Dmitry Medvedev: ”A year has passed since I posted my first video blog entry, and the blog has been mirrored on LiveJournal since last spring.
This means it has been around for a while now, and we can draw some conclusions.
For me, the blog represents a very important means of communication, which allows me to receive important information, to better understand citizens’ mood, the reasoning behind the behaviour of a wide range of people interacting on the blog and discussing a variety of issues.
This spring, someone suggesting a new topic of discussion made the following interesting statement: “There are more of us here than there are deputies in the State Duma.” This is entirely true. We have only 450 deputies in the Duma; meanwhile, the number of permanent and active blog participants has now exceeded twenty thousand (eleven thousand on LiveJournal and ten thousand on the official blog website). First, I want to say that this makes me happy, especially since, for the most part, these individuals hold their own views; they can listen to others’ standpoints but also argue their own stances. They have many interesting ideas.
The people participating in discussions are not only there to complain about problems; they also make suggestions on how to resolve those problems, which is essential. In fact, the solutions proposed are often quite unconventional.
According to expert estimates (based on the Yandex search results), this spring the Russian-speaking blogosphere featured 7.4 million blogs, almost twice as many as one year ago. I agree that the Russian blogosphere is not only modern and energetic, but also appears to have a particular character, or its own Russian “flavour.”
It is also important to me that my blogs are the place for vigorous discussions of problems that have a direct impact on our everyday lives – not the big, lofty problems, but the ones that affect us every day – and I am happy to see dialogue on how our lives can be made more fair and modern.
I will give you a few specific examples from my computer.
The children’s infectious disease section at clinical hospital #11 in the Ryazan Region was reopened at the end of August, following renovations. I learned about the horrible conditions in this facility and saw the corresponding photographs in comments left on my LiveJournal blog – incidentally, just as I was on my way to Ryazan (I suppose they specifically timed the posting for that reason). I asked the governor to look into the situation, and this led to concrete results.
Clearly, we cannot renovate all of our hospitals in this way. And the truth is, the letter about the state of the hospital should not have been addressed to the Presidential Executive Office or to me personally; it should have been sent to the governor’s blog. But at the same time, I am thankful to the author of that post, because as a result, we got something done – something small but important. And I hope that this serves as a clear, straightforward example for regional leaders. Citizens must draw attention to problems in their areas when the local authorities are not aware of what is going on, or if they are not acting to redress them.
As everybody knows, all of these things will come to light sooner or later – and when it comes to the Internet, it generally happens sooner rather than later. Based on the information provided by blog visitors, we have discovered and shut down a very significant number of underground gambling establishments. Let me remind you, in case you have forgotten: I signed a law changing the rules relating to gambling [moving all gambling facilities to four special gambling zones], but after it went into effect, not all such establishments were closed – far from it. In some places, they remained open under the guise of other types of small businesses, but in essence, they were still providing the same type of gambling services, under a new name. This happened in Barnaul, Smolensk, Ryazan, and several other places. After citizens wrote in to report these establishments, we got the situation under control. I feel that the situation now is much better. If you have any conflicting information on this topic, please write to me.
We are also bringing about order on the infamous website www.zakupki.gov.ru. A discussion by participants on my blog brought my attention to incorrectly entered purchase subject lines, wherein some of the Cyrillic letters were replaced by analogous letters from the Roman alphabet. This made it very difficult or entirely impossible to search for those entries. This was a clever trick, but we discovered the ruse.
In October, the website’s software will be fully updated. The Cabinet has worked on this following my direct instructions. If a state customer downloads an incorrectly named notice, the information will be automatically diverted to the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, which will conduct an unscheduled inspection.
I am particularly happy that many topics are addressed in a way that is not only emotional, but constructive as well. I know that some suggestions made on the blogs are now examined carefully by the Cabinet and various departments. Here is just one good example: we are looking into suggestions on how to use the maternity capital and how to determine the amount of child allowances. We are also looking into suggestions on rehabilitation of disabled individuals and improvement of pension legislation, as well as suggestions on helping small businesses (something we are working on quite actively), assisting students, and supporting a variety of non-profit initiatives.
In addition, comments on the blog frequently reveal problems faced by normal people, such as an individual who has fallen on very hard times. When I see such comments, I also see a variety of different people uniting in order to help or to fight for justice. Indeed, this happens very quickly. This is how things work nowadays, and everyone, including the authorities, must accept that.
Today, there are about 110 thousand comments on my blog. This is an enormous sum of opinions, suggestions, and ideas from the citizens of our nation – an enormous and diverse nation. Sometimes, these are emotions and feelings, sometimes I see real human pain. Certainly, not every commenter is an expert on those issues they write in about, but that is not what’s most important. What’s most important is that people come to us and share their ideas on how to resolve problems. Naturally, there are a variety of suggestions for how to address the various issues. Still, all of these people have one thing in common: they are not apathetic. They strive to understand the problems and suggest ways to resolve them. This alone merits a great deal of respect, because nowadays, we need more people who care.
I want to thank all of you for participating in the discussions on my blog. I want to assure you that we are continuing to work systematically with Internet blogs, even if some of our colleagues feel that this kind of work is not right for president. That said, a large number of government authorities are already using blogs, without any particular instructions from my office. They are already accustomed to this kind of online interaction, which is good. Leaders at a variety of levels, including regional leaders and, I hope, municipal leaders as well, are gradually realising the importance of being aware of their citizens’ concerns. Using a blog, leaders can learn what the citizens are thinking immediately, without having to wait for weeks to receive this information in the mail.
Blogs are not just a way to resolve individual problems (although that is also a good, important use for them). Blogs are ultimately a good way of improving the quality of state governance in general, allowing us to create policies and make decisions that are more citizen-oriented.
I would like to end by mentioning two pleasant anniversaries.
Russia’s national internet domain .RU celebrates fifteen years of operating on World Wide Web. Before that it was using the .SU domain inherited from the Soviet Union and registered in 1990. Today, our domain is employed by over 40 million users.
This year also marks the 10th anniversary of LiveJournal. Seven million of its 25 million users are located in Russia. This alone is an important indicator. While we cannot predict what LiveJournal’s second decade will look like, it is already clear that the Internet is quickly becoming a global information space that provides all of us with wonderful opportunities, and will bring us even greater opportunities in the future“.