President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: We have a good event about to get underway here – a meeting of the State Council Presidium on the information society.
We visited a number of facilities just now that have laid a modern foundation for making use of the most advanced information technology. I realise that this is one of the Republic’s most important areas of investment. You think that it is in this sector that you should concentrate your efforts over the coming years.
I would like to hear about your plans in this area, and what you consider to be the problems for developing information technology in Karelia and in the country as a whole.
Head and Prime Minister of the Republic of Karelia Sergei Katanandov: Dmitry Anatolyevich, thank you very much for the attention you have given to this issue, which is very important for us. There is no doubt that in Russia’s regions with extensive territory and sparse population it is very important to use modern technology for improving management and giving the public better access to information. This is in the common interest of ordinary citizens and of the authorities.
We are fortunate in having the scientific base, in having our university and scientific centre.
[Mr Katanandov then reported that the republic now has around 1,000 public Internet access points and has drafted a programme to develop these services further through to 2012].
The second issue is the use of electronic services. People should be able to have access to a full range of services – be able to conclude a contract, for example – without leaving their homes.
Dmitry Medvedev: Maybe not everyone has the need to conclude contracts, at least, not on a regular basis, but submitting tax declarations and simply being able to get in contact with the authorities and the different administrative bodies, that is definitely necessary.
Sergei Katanandov: Another subject is the number of sites and people’s desire to use the Internet.
Dmitry Medvedev: People’s desire is directly proportionate to the possibilities for access. Where there is access there is no shortage of people wanting to make use of it. You were together with me just now at the university, where we just heard all of this.
I think another of the subjects you raised while we were at the university is important. We are in the process of developing ‘electronic government’ and the authorities’ site is working actively, but it is important today to have the possibility (which I spoke to you about) not just of getting information on who to address and which doors to knock on, but also on what exactly is happening with your correspondence with this or that body of power, ministry or other administrative body. This is one of the regulations of administrative work: a citizen sends a document on July 1 say, and previously, until you finally got a reply, you would be completely in the dark about what had happened to it – whether it was going from one office to another, or had been hidden away out of sight or even thrown out. But I think that ‘electronic government’ should make it possible for people to go on-line and see in real time what is happening to their correspondence. A document arrived on July 1, say, and on July 2 was signed by such and such a boss, who, following the regulations, works with it 5–7 days and then sends it to another official – so that people can see clearly whether their correspondence is being dealt with in the proper way or whether someone is just trying to bury it out of sight.
Sergei Katanandov: This has proven to be the most complicated issue here.
Dmitry Medvedev: It’s the most complicated issue everywhere! Not just here, but everywhere. No one wants to come into the open and show what they are doing.
Sergei Katanandov: Maybe officials are unwilling to get involved in this also because not many people use the Internet, when you look at the possibilities we have today.
Dmitry Medvedev: Sergei Leonidovich, I am absolutely certain that as soon you make this service available, even people who don’t know anything about information technology will hear about it and will start to use this service with the help of their friends, their relatives, young people. I have no doubts about this.
Sergei Katanandov: Coming back to the subject of information technology, I want to say that this is one of our main resources.
Dmitry Medvedev: It is good that this is one of your main resources, because it is in any case an inexhaustible resource for regional development and for our country’s development in general. This is why we have come here to discuss this subject.