President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Oseyevsky, Rostelecom is the largest provider of digital services in Russia. The company has more than 157,000 employees, an entire army. It is also the government’s largest and most active partner in the digitalisation of the economy, operating across industries and developing industry-specific digital platforms. Let us talk about all these matters.
The public services portal gosuslugi.ru is also your project. There was a minor disruption in its operations due to the overwhelming volume of electronic requests during the pandemic. Nobody expected so much demand for certain online services. I know that eventually the company handled the problem. As far as I know, almost 40 percent of your staff worked remotely during the pandemic, is that correct?
Rostelecom President Mikhail Oseyevsky: Correct.
Vladimir Putin: Did everything work out?
Mikhail Oseyevsky: Yes, Mr President.
First of all, I would like to say that Rostelecom’s strategy aimed at transforming a conventional telecommunications operator into a digital company, and consolidation of the Tele2 mobile services provider (I would like to thank you for the support in making this decision) allowed us to deliver on all communication-related demands from both individuals and businesses.
Moreover, operating in such difficult conditions even created additional opportunities for our development. We have summarised the preliminary results of our performance in the first six months of 2020 and can see growth in our operating and financial results. This will allow us to complete our investment programme in full, with more than 135 billion rubles invested by the end of this year.
The priority areas of this investment programme include projects related to achieving national development goals in the area of digitalisation. Investment in data transfer, storage and processing infrastructure is our key area of work. We are responsible for this area on the national scale. We have been working on this consistently over the past few years and have invested significant funds.
To achieve the goal set in the executive order, that 97 percent of households should receive broadband internet access by 2030, we need to continue our work. In this connection, we are set to accomplish new tasks under the so-called programme to eliminate digital inequality. This programme aims to provide internet access to small communities. As per your instruction, this programme now includes even smaller communities with a population of 100, rather than 250 people, and this will make it possible to provide over 5,000 communities with internet access in the next few years.
Apart from internet access, mobile communications stations will be installed in these communities. People have been asking for this for a long time. We believe that this large-scale work will allow us to achieve targets in the mid-term in the country as a whole.
We are completing an ambitious basic infrastructure expansion programme in the Far East. In the past few years, we have laid underwater cables to Sakhalin, Kamchatka and Magadan. We have hooked up the Kuril Islands and will soon do the same for Chukotka. Hopefully, ships will lay over 2,000 km of submarine cables next summer.
We see additional opportunities for working on international markets. Global traffic and data volumes continue to increase, and Russia can provide the simplest and most reliable method for transmitting these volumes from Europe to Asia. In this connection, we are launching a major project to lay a modern high-speed line from Russia’s western borders to Vladivostok, as well as an underwater cable to Hong Kong and Japan. The ambitious project is to receive investment worth about 40 billion rubles.
There are plans to use 50 percent of this line’s volumes for our domestic needs, and the rest will transmit international traffic. This will allow us to obtain non-commodity export revenues. Our partners in Europe and in Asia are extremely interested.
It is important that the construction project will encompass virtually all of Russia, actively involving small and medium-size businesses. In effect, regional participants will implement all the construction work, everywhere. This, of course, amounts to good support in difficult conditions.
Vladimir Putin: Recoupment deadlines look and sound very pleasing; this also concerns potential investors.
Mikhail Oseyevsky: Yes, five years. This can be explained by high demand. The shortest route across Russia provides for minimal delays.
The second important part of the national development goals you have spoken about is to increase the share of socially significant services provided online. Here, the government services’ website plays a key role.
It is a state information system, and Rostelecom has been its operator for the last 10 years. During the pandemic, a number of fairly large and important projects were indeed implemented through the portal, such as social benefits for families with children, and information collection about citizens who…
Vladimir Putin: Didn’t it go down at some point?
Mikhail Oseyevsky: Yes, it did.
But the situation actually made it obvious that the level of its architecture and performance no longer correspond to the scale of the tasks it needs to perform. Therefore, we were given instructions by the Government and have already begun working on a new version, a new government services website.
We plan to complete most of the work by the end of this year. We are aiming at being able to serve at least 100 million users per day. This means every adult in Russia will be able to apply for certain online government services on a daily basis.
Vladimir Putin: But you also work for various industries as well. And in healthcare.
Mikhail Oseyevsky: Yes, this is our third track related to the national development goals – support for socially significant industries and the economy. Indeed, healthcare and education have been our focus in recent years. More than 3,000 medical facilities, more than 200,000 physicians are using our digital medical platform today. It is a comprehensive solution that makes appointments and supports online prescriptions, as well as sophisticated AI-enabled medical imaging technologies. We are working together with our partner, the Rostec corporation, and we can see a great demand from the regions, including during the pandemic, for the automation and digitalisation of many solutions.
Regarding education, a major experiment will be launched on September 1, led by the Education Ministry, to create a digital learning ecosystem. We will be actively involved. Under the project, remote learning management systems will be tested, providing the possibility of online classes for schoolchildren in remote locations. The ecosystem will include a special email service for children, chat and messenger tools, as well as modern digital content. We see this part of our work as indeed very important, and believe there has been demand for it in the past few months.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.