The theme of the plenary session is, Digital Economy. Society. Business. State.
The Open Innovations International Forum for Innovative Development was first held in Moscow back in 2012. It is organised by the Ministry of Economic Development, the Moscow Government, RUSNANO's Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programmes, the Russian Venture Company, the Innovation Support Fund, the Skolkovo Foundation, and Vnesheconombank.
The forum’s format includes three days each covering a specific area. The first day’s agenda was digital transformation of conventional companies and industries as well as the revolution in management technology. The second day will be devoted to changes in the public administration system entailed by the global digitalisation. The third day will cover the social aspects of the digital economy.
Excerpt from the transcript:
Welcome to Skolkovo and to the sixth Open Innovations forum. This year’s topic is the digital economy. Now I would like to share some of my assessments of what is happening.
The digital economy today is already a given and it is not imposed by a government order or at the initiative of individual entrepreneurs. This is what surrounds us in the literal and figurative senses. Smartphones, mobile internet, social networking, e-commerce, and electronic payments are all part of our modern lifestyle. Data processing helps predict consumer behaviour, and even to build new business models that transform entire markets, something that was difficult to imagine even 10-15 years ago.
Some say that data is like new oil. Anyone who learns how to turn data into useful solutions, wins and vice versa, those who don’t catch onto these opportunities lag behind, and maybe even forever. This is true of individual companies, whole sectors, as well as countries. Competitions are now of planetary scale.
Of course, the competition is now global. Almost everybody can feel the consequences. Firstly, people themselves, secondly, traditional companies (I mean companies that are successful in traditional economic sectors) and thirdly, states. I will speak about these three components in more detail.
The first is people’s ability to adapt to the new technological wave. We’ve done a lot to make the digital culture familiar in our country, but at the same time this task is more difficult for us than for many other countries. Russia sits quite high in various international rankings. For example, during a period of just five years, we have risen by 36 positions according to the Networked Readiness Index.
According to our statistics, 75 percent of households have access to the internet plus the fact that we have the highest number of internet users in Europe. More than half state-service clients have chosen online technology. However, we, of course, should not forget the so-called analogue Russia: the digital inequality of the regions and far-away locations without high-speed access to the internet. We should also take into account the generation gap. This is a problem we have here, but it also exists in other countries too.
The digital transformation changes the labour market a lot. The demand on those who specialise in big data analysis, mathematic modelling, financial technology and cybersecurity will increase. On the other hand, jobs associated with routine and processing of typical information may suffer the most damage. We have to think how we can help people adapt to the new situation. The transformation already involves all levels of the educational system.
New requirements are in place at all levels, beginning from schools. Of course, we support talented children who are doing well in ICT and maths, we help teachers update their skills as well, we will also develop a system of mathematical and engineering education, and obviously we do have world class experts in computer programming as well as cryptography. However, we are not making the most of our intellectual potential to advance our economy, our ideas are poorly translated into ready commercial technology. We have no shortage when it comes to inventors but we don’t have enough accomplished business projects. This is undoubtedly our weak point. Many foreign engineering and IT-companies, including those in Silicon Valley, employ a lot of our compatriots. Our goal is to encourage young talents to realise their potential here.
This is the reason we set up Skolkovo at the time, where we are now, and there should be many more such centres with concentrated IQ. This is our principled policy supported by a newly adopted law on innovative science and technology centres. We build such innovative complexes, centres. I recently signed a resolution to open a new innovation cluster in the Pushkin District of St Petersburg. It will have research centres, labs, education units, accommodation, innovative industries, and a new campus for the St Petersburg National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics. This is one of our country’s best universities in this area, and its team was a seven-time winner of the world programming championship this year.
The second set of issues that I would like to discuss is whether our companies are ready for the digital change. After all, digitalisation doesn’t just change our way of life, but it also changes how we work, as I said before, in traditional industries, such as energy, transport, and engineering. New civilian airliners like the Sukhoi Superjet 100 or the MS-21 have already been digitised. The engineering offices exchange paperless documentation. Digitisation allows us to use new technical solutions. The airlines can immediately plan their maintenance service, and streamline the loading of their fleet. To do this, we recently adopted the Digital Economy Programme and a management system for it. A dialogue was initiated between the state and businesses across five areas: regulations, cadres, training, forming research competences and technical capacities, information infrastructure and security. For each of them, competence centres and working groups have been identified.
Of course, we won’t accomplish all this just by giving orders; it wouldn’t work. Digitalisation is a matter of the competitiveness of the business itself. In the final analysis, the business itself is interested in this. Start-ups that were obscure only recently are now able to dislodge solid, serious players from the market (this happens in all countries), by offering a better business model, and promoting their platform solution.
In the coming years, many dynamic digital companies will spring up. There is great potential for this. It can be achieved quickly and at relatively low cost. I’m referring to transport and logistics services, healthcare, education, financial technologies, smart urban environment, modern agricultural production, and other areas.
We will take remote areas, hospitals, and schools online. In addition, in the near future we will start creating a fifth generation mobile communication network. This is a fairly difficult undertaking considering that it requires considerable expense. But in any case, this will speed up the development of high-tech companies. We will continue to create conditions for them to attract investment, and for venture funds that are willing to support Russian start-ups.
Finally, the third issue that I would like to focus on is whether the state itself is ready for such a transformation.
Of course, addressing this objective in a country as vast as Russia is a challenge, but it’s an interesting proposition nonetheless.
Digitalisation changes approaches to public administration and legal regulation. There are a number of issues with intellectual rights, the protection of personal information which is related to the cross-border nature of the vast majority of services, when it is sometimes impossible to trace the jurisdiction and rules by which such companies operate.
As IoT technologies develop, a question arises as to whether our critical infrastructure and people’s everyday life in general are, in fact, ready for this. Are we ready to accept the fact that this kind of activity will be controlled from the outside, including through foreign digital platforms. It is, indeed, a problem for the state as well as for the individuals.
New technologies, such as blockchain, for example, are capable of radically changing legal operations related to data count and confirmation based on contracts. Due to their nature, they cannot belong to an individual country or a group of countries.
At the same time, any transformation causes much foam, which is also being discussed. A boom on the crypto currency market and other blockchain-based initiatives might, in case there are no clear-cut rules, generate quite serious risks for which decentralised players, let alone anonymous players, cannot be responsible.
The speed of technological changes requires more flexibility from regulators. There should be fewer barriers, including regulatory barriers. We should assess new regulatory standards from the point of view of digitalisation tasks. Regulatory activity as we can already see today will lag behind technological progress. That does not mean, however, that there should be no regulation. Moreover, many ideas do not stand the test of the market and simply evaporate or disappear. That’s normal. The world has already gained experience in this sphere. For example, the creation of separate pilot platforms free of excessive requirements. This approach makes it possible to test technological solutions within a fairly narrow scope. By and large, we were guided by this approach when we were creating the Skolkovo centre.
Colleagues! In conclusion, I would like to say that we have the potential to guarantee digital sovereignty, but we do not intend to shut ourselves up and build a kind of digital kolkhoz, if you will. The capacity of the Russian market is limited anyway. We will promote our products on global markets, but we would like to work together with international partners. It is important to create a trusting environment even today, though this is not always easy, as you know, due to well-known reasons. But we are open and I hope that this dialogue will continue here and at other discussion platforms.
Let me once again welcome you to Open Innovations. Thank you for your attention.
Noah Raford (via interpreter): Mr Prime Minister, Russia is clearly a champion in digital technologies. What would you say are the main achievements that have occurred during your term of office?
Dmitry Medvedev: I just talked about that. To a certain degree we occupy a unique position in the digital technology sector because of the country’s size. But if we are talking about what digital technology brings to our world, we can discuss it from various points of view, even a philosophical point of view. I think the most important thing is that digital technology saves us all time. And what is the most valuable thing in the human life that, unfortunately, has a limit? Time. What used to take hours, weeks and sometimes years can now be done in minutes. Think back to when you were discussing something, for example with your friends, and suddenly needed to look up the definition of a word or a certain location? We went to a library and searched in books. Now everybody uses their devices, goes to Wikipedia or a dictionary and gets answers in 10 or 15 seconds.
Public services. Almost half of them are provided online. Yes, the quality is not always perfect, but it exists and it is very important. People have chosen digital-tech, because it saves time.
Shopping. Now a lot of shopping is done on the internet. About 20 minutes ago I talked with Mr Ma (Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma) and told him that last year the total volume of online sales in Russia was about a trillion roubles. That number seems large, even when converted to US dollars, but in fact, it is small. We would like to develop this sector further, because it represents just 3 percent of retail volume. Nevertheless, it is user-friendly; this is why the sector is growing. And so on.
In other words, everything I’ve listed and most of the things I’ve forgotten to list save us time and energy. And this is probably the main thing the digital economy provides.
Noah Raford: Relations between Russia and the West are uneasy. Is it more difficult to develop global technology during such a situation or does Russia have its own way of doing this?
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course, digital technology is global whereas all kinds of restrictions and sanctions are personal or targeted, and this is a direct contradiction. However, digital technology cannot be influenced by sanctions too much because it is global. In other words, it is immune to sanctions and this is an advantage for both a global world and digital technology. One can try to limit someone in something but it is very difficult to impose restrictions on digital technology. Obviously, we are not happy about the sanctions. This is abundantly clear. But we did not start all this and it is not for us to put an end to it. The sooner this comes to an end, the better for everyone.
As for our special way of coming to the digital world, it does not exist, of course. All of us together, the entire human race are following this road, creating a prototype of the future artificial intellect in different stages and resolving absolutely applied problems, including the internet of things. There is no special path into this world. However, naturally we are using our opportunities together with our advantages, including the training of our personnel who are top-notch specialists that we have in this area in order to play our own game. That said, we would like to do this together with others. In effect, this is the goal of the digital economy and the digital development in the modern world in general. We will continue doing this whether anyone likes it or not. I am sure we will be extremely successful.
Noah Raford: Thank you, Mr Prime Minister.
Now we will give the floor to Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel. Russia is the world’s largest country in terms of territory whereas Luxembourg is one of the smallest states but this does not prevent Luxembourg from having the world’s second GDP per capita. Just recently, its economy was based on steelmaking whereas now it rests on banking. Could you share with us some strategies that Luxembourg is using for digitalisation?
I cannot say that we are trapped between the United States and Asia. We need to develop a strategy for this continent. It will be a good strategy if Russia and Europe work together on the digital agenda.
You have already mentioned the steel industry and banking. We are very active in telecommunications. For example, Luxembourg is the leader in satellite technology. Yes, as you may be aware, we are engaged in space mining as well. This, perhaps, is a new thing for the future.
You said that my country doesn’t take up a lot of space on planet Earth, but actually our country is big, it is large even in terms of outer space, and every single day we continue to grow.
There are different things in fact.
Rankings come first. I like rankings when I see that we made it to the 20 most effective countries in terms of innovations, infrastructure and so on in the most recent rankings. We are always on top when it comes to ratings.
From the point of view of administration, infrastructure is a key thing here. It needs to be built. The administrative work comes next, it is harder. We decided not to create digital ministries. There’s one person who does this. I took up this work. It is easier for me to convince the prime minister when he himself is engaged in digital technology.
I wanted to do this, because very often we have a bureaucratic mentality, which is the enemy of the digital world. Say, education is one thing, financial business is another, and economics and infrastructure are still another. This is the biggest enemy of the digital agenda.
I don’t want this mentality to become part of who we are, so that we could work not in parallel, but together. We have created a digital initiative, where we work together with the private sector. This is a win-win situation. If we work together, we should not think that the public sector and the private sector are enemies. We need regulations, but we have enough of it to find the right balance.
Education is the most important thing, which I have already mentioned. We need to train people. It's not just about people who do the decoding - we need people with a variety of skills who would interact working together as part of a team and share their ideas with each other. Indeed, the country must be open, we must not be a fortress. The London Treaty of 50 years ago - we must be open to everyone. In our country, 50 percent of the population are not Luxembourgers, whereas in the capital 70 percent are not Luxembourgers, which explains the success of our country.
It is very important for education and digital mindset that we stay open to others and learn from each other. For example, sometimes I am shocked when I am drafting an administrative document and have to copy the same document four times. I must be more efficient in administration. I must follow the principle: whatever is in my hands must stay in my hands. There are plenty of nuances but they are all important when it comes to changing citizens' lives. It is necessary to involve the public in the digital revolution. And it is a true revolution, it holds huge potential. We fully agree that our country is at the forefront. I don’t want to miss the train because I don’t know when the next train is coming. We acknowledge and are proud of always taking the top spots in many rankings. You must think digitally. And think about simple things, not always complicated things. It makes everything easier.
Noah Raford: Can you tell us more about the cultural changes required for transitioning to new ways of doing business?
Xavier Bettel: Education, as I said, plays a particularly important role. I don’t want to blame anybody but there are certain cultural problems. Mr Ma is now a world-famous successful businessman. But when he got his first business idea he didn’t know that he would become so successful. We must trust young people when they come up with ideas. Very often, we judge them if they fail or go bankrupt. The state must support them even if it means losing money. I prefer to invest, take risks and become part of a big project rather than blame people if they are trying to lease something.
Recently, we started an incubator with Vodafone. It is a private-public partnership. We provide funding for start-ups. We must believe in start-ups. As Prime Minister, I want people to rise higher instead of lying back, to take pride in what they do. I will be very glad if Luxembourg ever gets its own Jack Ma. (Sorry to mention you again.) But he was a professor, a teacher who took risks. This is exactly what we must do, help people take risks. It is not a dream. It may become reality if we work together. I am not just talking about Luxembourg but about all of Europe.
It is better to invest in ideas, sometimes suffer setbacks, but the main thing is that people should have confidence in themselves. Then a generation of people will come along who believe in themselves and then there will be an excellent future generation.
Noah Raford: You spoke about the importance of risk-taking, especially for young people. Could you cite some examples, not only from your own country, but perhaps also from some other countries too?
Xavier Bettel: My principle in politics is not to give advice to other countries, especially if you consider the size of my country. It is hard to tell big countries what they should do. However, you need to have confidence in people and engage in education. If you do not engage in education, even in Luxembourg… You said that we are a rich country, but after the crisis several years ago we had to work on our budget. We saved a lot of money and invested it in people.
Invest in education, in research, invest in convictions. People who are ready to do something must know that they will find support and opportunities in Luxembourg. We have to support them. We have a stable government which will not be replaced next month. I do not want to organize a referendum to decide whether or not to remain in the European Union. I love the European Union and I want to remain there. Predictability is very important. We have a stable government plus the fact that it is indeed a government oriented toward business.
In many countries you are sometimes shy when you achieve success, but we are proud of the success stories of our fellow-country people. We love people who like to take risks and who can say: “I don’t just want to do something, I want to make a difference. I want to do little things as well as turn them into big things.” This is true not only of Europe, it is a problem for many countries. We should do more to support people, especially those that don’t make it the first time around .
It did not take me just an hour to learn to skate, I fell down, I got up, fell down again and got up again. It may not be such a good example, but I believed in certain things, so I did them. This is the most important thing, especially considering the digital agenda in business.
The next big things may be created tomorrow in a garage or in a small village – this is what is so fascinating about this market.
Noah Raford: Now I would like to talk to three leading specialists in technology about the future. What can we do as private corporations in order to use these opportunities?
I would like to start with Professor Michio Kaku. You are a leading futurologist who has been well known for many years. What do you think about the digital revolution? Where does it lead and how is it linked with biotechnology and genomics?
Michio Kaku (futurologist, Professor of the City College of New York, via interpreter): In the future computer chips will cost next to nothing. They will be cheaper than rubbish, than paper to be recycled. Even your contact lenses – put them in and just blink, and you will be online. Can you imagine how students will take exams with such technology? They won’t have to memorise any lectures. This is a revolution in education because there will be no need to remember anything. They will blink and have access to information.
Or take artificial intelligence – Robodoc, a robot that can speak any language, access the internet for free and look up medical advice. Physicians will use Robodoc as an assistant. You won’t have to speak a certain language to use this service.
Or a robot-lawyer that can also speak any language and provide legal services. I believe this will happen. This economy will be larger than the car industry. Your car will also become a robot. It will talk to you. Maybe you will argue with your car or talk to it. You will tell your car to park and it will park. This is a revolution in urban environment and we won’t have to worry about parking anymore.
The brain will be the last to be digitised. Researchers are already conducting experiments to download and upload memory into the human brain. This will be a new revolution for the internet. It will be possible to store emotions, feelings and memories online. This will transform the life of teenagers. You will be able to store a feeling you had at your first dance club or during your first kiss and so on. In the future you will able to go online and recall all this. You will be able to communicate with people who were with you in some place. This is almost magic. We call it brainnet.
Biotechnology is also switching over to digital technology. We can create noses, ears, vessels and kidneys. Livers will be grown for alcoholics and patients with cirrhosis and so on.
The economy is becoming digital as well. Capitalism is based on supply and demand but when you buy something you do not know what the markup is because a salesperson may cheat. In the digital economy you will be able to find out who is cheating and who has fair prices. You will be able to see this with your contact lenses. So this will be ideal demand and ideal supply. Some people will gain from this and some will lose. Intermediaries will lose. Why did Amazon become such a huge company? Why did Uber spread so quickly? It’s because they replaced intermediaries with digital technologies. If you want to become a billionaire, take any industry, look where there are sources of friction, where there are intermediaries, where there are obstacles, where people get disappointed or there are difficulties. Convert all this to digital technologies and you may found the next Amazon.
Noah Raford: Thank you, professor. Yes, this future both inspires and frightens us, so let’s be careful. Mr Gref, you are, no doubt, required to be tech-savvy. Your company employs 300,000 people. Can you discuss how you introduced all these changes?
German Gref (President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sberbank Russia): I have listened with pleasure to our guest Michio Kaku. I recalled how seven years ago I read his first book entitled Physics of the Future. I didn’t pay enough attention when I read the chapter about artificial intelligence. It said that by around 2070 mankind still will not have developed comprehensive artificial intelligence that can be actively used. Frankly, back then I felt relieved. Thank God, I thought, there is no need to look in that direction for some time. But even futurists, even such outstanding ones as Mr Kaku, and he is an outstanding futurist indeed, are mistaken sometimes as no one can get the timing right with these prophesies.
I would like to talk just about three practical things we are facing as the key challenge.
First, I would talk about two technologies that we view as extremely promising. This is blockchain, a technology that can greatly, just dramatically change the sector in which I work. If we look seriously at the consequences of the use of this technology, it will be very hard to find room for traditional banks there. It can make virtually all processes automated, especially in combination with artificial intelligence. Second, of course, is quantum computing. I know that Jack (Jack Ma) has recently founded an association supporting quantum computing. In Russia, we too are working on the creation of a similar association. And we believe that it is one of the most significant breakthrough technologies that must be the focus of attention both of the Government and corporations.
As for the application of technologies today, of course, such technology as artificial intelligence is in the mainstream. We say that artificial intelligence today is like electricity in the beginning of the past century. Earlier we suspected that machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data are the things we may be able to use in our decision-making, including lending decisions and so on, but today there is virtually no area in our business in which we wouldn’t apply artificial intelligence.
In the financial business there are five such key directions. The first one is, of course, everything related to intellectual advisors. This is what we call “personal financial managers” and the so-called bots that reply to standard questions from our clients at call centres and so on. This technology has a great future. I believe that in just three-to-five years we simply won’t have human staff doing this job as artificial intelligence is learning and becoming more and more precise in its answers and forecasts.
The second area is what we began to work on in the first place. This is what is referred to as data drilling decision making. We use it both in our core business and in making loan decisions. About 99 percent of our loan decisions regarding individuals and approximately 35 percent of loan decisions for corporations are made without human intervention. We want to bring the latter number to 70 percent in three years.
This, of course, is a tremendous step forward in our business.
Cybersecurity is the third area, of course. We are perhaps our country’s largest transactional organisation. We make about 7,000 to 8,000 transactions per second at the peak. These transactions can only be analysed with the use of artificial intelligence, which is what we are doing. According to polls, 74 percent of our clients favour security in credit cards transactions, such as cash back transactions, which all of our clients enjoy. Security ranks high on the list of our clients’ priorities. So, we use artificial intelligence on a daily basis in everything related to cybersecurity, and our machines learn to fight hackers every day. This is particularly true of what we refer to as social engineering, when our clients are involved in writing off their own funds.
The fourth area covers the analysis of our clients. Our clients have ceased to be viewed in aggregate. We are becoming increasingly aware of their specific needs due to marketing and a focus on each individual client. This is the key area where we use artificial intelligence systems.
The fifth area covers automation of almost all our activities ranging from back office, accounting, and auditing to legal matters. All simple operations will be automated.
This is what we do every day and what will become routine operations in almost all corporations by 2020.
One last point is that it is critically important that you have brought together here Government leaders and representatives, as well as business people. In the digital world, it is impossible to make progress without collaborative efforts of business and Government, because we run into regulations and the need to cooperate with the Government at every step. In Russia, the Government pays great attention to it, especially following the adoption of the Digital Economy programme. The new era will be marked by the business and the Government working hand in hand, in order to, as Mr Medvedev said, save time for our clients, which is the most valuable resource.
Noah Raford: Thank you, Mr Gref.
Like Mr Kaku, you touched upon important implications of technological development. Over time, technologies will allow us to do more with less, and this will affect the workforce. I would like to ask Mr Ma how innovative technology will affect the labour market. Should people be concerned?
Jack Ma (Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, via interpreter): Many people are saying that innovative technology will squeeze humans out. But, I think, there’s no need to worry so much. I think that this issue will take care of itself over time. We just don’t have a clear enough idea of the future. People are worried about the future because they don’t understand well what it will be like, they lack confidence, and they lack imagination to visualise it.
We do not have these solutions now, but someone will have them some day. We must rely on our youth. There are seven billion people in this world. There are enough smart people among them who can come up with such solutions.
Also, in the past, people worked like machines, but eventually the machines will become more humanlike, and humans will be able to be humans. People have religions and values. I don’t think the machines will replace humans completely. If you look at the past technological revolutions, the industrial revolution, and so on − they did change the structure of the labour market, and I believe we will see it again. We must worry more about our own future than about the future of the world. That goes for each one of us.
I think that most people will see it and believe it. And they will become leaders. You need confidence to become a leader and a multi-millionaire.
In 30 years, the internet will be more important than oil. I believe that the internet and digital technologies will solve many problems. It will be sustainable development that will make people happier.
Globalisation is proceeding unevenly now. There are some 60 corporations that dominate the market. But young people need to find their place in this world. Eighty percent of the world’s population will have internet access very soon, and we will have to take these changes into account. I believe the world does not need the G20 but a G200, in a manner of speaking. [We will have] e-commerce and an e-economy, and it won’t matter whether the goods we buy are made in China, the United States or somewhere else. However, new production will not create new jobs, because machines and artificial intelligence will be used. People will do something different.
I have an optimistic view of the future. We shouldn’t be concerned about education. Mr Prime Minister spoke about education. You see, we are sitting here, and everything is fine. If we teach our children with the same methods that were used over the past century, I don’t think they will benefit from this. You cannot compete with a machine in terms of intelligence. Machines will be smarter. For example, we cannot compete with a car for speed. We cannot outrun a car. Therefore, how should we teach our young people? I think we should find a new approach.
And lastly, to teach people successfully, we must teach IQ, EQ and so on.
Noah Raford: We have time for one more question. Cooperation between the state and business is very important in this context. What is the best way to develop this? What do you think?
Jack Ma: The state should not create more laws and regulations for business.
Noah Raford: Mr Gref, please.
German Gref: I believe that in this world, where all of us miss deadlines, being a bit late is an important strategy for the Government. The Government should be one step behind business, giving business room to operate. And it should issue regulations only when the situation becomes clearer. Jack Ma said that first you need to imagine something. Well, the Government must first see results and only then start regulating the process. If it imagines somethings and starts regulating an imaginary process, it will not see any result.
Noah Raford: In other words, you need to turn your imagination on. Professor Kaku, what do you think about this?
Michio Kaku: I think that the current trend is to cut the pie into as many slices as possible. But physicists have a different view of the economy. We see a big pie. What is the source of prosperity? First we had the steam train and then computers, science and technology. They create prosperity. It’s not as if you lose if I win. We all win. I believe that everyone will win, because the pie is getting bigger.
Noah Raford: We have listened to remarks by the heads of state and representatives of private businesses. We would like to talk about the public sector now, because the public sector is also influenced by digital technology.
There are people from Singapore and Britain here. Singapore is regarded as the city of the future. They control their growth and make use of digital technology. It could be said that Singapore is an intellectual country, a blockchain or artificial intelligence.
Britain is a leading country in terms of electronic government services. You have also created a convenient digital platform for business and suppliers. Britain is now overhauling its system of electronic government services. Digital tools help us do our jobs better, but they are also changing the nature of state service. How do you see this process?
As you know, Singapore is a very small country compared to Russia. We only have a population of 6 million. We view digital technology as a way to enhance productivity and labour efficiency.
We believe that every government official must have a computer. We also think that the government must be for the people and address the people. We are entering an age when the government will work with the people, that is, create services together with them. We want to help the people do this; it is a huge area where we are working.
We have created so-called AG boxes to collect a very large amount of essential data, which will help private business, transport and everyone else. We can create a future together. Our recent achievement is the myResponder mobile phone app for emergency situations, maybe medical assistance. We began crowdsourcing in this area, not to find new solutions, but to improve this software, so that people will be able to receive not only emergency medical aid but other forms of assistance as well. This is how we use digital technology.
Noah Raford: Mr Maxwell, can you tell us how digital technologies are used to help people in your country?
Liam Maxwell (UK Government’s Chief Technology Officer, via interpreter): We want to change the relationship between the state and its citizens. We are spending much money on technology, yet we are not connected to the citizens. We want to understand how users benefit from our services. We must structure services so that receiving them will be easy, simple and quick, which is what people need. When we analyse what people do and how they make use of online services, we get feedback. Jacqueline has said that they distribute data, and we also disclose operating data to people. They can see how the Government works, and the Government can also see how it works and can simplify this interaction. The Government is a platform, but this approach cannot always be used for government services.
Noah Raford: I have one more question for you. When we talk about big data, people fear that it is something like Big Brother who is watching them, spying on them. Can you reassure people that big data has nothing is common with this?
Liam Maxwell: There is a lot of misunderstanding regarding big data and the collection of big data on private business and the public sector. Of course, we monitor the number of transactions in the private sector, as well as the companies and people involved, but we take pains to keep this information anonymous. Anonymised data are a treasure trove from which the agencies that provide government services can draw information for decision-making. We are also doing a lot in artificial intelligence, etc. We collect data about people, but we keep them anonymous.
On the other hand, regarding personal data, if you were speaking about them, there is an absolute need to protect these data, and so the collection and storage of these data must be strictly controlled. If we need to use these data or provide them to government departments, we must remember that these data are part of our digital and national identity, and that they may contain administrative information, possibly information about patients, and that some establishments may have access to these data. However, the people want these establishments to have access to these data. Take the credit cards: of course, people want these data to be accessible.
As for private companies, we clearly define the cases where trust is essential. We do not anonymise these data, but you trust the company that collects them, and you trust the private individual who will use these data.
I believe that there are two elements here, two legislative pillars that must define very accurately how these data are stored or made accessible. In this case, we can be sure that we are in a situation where our data are safely protected.
And second, there is a digital chart that shows a formalised relationship between the state and the citizens, where the key element is our belief that we do not cross the line, and that some areas of data protection are the responsibility of, for example, the Data Protection Authorities (DPA) of the European Union. We have our laws, and we want to do this, because without this there will be no trust, and without trust the Government will be unable to do anything to spurt the growth of the digital economy. The Government’s role is to create a structure, after which it should step back, which will be very good assistance for business, indeed.