Digitalisation of Russian Interior Ministry to focus on AI

The Kremlin is set to continue the digitalisation of the economy in general and the operations of state agencies in particular. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, which has been so far lagging behind other Russian government bodies, has presented a digital transformation scheme this month.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs wants to implement a digital transformation programme worth 55 billion rubles ($720 million) with a heavy focus on artificial intelligence (AI), reports bneIntelliNews citing a recent government meeting devoted to the digitalisation of the ministry’s operations. So far, the ministry has been lagging behind other Russian government bodies in terms of digital transformation. Last year’s attempt to create a digital platform supporting all police operations across Russia didn’t succeed and even triggered a probe by the Investigative Committee.

However, now the long-discussed idea of using AI by Russia’s law enforcement agencies seems to be taking shape. According to the roadmap of the digital transformation scheme, research and development work into the adoption of AI in police operations should start already in 2020. By 2023, the programme envisages the development of specific software applications aimed to search for perpetrators of serious crimes. Previous attempts to use AI by Russian law enforcers focused mostly on face and item recognition from images and videos in searches for stolen vehicles and perpetrators caught on surveillance camera are still in the early development stages.

“When using AI, what is vital is clearly formulating the task and understanding in what situations the model is likely to work well and in what situations not so well," explains Nikolay Knyazev from Softline digital lab. “Overall, when it is impossible to find an exactly matching individual, AI could help to find a close match, using biological data or fingerprints.”

In recent years, Russia has promoted the digitalisation of state agencies’ operations. However, the country’s ambitious digitalisation programme is running behind schedule, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic keeps putting extra pressure on government spending. The Kremlin admitted that several major areas where the digitalisation scheme was expected to make a substantial impact had apparently been struggling.

At the same time, a recent overhaul of the IT system at Russia’s Tax Service resulted in a 20% increase in the tax take amid just a 2% increase in the tax burden. A new IT system implemented by state-owned Sberbank several years ago to monitor and supervise its branch network is another example of successful IT-modernisation.

By Anna Litvina