones with installed apps to call a taxi. While it seems that we have just recently had to stay on the pavement and thumb a lift. Another sign of the digital era is that some professions disappear, others appear.

“When I worked in Almetyevsk, I didn’t use to go to the cinema, I had no time. And this year, in Kazan already, my children managed to take to The Lion King cartoon. How surprised I was when it turned out that cashiers had disappeared there since the last time I was in the cinema. Machines substituted them,” the minister shared his observations.

The minister began with a point that we all already lived in the digital era. Photo: Maksim Platonov

As Khayrullin figuratively said, digitalisation was like oxygen: it is not seen until everything runs smooth, but as soon as there is a failure, everybody immediately notices it. Moreover, the digital transformation process doesn’t have a beginning and end, it is a constant process.

Tatarstan entered an active phase of digitalisation as one of the first regions in the country — as early as 2005 when ministries of the republic switched to electronic document exchange. The republic has been in the digital lead since then.

“We are leaders in Volga Federal Okrug in mobile internet user penetration, the number of users (3,5 million people) and smartphones,” Ayrat Khayrullin boasted a bit.

Get passport with SMS

However, one can’t sit in one’s laurels in digitalisation. Every day life sets new tasks that the young minister’s team (in December Khayrullin will be 38 years) will have to perform. He talked about some of them in detail.

For instance, it is super-services. It is a kind of package of state services provided to a person. A citizen, for instance, wants to build a house. He turns to the state agency to obtain permission for construction, and here he is immediately offered that can come in handy: a mortgage, cadastral surveyor’s services and so on.

Now the ministry is working to enable to pay a state duty for some state service in right in the booth of the specialist in the Multifunctional Centre with the help of a terminal. Photo: Gulandam Fatkhullina

Here is another example — proactive services. As an example, the minister said about the necessity to change the passport at the age of 45.

“A person has been 45 years. Now he has to go and submit an application, collect documents and get a passport some time later,” Khayrullin says. “It must the other way round (and it will be with time): on his 45th birthday, the citizen receives an SMS: “Mr Ivanov, Happy Birthday! Your new passport is ready. Pick it up at the such-and-such place.” Does the state know that Mr Ivanov is 45? It does. Does it know he has to change his passport? Yes. So why wait for an application from him?”

According to Khayrullin, the main criterion according to which the ministry will choose areas for its work is saving time for a person or a business because time is the most valuable unrenewable resource we have. For instance, now the ministry is working to enable to pay a state duty for some state service right in the booth of a specialist in the Multifunctional Centre via a terminal.

Digital Transformation Centre like designer who is hired before home improvement

The minister also talked about a new Digital Transformation Centre (DTC) created in the Republic of Tatarstan two weeks ago. Why is it needed? First of all, to focus all work on digitalisation of state services and work of authorities in one place. Unfortunately, digital services that different ministries create are quite autonomous, closed and “aren’t in friendly relations with each other”. Khayrullin called them ‘digital islands’. The DTC will perform the role of the unified customer of such services so that they will operate in one infrastructure. This will both simplify the work of services and cheapen the process of their creation because one of the tasks of the Ministry of Digitalisation is to work with the budget and staff they have. Now Tatarstan’s digitalisation has 1,4 billion rubles a year in the budget.

“Everyone has had a home improvement, but not everyone calls a professional designer for this work who will make the floor, ceiling and walls harmonise, choose necessary wallpapers and tiles. If a designer isn’t invited, nothing matches. So the DTC will become the ‘designer’ in digitalisation. While IT companies will be ‘decorator’ who will just deal with the terms of reference.”

Khayrullin shared an idea with the journalists: to hold a hackathon offering ‘white hackers’ a prize for looking for vulnerability in the digital code of the portal of state services. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

Sovereign internet — just in case

The hot-button issue of “sovereign internet” whose law has recently come into force was also discussed at the meeting with the minister. According to Khayrullin, IP catalogue storage on servers on the territory of Russia doesn’t limit the freedom of use of the internet but just a backup in case, God forbid, the access of traffic to Russia will be banned somehow.

“It is like a reserve source of electricity supply that every important health care facility must have,” Khayrullin drew an analogy.

In answer to the question if there was any “sovereign internet” infrastructure in Tatarstan, the minister answered in the affirmative.

“We have had this work done since as early as 2009 within sovereign internet. We have our 10,000 facilities — schools, hospitals, municipalities, fire units, all social facilities are connected to the Internet, according to one contract. The Internet access point is located at Kazan IT Park, the data processing centre is there, and there is a reserve data processing centre in the Government House — in case there is a fire or flood at IT Park. According to this logic, it is also a ‘sovereign internet’”.

Prize for hackers of state services

Speaking of digital vulnerability further, Khayrullin shared an idea with the journalists: to hold a hackathon offering ‘white hackers’ a prize for looking for vulnerability in the digital code of the portal of state services.

“We will place this digital code on a separate server, without data and offer representatives of the IT community to hack it. A prize will be given to the winner. So we will learn out weak links,” Khayrullin explained.

Nothing is so far known about the prize. It will depend on the sponsors’ generosity.

Ayrat Khayrullin recommends everyone to use an unmanned taxi as it is our near future. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

“Children born in 2019 won’t get driving licences”

Journalists asked Ayrat Khayrullin about the fate of the experiment in the launch of an unmanned taxi in Innopolis. According to the minister, the experiment is doing well, and he recommends everyone to use an unmanned taxi as it is our near future.

“I am sure that children born in 2019 won’t get driving licences, there won’t such a right in 18 years because there will be serious infrastructure for unmanned driving, transportation of passengers and freight,” the minister predicted.

By Vitaly Akhmerov