The Russian Internet Forum is opening today, and is taking place this year jointly with a conference, The Internet and Business. Last year, I attended the forum, learned about some of the most interesting projects, and shared my thoughts on the Internet’s development in our country and in other countries too.
I wish the forum’s participants successful work, new and interesting ideas, and what I hope will be productive contact with each other.
I am sure in your presentations and discussions you will inevitably end up raising one unpleasant subject that has dominated the news of late. I refer to the global financial crisis. It has seriously affected our companies’ financial capabilities, and Internet companies have been affected too. This was something we discussed just recently at a meeting with members of the United Russia party. There is less investment today, advertising revenues have fallen, on-line sales have declined, and wages have also dropped.
But the Internet community has what I think is an important asset and major advantage – an abundance of interesting new ideas and original solutions. Furthermore, despite the current upheavals, the sector has immense potential. I am therefore confident that you will respond to the financial difficulties with new projects and start-ups that will not only help the Internet community but will contribute to our economy in general. And I am confident too that the Internet can help us to create new jobs and give people new opportunities.
The Internet has developed over these last years into a full-fledged self-regulated system that has a substantial influence in all different areas of our lives. Social networks and blogs have become centrepieces in this system (I have noticed too that my blog has taken on a life of its own, and that people are sharing their thoughts with each other, and discussing various current issues, and I am very happy to see this).
Primitive attempts to regulate this system face enormous difficulties. The Internet has its own laws, and these are the laws we, as users, need to follow. I think that in this respect there is work to be done, and this is something in which we all need to be involved.
The Internet should not be an environment dominated by rules set by one country alone, even the strongest and most advanced country. There should be international rules drawn up through collective effort, and the worldwide web should continue to develop as it has done so far – as a common environment. Only this way can we counter terrorism, xenophobia, and other unlawful activity on the Web. Finally, only through collective agreements can we protect copyright. I consider, and indeed insist, that this is all very important.
What can our countries’ authorities do to develop the Internet here in Russia? I think that our main task is to create the right conditions for maximum access to Internet services. I can assure you that given our country’s size, this is no easy undertaking. I began working on this several years ago.
Another no less important task for the authorities at all levels is to establish an open presence on the net. The situation with openness and readiness to provide various state services through the Internet is still far from ideal here, and to be frank, very little has been done at all in this area. But we are starting to see the first steps in this direction. Many state institutions have created quite good sites of theirs, and there are some successful examples of electronic government in practice, in Tatarstan, for example. I began this blog, and many senior officials could not resist and have followed my example. Information on the incomes of the countries’ senior government officials was published just recently on the Internet.
What is important is that these not be simply one-off actions or isolated examples, but part of a systematic work effort. It was for this purpose that I established the Presidential Council on Information Society Development, which is to activate work in all the various areas related to information openness in our country.
In my view, these two tasks – guaranteeing equal access to the Internet (provision of good quality service at a reasonable price for our country), and having the authorities establish a full and open presence on the net and give the public convenient access to information — are the key tasks for the authorities in this area.
I want to add that I have decided to expand the possibilities for discussion in my blog. This is something you have written to me about. My blog will now be part of Live Journal. A community has been set up on Live Journal, and there you will find all of the recordings, and will be able to do what you have long hoped for – respond to the comments made. So, if you want to reply directly to any of the blog’s visitors, you can now do so. This was rather complicated before, but now the possibility is there, so, go ahead and make use of it.