Ministry of Digitalisation prepares to relaunch Tatarstan Republic Citizen Card

The ministry is ready to reconsider its project — the growth of card issue in 2019 almost stopped

Ministry of Digitalisation prepares to relaunch Tatarstan Republic Citizen Card
Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

Less than half of Zelenodolsk population has been issued Tatarstan Republic Citizen Card since the start of the pilot project during 3,5 years: 40,000 people have received them instead of planned 80,000 cards. Moreover, from 2018, the growth almost stopped, in the last two years there have been given to less than 4,000 Zelenodolsk citizens. The Ministry of Digitalisation of the Republic of Tatarstan shared data and gave Realnoe Vremya newspaper to understand the project’s parameters could be reconsidered: in any case, some “reconsideration” isn’t excluded, however, neither is its expansion.

What Nikiforov dreamed about 10 years ago

Then-head of the Ministry of Communications of Tatarstan Nikolay Nikiforov voiced the initiative to create a single “citizen electronic card” on this day 10 years ago. A bit later, in 2011, he noted the era of paper government was a thing of the past and expressed confidence that “with the introduction of universal electronic cards that we will start to issue in the republic next year, a citizen even won’t have to ask for information”.

According to him, the state will provide everybody with it locally: “To learn about utility bills, traffic fines, tax debt, it is enough to insert the card into the information terminal and enter the personal virtual account”. The team of the Ministry of Informatisation and Communications at that moment worked on the creation of special mobile applications for iPhone and Android. It was planned the republic could completely refuse such paper receipts like traffic fines, utility bills during the next 1,5 years. Citizens would receive such information to their information. 10 years have passed, and this initiative is going to relaunch.

The project on the introduction of the universal electronic card (UEC) came to a standstill, Nikiforov’s team considered the possibility of a transition to the so-called electronic passport, there was expected a gradual refusal of paper passports and their replacement for plastic ones, with an electronic chip. Photo: tatarstan.ru

How and why ambitious project “universal electronic card” didn’t go at federal level

After becoming the federal minister of communications, Nikiforov assumed in 2013 that 70% of Russia’s citizens — about 100 million people — would receive state services online by 2018. The strategy of the reform of the public administration system was explained in the Russian President’s Decree No. 601 as of 7 May 2012, including provision state and municipal services online. However, only about 4 million people have personal accounts to receive such services online.

The project on the introduction of the universal electronic card (UEC) came to a standstill, Nikiforov’s team considered the possibility of a transition to the so-called electronic passport, there was expected a gradual refusal of paper passports and their replacement for plastic ones, with an electronic chip. However, even the minister himself says that the project of UEC turned out to be costly, first of all, for the regions themselves (federal compensations for their introduction weren’t envisaged). By estimates, if the UEC had been given to every citizen in Tatarstan, it would have cost the republic 725 million rubles.

The functionaries had to make changes to the federal law No. 210, according to which the article on compulsory issue of the UEC was to be cancelled. Today Chapter 6 Organisation of Issue, Service of Universal Electronic Cards doesn’t exist in this law anymore. It expired on 1 January 2017 — the project didn’t take off, so to speak.

Tatarstan functionaries carefully launched a pilot project, which is a carbon copy of the first. Residents of Zelenodolsk became the guinea pigs. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

...but was launched at regional level, in Tatarstan, together with Sberbank and Ak Bars Bank

A year earlier, Tatarstan manifested its own initiative, and the UEC went to the region and turned into Tatarstan Republic Citizen Card. At the moment the federal centre sadly put the law on compulsory card issue on the back burner, Tatarstan functionaries carefully launched a pilot project, which is a carbon copy of the first. Residents of Zelenodolsk became the guinea pigs.

As early as in July 2015, Sberbank President Herman Gref and then acting President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov signed an agreement on the project. The project Cashless Tatarstan envisaged maximum transition of all settlements into cashless. Every citizen above 18 years was to be given one of 80,000 universal plastic cards at that moment. With the population of 98,763 in 2016, this would have covered 80% of the population of the city.

It was expected with the help of such cards the citizens could receive state, municipal and socially important services. It would also be possible to pay for a ride in public transport, parking fee, utility bills, an appointment with a doctor and so on. The Centre for Information Technologies of the Republic of Tatarstan became the operator of the project. But the functionaries weren’t alone, partner banks provided the possibility of free card issue, it was Ak Bars Bank and Sberbank. The cards were also issued by establishments subordinate to the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Protection of the Republic of Tatarstan. MasterCard became another participant.

We will separately note that at first the Tatarstan authorities tried to launch the project Tatarstan Republic Citizen Card based on Mir Russian payment system, the National Payment Card System, Mir operator of the Russian system achieved this. Rustam Minnikhanov also supported Mir in early 2016 to buttress the national payment system as much as he could.

It was expected with the help of such cards the citizens could receive state, municipal and socially important services. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

Cashless settlements in Zelenodolsk increased — though less compared to rest of Russia

By the end of 2017, according to the functionaries’ data, only 37,400 “Tatarstan citizen cards” were given in Zelenodolsk, Nizhnekamsk, Naberezhnye Chelny and Almetyevsk, which totalled less than a half of scheduled indicators. And this happened even though the Tatarstan authorities took measures to activate the project in Zelenodolsk, even blocked then operating social transport cards and offered to use the “citizen cards” instead.

By 2018, however, the Zelenodolsk project was implemented with great difficulty. For instance, it turned out that the republic considerably lagged behind other Russian regions in the coverage of cashless settlements, according to a rating made up by one of the participants in the project, Sberbank, in the first six months of 2018. Northern regions unexpectedly took the lead — not the richest regions were the most cashless: Komi, Karelia, Murmansk Oblast. While in the top 100 cities with the fastest growth pace of cashless payments, Kazan, for instance, was just 52nd: if 34% of purchases were paid with cards in 2017, this year, it is only 42%.

However, things were notable better in Zelenodolsk. It was seventh among Russian cities with the best dynamics of cashless commercial turnover, though the growth of cashless payments was 8,7%, it reached just 32%. To compare, up to 45% of purchases were paid with cards on average in Russia (42% in Kazan). “The share of cashless turnovers in the Republic of Tatarstan since the beginning of the project (2015) has doubled and grown faster than the average Russian pace,” the regional office of Sberbank insisted. Ak Bars Bank agreed with the “slight lag in the amount of cashless settlements”, but it also paid attention to positive dynamics. However, the Tatarstan Ministry of Communication noted that the project Cashless Tatarstan at the moment was just a “pilot project Tatarstan Republic Citizen Card”.

Today the citizen card includes four spheres — social protection, medicine, transport and finance — and is issued instantaneously, during a visit to Ak Bars Bank or Sberbank in Zelenodolsk. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

40,000 cards for 100,000 citizens: Ministry of Digitalisation is ready to reconsider its own project

As Realnoe Vremya was told in the Tatarstan Ministry of Digitalisation (earlier Ministry of Communications), “there have been issued over 40,000 cards with Zelenodolsk population of 99,000 people” from 2016 to 2019. This means that the number of owners of the Tatarstan Republic Citizen Card increased just by 3,000. Today the citizen card includes four spheres — social protection, medicine, transport and finance — and is issued instantaneously, during a visit to Ak Bars Bank or Sberbank in Zelenodolsk with the owner’s photo and qualified e-signature. The Ministry of Digitalisation gave people to understand that the parameters of the project itself would probably be reconsidered, and they will think about its new expansion, which is unclear yet:

“Now we analyse the experience of the implementation of the card in Tatarstan, we think the project could be reconsidered and expanded,” the ministry said.

It is noteworthy that the words about the expansion are also found in Ak Bars Bank’s reply:

“The project keeps operating, citizens still can go to Ak Bars Bank offices to obtain Citizen Card in Zelenodolsk. The project Tatarstan Republic Citizen Card nowadays is implemented only in Zelenodolsk. The expansion of the project across Tatarstan is being elaborated,” the bank said.

Today Ak Bars Bank has issued over 10,000 cards of this kind. In reply to the question about their popularity, the bank said the Citizen Card was actively used to pay for a ride in public transport and to pay for purchases in the project’s partner stores to obtain additional discounts. Sberbank didn’t answer Realnoe Vremya’s questions about the development of the project.

By Sergey Afanasyev
Tatarstan