President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Akimov, as a deputy prime minister you have several important responsibilities, including digital public services, digitalisation and transport. Shall we begin with the digital sphere?
Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Akimov: Yes, let us begin with the digital sphere, and one of the tasks you set out in your Address to the Federal Assembly last year, a task of major importance for the people. It provides for creating a system of seamless online services that will make interaction between people, businesses and the state as painless as possible, especially in the sphere of public services.
We call it a system of super-services, where “super” means that people are not offered one particular service, a mono-service, but several services they need to deal with a comprehensive problem. It can be a road accident or the birth of a child, when they need to apply for social allowances, receive documents and register a new person at his or her place of residence.
We have launched the first such super-service. On November 1, we opened access to an online system of European Accident Statements in Moscow, Moscow Region, St Petersburg and Leningrad Region. Since then, we have got 53,000 downloads. Comparison with another major project we have launched, the marking of tobacco, medications and many other products, shows 80,000 downloads versus 53,000 downloads for road accidents.
Next year we will make this system available throughout the country. People have started using it to receive road accident reports, which allows them to quickly leave the accident site without causing traffic jams and to save time and fuel, including other people’s time. We will certainly continue working on this.
The online payment of debts and enrolment at universities – this will be our objective next year. This calls for doing the main thing, which is not only to write a computer code with an interface, but also restructure the work of the agencies involved. This is our main task. The data are disorganised and unstructured. We are only trying to create a national data management system. This is something you cannot see, as software developers say. It is the back end, something you cannot see but that needs to be done, which means that we will have to work seriously with the agencies involved.
Why? Because people have shown great interest in receiving online services. Last year I told you that the amount of services provided on the integrated Public Services Portal had doubled. I can tell you that this year we registered over 120 million requests in January-September, or twice as many as in 2018. This year we will definitely receive more requests than the Integrated Government Services Centre, which is a very convenient system but it is still an offline system. We will receive more requests via our one-stop e-service.
Generally, our public services website is one of the most frequently visited state-run internet resources in the world (so far, we are second, and I will tell you who is ranked first). It is only during the tax declaration period that the US tax service is ahead of us, but we are sure to come out on top once we get these new super-services.
Another major project is, of course, customer installation, on your instructions, with regard to schools, rural health clinics and other social facilities. The connection is by wire, cable, fibre optic, and wireless. This is of particular importance for our remote territories.
We have held contests; 16 companies have won tenders and signed contracts for this huge programme. I can report that we will have saved 96 billion rubles over the next five years – until 2024 – as we supervise this contract work. And, of course, we will use this money to deal with the priorities.
For example, at the Government meeting last week, rather than using the first three billion rubles for school web connections, we channeled this money to 13 regions for equipment installation inside schools to develop the educational content delivery networks. We will certainly continue this effort and will be through with it, as you ordered, by 2021. We are confident that we will complete this.
Of course, we are doing a lot to streamline fifth-generation communications networks. We are experimenting with the 4.8 (4.4–4.9) band. This is a reserve frequency band. We continue to work with the 3.4–3.8 band (by arrangement with our colleagues from the military); this is the most promising standard, but there is much work ahead to coordinate usage, particularly in big cities. We have populated this band and it is used by defence and law enforcement agencies. This is why my colleague, Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov, and I have established a special group, and we are promoting this agenda.
As you said in your remarks at the Forum on Artificial Intelligence, which were received with a lot of enthusiasm by the audience – we later exchanged views on this – promoting education and safeguarding our unique mathematics school is a very important task. In this connection, I can report that 12,000 children attended specialised mathematics programs at summer education camps (this is also in the Digital Economy programme and is part of the effort to support mathematics education). We will go on with this practice, including by motivating the best participants and best teachers and by introducing digital and education complexes.
Of course, we are happy about the traditional success of our students at international competitions. Members of the Moscow State University team have won the International Olympiad in Informatics for the second consecutive time, beating their rivals from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tokyo University. I would like to say that Russia will host the 2020 Olympiad at the National Research Nuclear University Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPHI). We have established an organising committee, and we are preparing for this important event.
Of course, efforts to develop and issue new-generation personal IDs are among our most important projects. As you instructed, we are planning a gradual rollout, without forcing anyone. People will obtain these services when their passports expire or at their own discretion.
This project will be implemented in two formats, a plastic card with a Russian chip (we have completed the certification, and the first 100,000 items will be manufactured in the first six months of the year), and a mobile app that will be used in situations where there is no special need to confirm the legal validity of the users’ actions. This, too, will call for upgrading the IT infrastructure, primarily at the Interior Ministry. I can report separately on this.
Since a citizen’s passport is one of the state’s symbols, we would like to ask your permission to hold a national contest in the first half of the year to choose a popular design, so the people would support a new and attractive option. Those seem to be the main projects on the digital agenda.
With your permission, I would like to brief you on transport matters because we have completed a number of major transport projects this year.
First, I would like to say a few words about motorways. We are completing the eighth section, and we have finished building Route M11, as per your instructions, this year. We are ready to open the motorway to traffic along the entire route. This is important because it is part of the Europe-West China transport corridor.
The Government and Mr Medvedev have supported the roadmap for implementing the next project – the M12 motorway to Kazan. It is a new toll road, an equally ambitious project, almost 800 kilometres long, and we plan to extend it to Yekaterinburg.
We will be moving on two tracks here. We will immediately start work on the Moscow-Vladimir section, the busiest one. We will bypass Balashikha and Noginsk there, and a number of very important and congested sections, and build the southern bypass of Kazan. The resources that will be freed up between these sections will be used to upgrade the existing M7 motorway. It includes a 160-kilometre stretch with two lanes.
We will improve it, streamline the geometry of the road, strengthen the coating, and install lighting, primarily to make the road safer. This way we will solve two problems at once. By 2027, we will build the entire toll road linking all the four sections, providing a completely new transport service between the two most powerful economic regions of Russia.
In general, the implementation of our Safe and High-Quality Roads national project in terms of roads is progressing. This year we will repair 20 percent more regional roads. We have almost completed the work, 27,600 kilometres of roads will be repaired.
There are also a number of important projects in railway transport. One of them is the first Moscow central diameter, Odintsovo-Lobnya. This project, implemented by Russian Railways and the Moscow government, will also be launched in November. We are actually adding a commuter train service in a new format to the transportation system of the metropolis, the greater metropolitan area.
We have opened ticket sales to Crimea. We are ready. The first passenger trains with new carriages, and a new operator, will set off on December 24, from Moscow, and December 23, from St Petersburg. And you know, Mr President, we have seen a tremendous demand, a somewhat even unexpectedly high demand. We sold 10,000 tickets in the first days, in two days actually. We even had problems with the carrier’s website because it could not handle all the traffic.
Vladimir Putin: Overload?
Maxim Akimov: Yes. We overestimated its computing capacity, I am afraid. In general, we have positive dynamics, with rail transport revenues ahead of the industry.
The situation in air transport is pretty much the same. We have opened a third runway at Sheremetyevo Airport and the completely new Gagarin airport. Air transport is improving. But we are concerned about the slowing growth rate in domestic air travel, although it is still growing; overall passenger volume is up 10 percent. Fuel prices played a role in this. Thank you, we have received your instructions and we are carrying them out. The airlines are still seeking reimbursement for these losses.
However, we are also planning the next step – a long-term, manageable and well-planned network, primarily between regional airports. If we have a long-term subsidy plan, this regional network will encourage the carrier to order new Russian-made aircraft.
In other words, this regional air transport development strategy must combine demand for new short-haul and small aircraft with the demand for air travel. But even a declining growth of airfares, at almost 7 percent a year, is higher than the growth of household incomes. People like to fly and we should offer this new service. This means the development of airports and the air transport system, which we are subsidising. Now we have started flat rate sales to the Fare East. We have not reduced the number of flights, including cargo flights, by Aeroflot to Simferopol (Crimea) and the Far East, and we will continue this.
Plenty of problems remain. We are always short of resources.
Vladimir Putin: And what about river transport?
Maxim Akimov: This remains a difficult issue, we are continually in a difficult discussion with the Nizhny Novgorod Region Administration. The problem is the reconstruction of the Nizhny Novgorod canal. This is a 40 km section with a depth of no more than two metres, so we cannot proceed with through traffic from Yaroslavl to Kazan. And Balakhna is on the route, a traditional flooding zone, so we need to create conditions to prevent damage and enhance safety. We have a good pace of construction on the Bagayevsky unit but are somewhat delayed on the Nizhny Novgorod unit for this reason. We are still finishing the design specifications and cost estimates because the design has not been decided on yet.
Generally, we have a very good investment in shipbuilding, in laying down and launching new vessels. In September, we floated out a new passenger ship. The dynamics in this area are very good, with positive trends as well.