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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Friends, I want first of all to welcome everyone taking part in the Russian Internet Forum and the Internet and Business Conference. Your annual meetings are among the major events in the Russian internet’s life.
The Russian internet has plenty to be proud of. Its development is very dynamic. You all know that, going by last year’s results, the .ru domain was No. 4 in the world ranking of national domains, and Russia was the European leader in terms of number of internet users, above all thanks to the increase in users in the regions, which is very positive to see.
Of course, all of this increases demand for online projects, especially commercial projects. This is also one of the forum’s main themes. People from all social and age groups, from schoolchildren to senior citizens, are internet business clients today. Millions of people in Russia use the internet to buy goods, train and plane tickets, book hotels, and order various services. This all seemed just a fantasy not so long ago.
But most important of all is that this is genuinely making people’s lives more convenient. The state authorities therefore must ensure the right conditions for online business to continue its development, all the more so as this is a sector that does not require huge investment. Even as the world went through an economic crisis, this sector stayed very stable. Its development prospects on the internet market will depend above all on the project creators’ continued effort and creativity. This is an excellent opportunity for young people to try their hand at business. In fact, training people for the IT sector is another of the themes this internet forum is addressing.
The internet acts as a universal tool and can therefore be used for society’s good, as for its detriment. I think that none of you would question that online publication of deliberately false information that defame others’ honour, name, and business reputation, dissemination of child pornography, propaganda of terrorism and interethnic or religious hatred, should all be subject to stiff penalty. The law enforcement agencies will continue their work here. But we are not talking about online – Internet – censorship. I have said many times that such censorship is impossible. It would be a pointless endeavour.
Regulating legal relations within the internet itself is another big issue. I gave instructions last year to draft proposals on amending the laws in order to let authors make their works available to an unlimited number of people, to everyone interested, on free license terms. This work took into consideration the internet community’s views too. I discussed this issue on a number of occasions and recently submitted to the parliament a new draft of the Civil Code, which will include the proposals on free licenses when it goes through its second reading.
We need to use the opportunities that the internet, social networks, and the blogosphere offer in order to make government more open and transparent and expand public participation in major decisions, so as to improve the quality of government.
Public evaluation of draft laws is now taking place and is an important development. Several draft laws were published for public discussion in 2010 and 2011. What I think were convenient interfaces and feedback mechanisms were created specially for this purpose. People could state their own view and also make proposals on specific provisions in these draft laws. As a result, the draft laws sent to the State Duma differed substantially from the original drafts published for discussion.
As with any new undertaking, there were some negative moments too. The anonymity of users created the biggest problems, with deliberately unacceptable ideas and even outright nonsense being pushed through in ratings and votes. But taking part in making government decisions is a serious business in which there is no place for chronic scribbles or people who come online solely to leave a foul trail through the comments.
It is for this reason that public evaluation of draft laws within the Open Government system requires registration of experts through the state services portal. This has produced an interesting result: the number of people taking part in the discussions has dropped considerably, but the quality of proposals has increased dramatically. This is essential for real work to go ahead, the kind of work that requires not just initiatives but also responsibility.
I put forward the idea of the Open Government last autumn. We already see now that there is a lot of expert potential that we were not using before. Now any person or group can register through the большоеправительство.рф (big government) portal and make their proposals, which will then be examined by the Public Committee and the experts, be put to a vote, and could become a draft law.
It is important that this work continue with the development of similar initiatives in the regions. I think this is a key issue because, in my view, regional and local government sites are the foundation of electronic democracy in that they are closer to ordinary people’s needs. We need to develop here fashionable new technologies such as crowdsourcing in holding online referendums and discussion of initiatives and particular issues in this or that city, village, or even one’s immediate neighbourhood. It is impossible, after all, to patch up all the problems ‘via Moscow’, even via ‘virtual Moscow’. It is simply unrealistic, and does not make sense.
Friends, exactly three years ago, on the day the Russian Internet Forum took place, I started my Live Journal blog. I have used this blog to address issues that need public discussion, issues for which the state government system has not yet found solutions, and I am sincerely grateful to everyone who has left their comments. Of course, the president simply cannot find the time to answer each of you personally, but I can assure you that the most pertinent and well-argued ideas do reach their target audience, and, directly or indirectly, do influence decisions.
A modern country cannot work effectively without this technology, and we will therefore continue developing it and continue creating the conditions for bringing the authorities and the public closer together through the internet. I will continue my blog, too, and stay active in the social networks.
This is all part of the new social and political institutions and practices that seemed like just bold dreams only a few years ago. But today they are a working reality, and I am sure they will continue to grow and develop.
Only we ourselves can make Russia a better place. Hoping that the bureaucrats will be all-knowing and all-powerful is only opening the door to abuse of power. In today’s complex and fast-changing world the state authorities simply do not have enough eyes at their disposal to keep watch on everyone, or enough hands to fix every problem. The country needs active people like you, people who are not indifferent. I place big hopes on you.