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Opening Remarks at Meeting of the Commission for Modernisation and Technological Development of Russia's Economy

October 28, 2009, Fryazino, Moscow Region

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues,

Our Commission is holding another meeting today. Four months have passed now since we began work.

This meeting completes the first round of discussions on the priorities we set for our economy’s modernisation and technological development. We have examined specific projects and network timetables in each of the priority areas and have agreed on our plans for the future. The projects have gone through expert evaluation and public discussion. Probably most important of all, we have settled on the amounts and sources of financing. In cases where necessary, we have also decided on allocating extra funds, despite the current economic difficulties. In most cases, we will keep within the budgets, and in allocating funds, will keep in mind, of course, the fact that modernisation and innovation programmes are one of our priorities.

We have some large-scale projects and also some small pilot projects. Their implementation covers the entire country and will require some amendments to the legislation. At the last meeting, when we discussed energy efficiency, we examined the draft law on energy efficiency and looked at some other laws and regulations too. This is all part of the work that we need to do in the groups that have been set up, and in the Commission as a whole.

Today, we are looking at projects in the telecommunications and space exploration sectors. The level of development in the telecommunications sector is one of the most important indicators of an innovative economy, and access to telecommunications services has an unquestionable impact on our country’s competitiveness, on business development, and directly affects people’s quality of life. This is no longer an abstract subject for scholars to debate, but has become an absolutely concrete range of consumer services that we all encounter in our daily lives.

Based on analysis of the situation and needs in this sector, ten specific projects have been proposed for discussion at today’s meeting. I will leave the presentation of these projects to our colleagues and will simply outline the main tasks that we need to resolve in order to implement them.

The first task is rapid development of technology that will ensure world standards of speed and quality of data transmission. As we have already said, we also need to put in place the conditions for this technology’s widest possible use. This is essential too in order to carry out the projects we approved earlier on developing grid systems and super computers, one of the areas we examined not so long ago, and also for modernising the information services sector. Given our country’s unique geographical situation and immense size, alongside mainline communications channels, the technology base in this area could include wireless networks and satellite communications systems too.

While on my way to this meeting I looked through some information on comparative signal transmission speeds for internet users in different countries. There was a global ranking carried out. Of course in Japan, being a relatively small country in area, the figures were amazingly high. I was quite surprised, I must say, to see that it was something like 60 megabits a second. Other countries also had decent figures. In Europe the average is 10 to 20 megabits per second. As for Russia, the results were based on what they said was a study carried out by Yandex six months ago, and the figure was, I think, an average 512 kilobits a second. There we have a real example of the digital gap, and this is despite the fact that we have made a fair amount of progress over these last years. We have been working on broadband access and on the internet in general, expanding its use in schools, but the digital gap is still huge, and this means we have an enormous amount of work before us.

The second task is to modernise outdated telephone stations. Resolving this problem will enable us to offer modern new interactive services, higher-quality services, alongside the traditional services. We have not made as much progress in this area as we hoped over these last years. More than half of our telephone users are still served by analogue stations or already outdated digital stations. At the same time, we see examples of how fast it is possible to develop new telecommunications services. We have achieved really quite good results in mobile telecommunications development over these last years. According to the data I have at my disposal, we have 140 users for every 100 people in the country, and this puts us in sixteenth place in the world. This is a decent result.

The third task is to extend digital television and radio broadcasting to the entire country. This is something we have discussed before. I chaired a commission on this subject when I was in the Government, and I have called meetings of the ministers on this matter. The only thing I want to say now is that this is a strategically important project and it remains so. The goal is that by 2015, everyone in the country should be able to watch 24 digital channels and have the possibility of expanding access to channels as the digital signal transmission standards and our technological capabilities develop. The digital signal offers a better sound and picture quality. All of this should go hand-in-hand, of course, with a new package of interactive multimedia services.

The fourth main issue we will examine today is that of developing the frequency range. This is an important and also very complex matter. This is undoubtedly a very promising area, and work has already begun on building new satellites, new-generation satellites. But we still have a considerable reserve that we can draw on in converting the radio frequency spectrum (we have discussed this on many occasions already) currently used by the Defence Ministry and a number of other agencies. We have not made as much progress here as we would like. The conversion process has begun but we need to step up these efforts and I have already given an instruction on this. I call on the Defence Ministry, the Telecommunications Ministry and the other participants in this area to activate their work.

One of our key priorities in outer space remains unchanged, and this is to make a final decision on the GLONASS system’s development, particularly as concerns the range of important services it will provide for ordinary consumers. This is crucial for the system’s success. We have discussed this subject a lot over these last years and have made some headway in some areas but in others have achieved only modest results so far. The state will ensure that the needed satellite constellation is put in place. This is one of the infrastructure projects for which the state bears responsibility. But eventually, the information services market should become the economic basis for the GLONASS system’s development. This is where the money and the development opportunities lie. This system will make it possible to monitor technologically complex facilities to prevent damage, minimise the impact of emergency situations, carry out cartographic work, including navigation and land cadastre services – all areas in which things are slow-moving, unwieldy and caught up in red tape in our country.

This is something we need to work on then. As I said, we need to take practical measures, and we also need to develop normal modern receivers for the GLONASS system, because this too is an area in which not everything is in the best state so far.

October 28, 2009, Fryazino, Moscow Region