President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues,
This is the Commission for Modernisation and Technological Development’s third meeting. Our task is extremely difficult. I am not saying that it is impossible, but it really is very difficult, and this makes the practical results we achieve all the more important. I therefore hope that during the time between our meetings you all give top priority to your work within the commission, because you also have a great many routine obligations too, a huge number of documents that all here both produce and sign. But we have to think about the future too, and this is why I say that I hope you are all treating these matters as priorities.
We have two main subjects of discussion today. The first is medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, and the second is strategic computer technology and software.
These are unquestionably both important subjects, priority areas. I will say a few words about each of them.
Working through the National Project on Healthcare we have made progress in equipping hospitals and medical centres with modern technology and vehicles. This is something we have all been working on together, and it is an area in which we have achieved results over the recent period.
As for the pharmaceuticals market, it is also showing rapid growth thanks in large part to the state programmes and the money that has started to flow into the sector. It is growing by 10–12 percent a year on average. Specialists estimate that sales of medicines in our country will reach around 1.5 trillion rubles [more than USD 47 billion] in the next ten years. This is a big figure. This will take us up to the average European level of medicine consumption, and this should ultimately translate, of course, into longer life expectancy and a better quality of life. Sales of medical equipment are also expected to grow rapidly.
The question is, how are we going to develop this modern production industry. Who is going to create new jobs, and where? It is no secret that the big international corporations are eyeing up this market today with great enthusiasm, or with considerable interest, at any rate. This offers us a good opportunity to set up joint production, and that is a positive thing. But at the same time, we need to establish our own research centres to develop medicines here in Russia, using our own resources and capability, and drawing on the possibilities foreign companies can offer too. But the obvious problem today is that our industry is simply not prepared yet. It continues, for the most part, to manufacture a narrow range of outdated products, mostly imported generic medicines, using components purchased abroad. I say ‘for the most part’, because there some positive examples, of course, but overall, this is the situation today.
Very little work is underway on developing original new medicines and equipment. There are only rare exceptions, such as that before us today, and a handful of others.
I just visited the production facilities at ZAO Generium, and I was impressed. It’s an example of modern production. The medicines it produces are already on the market. They are complex and costly products that can help to cure seven types of the so-called ‘expensive diseases’ for which we have a special federal programme. It is good that we are now producing our own medicines to treat these seven diseases because hopefully they will be able to cover the market, and at the same time will be a little cheaper than imported equivalents.
But this is just one example. We do not have an integral strategy for developing the pharmaceuticals and medical equipment industry at the moment, and projects proposed in the sector, for all their importance, often do not come under the strategic category.
The Commission’s main task is to draw up and implement projects that will shape the system and lay the foundations and principles of state policy in this sector and remove the numerous obstacles in the system.
What needs to be done first? There are several tasks.
First, we need to plan and prepare selection procedures and criteria for the projects the working group will follow.
Second, we need to draw up a register of these projects, that is, we need to define our priorities in this area.
Third, we need to make effective use of the export potential and financial possibilities of various organisations, including Rusnano (Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies (RUSNANO), the Venture Corporation and existing market institutions in general.
We have not made much progress in setting up national centres to work on the priority technological development areas. There is little to report so far. We need to establish centres for developing innovative medical equipment and medicines. Incidentally, the owners of this enterprise have the idea of establishing a modern centre of this type right here as part of the pharmaceuticals cluster that has already taken shape to some extent in the Vladimir Region, and that there are plans to develop. This is a good idea overall. They also want to get the best specialists involved in this project, not just specialists working here in Russia, but also those who have left to work abroad. These are top-class professionals. They think it would be possible to attract them back with the help of a clear system of incentives – scientific opportunities plus a salary at European level or higher.
Another relevant issue today is the way money is being spent on buying products for state and municipal needs. How are the procurement orders drawn up today? I think that, despite the effort that has been made in this area, the situation has still not yet been completely straightened out. By making this spending more effective we would increase the market volume and thus increase demand for the medicines and equipment that we produce. But at the same time, we also need to examine the issue of applying restrictive measures — anti-monopoly measures — to producers of certain types of pharmaceutical products if the need arises.
The second subject on our agenda is strategic information technology. Essentially, we began discussing this subject at the meeting in Sarov [on July 22, 2009]. But it was just one thread in the overall discussions there, even if an important one. Today we will continue this discussion. This subject has also come up on numerous occasions at meetings of the Security Council, Government, and State Council. We have a basic document – the Information Society Development Strategy.
State spending on computerising the country is now at a comparable level to that of the developed European countries. This is at once good news and bad news. The good news is that, if we take Russia and Germany, say, we spend a similar share of our GDP on this work, but the bad news is that in Russia this money spent is producing precious little result. This is something I have said before, and I say again now that the situation is quite simply unsatisfactory in this area.
I said at the meeting of the Council on the Information Society that our information rating, our electronic preparedness rating, is very low, and despite the fact that we keep investing in this area our rating is only getting worse. There are more than sixty or seventy countries ahead of us now.
The use of modern information technology, access to quality public services in this area, and development of broadband access are the main indicators of information society development, and ultimately a sign of how modern and competitive a country is overall, and how comfortable a life it offers its citizens.
As for the priorities in this area, the first priority is to develop our own super computers and grid systems. We spoke about this at the Commission’s last meeting and made the decisions. Today we need to examine the detailed network timetables and plans for each of these projects.
The second task is to finally make progress on the electronic government projects. This has become quite simply a disgrace. There have been so many meetings and so many presidential and government instructions issued, but no real progress is in sight. I think there is no need to prove to anyone today that the quality of public services has a direct impact on the state of our country’s democracy, and on fighting corruption too. But there has still been no real progress in developing the inter-agency electronic document management system, setting up a full-fledged on-line public procurement system, and also establishing a unified system of state registration of the results of scientific research and experiment and design work.
This situation prompted me to come up with an idea: if simple persuasion is not enough, then we need to try not just the carrot but also the stick. My idea is that we need to come up with a strict set of measures regarding implementation of the electronic government system’s various components, including cutting budget funds to agencies that fail to carry out their tasks in this area. We need to introduce a system of indicators. If an organisation fails to carry out this work, it will receive less budget money. We need to punish with the ruble. I realise that this is far from always effective as a method, but it at least gives us an additional instrument that we can try.
I think we also need to look at the regions where the situation is in better shape, regions that have put in place relatively decent models for electronic provision of public services, and use these models as a basis for developing the overall construction.
We also need to carry out projects to computerise healthcare, education, urban management, and also develop systems to ensure our citizens’ security.
Another segment in which we need to examine projects is that of establishing information services in culture, healthcare and other areas, and developing educational internet resources, new generation internet resources. Tomorrow is the start of the new school year. We all know the importance of these kinds of services. Particularly important for our country are systems for distance learning and professional training, which give people with disabilities and also people on low incomes the chance to study, and quite simply help people to find their place in life, help them find a job. These are tasks we absolutely must address.
We should also not overlook a subject that might seem no longer so relevant today – that of computer literacy in general. I think this issue is still relevant, even though we have made a lot of progress over the last years. It’s enough to say that in Europe, up to 70 percent of the active working population on average goes through retraining in this area, while here the figure is not even 10 percent. Sometimes you quite simply have to force people.
Internet access is extremely important for people both in technical and material terms. This is something I think we will discuss at the Commission’s next meeting.
One more issue to chew over is that of professional human resources. We should already have an idea of how many specialists in this area we will need, organise their training at the relevant information technology training centres, and open several centres of this kind, at existing technology parks, for example. We have already spent a lot of money on creating technology parks. The results are not very visible so far, not exactly tangible, at any rate. We need to create additional incentives to get our best programmers working on modernising the Russian economy, including through work at these centres.
The situation is complicated in general. When I was getting ready to come here today, I saw that our software producers had written me a letter proposing that we examine support measures for the sector. This concerns above all tax measures, the substitution of a number of taxes underway, above all the consolidated social tax. They say that if these measures are applied their costs will increase sharply, by up to 60–70 percent. This is something we should look at too, so take this as being an instruction from me to the Government and the agencies responsible for these matters to look into this request and draw up the corresponding proposals.