Mikhail Mishustin: Good afternoon, friends,
I am delighted to have this opportunity to participate in the educational marathon.
I would like to thank the Znanie Society for hosting such an event. It is an important part of the large-scale educational campaign pursued by the organisation for many years. Our President pays special attention to this work.
The Znanie Society played a major role in my life, too. It was with its assistance that the International Computer Club was set up over 30 years ago, where I began working while I was still a university student. And before that, also as a student, I worked part-time writing reviews of popular science books published by the same Znanie Society.
It was good training and useful experience that taught me a key thing: to keep broadening my outlook, acquiring new knowledge, developing the ability to consider things from different perspectives. The more topics you study, the broader your outlook. At the same time, it is crucial to get guidance from the best, from people who are experts in their area. It was such people that Znanie society always engaged.
In my view, a broad outlook is a vitally important quality. Nowadays anyone can have their own internet page or a blog. When you read internet articles or posts, you do not always deal with a reliable source of information since not everyone is a professional capable of discussing a variety of issues competently. Therefore, people often face unreliable sources. This is not always done on purpose but it ultimately shapes misguided views. Basically, data is the new oil, gold and platinum of the 21st century. Data can add to your income or destroy it. Sometimes distorted data on some events that you find online cannot be refuted without an expert opinion from a reliable source.
Only fundamental knowledge is always reliable. It is needed, among other things, to make discoveries and design advanced technologies and breakthrough solutions the humankind takes pride in today. Possession of accurate fundamental knowledge is a major criterion of success in the modern world.
Knowledge expands our outlook. If you do not understand the cause-and-effect relationships and the laws of nature, if you lack specialised knowledge, then planes will not take off and cars and trains will not drive. Without it, it will be impossible to launch a person into space, invent a new medicine or a new source of energy that humanity needs so badly. It is high-quality knowledge that enables us to resolve increasingly complicated challenges at the junction of competences and related fields.
The knowledge and outlook I acquired during my studies came in useful in my life, including those I gained during my work at the Federal Taxation Service. Knowledge from different fields and understanding of some technologies helped me to modernise the fiscal system.
It is essential to learn about new approaches and technologies ahead of others. Such notions as client-centric, the Internet of Things, cloud solutions, data centre, big data, client pathway, and many others are buzzwords today. But just a short while ago they were cutting-edge solutions and technologies, not widely known and for that reason even more exciting. We realised that we should look into future technologies today and apply predictive analytics to discover what will matter tomorrow. And if you are the first to introduce such technologies and use them in your work five to seven years before they become widely known, you will succeed.
Speaking about the Taxation Service, online tills currently used at any shop are an example of the Internet of Things. They instantaneously transmit information about the sales proceeds in a retail outlet while a receipt from a shop can be used to scan its QR-code, get its digital copy and check its authenticity.
Data centres, or data processing centres, are used currently to process all information that comes to the Taxation Service. It is needed not only to monitor retail outlets but primarily to provide services to people. The analysis of a huge bulk of data makes it possible to get the most recent and exact information, including about the state of our economy.
We used the biggest number of cutting-edge solutions as we developed services for the self-employed. We designed a simple and user-friendly application which uses a tremendous number of technologies, although few people are aware of it. They include the touch screen, scanning, biometric image recognition, big data and platform solutions. This application also has a special open interface, the so-called API-interface, which enables banks and companies to integrate the My Tax app’s functionality in their software products and services. No one in the world has ever done this.
The key objective behind such solutions as the one for the self-employed was to make it easier and more convenient for people to pay their taxes. See what a large set of technologies and solutions is used to make people’s lives easier.
We were thinking along the same lines when we designed the Taxpayer’s Account mobile app and service. It is available to everyone on the Taxation Service’s web portal. It also incorporates cloud technology as well as portal solutions, data centres, a data control system, a system of interdepartmental document flow and online banking.
It was crucial to relieve people of the need to visit a tax office to receive information about due payments, in particular, property taxes. If you recall, after that people also had to visit a bank to pay the taxes. Nowadays all that is a thing of the past. The system that allows you to do it even as you lie on a couch in any corner of the globe was based on these technologies. With this design, one can pay taxes not only from the couch but also from the International Space Station. Pavel Vinogradov did it easily. We just gave him a password, and since there is internet in space, he got everything done within 15 minutes.
At present, many countries are turning to Russia with requests to help them build similar management systems, and we already export Russian designs.
Please note that all successful cutting-edge solutions are born at the juncture of many technologies. The frontrunner is the person who learns about their existence sooner, who understands how they work, and the key thing – figures out how to join them and use them to create a more convenient product. You can only achieve that if you have fundamental knowledge and a broad outlook, and use reliable sources of information to get them.
We are living in very complicated yet very exciting times. The world is changing, all areas of the economy are undergoing a digital transformation. A new reality is emerging and young people must be ready to tackle much more complicated challenges than those on our current agenda. They must arm themselves with knowledge and apply it, use predictive analytics to determine what will be important in the world and try to make a breakthrough with the totality of their knowledge and technologies. Knowledge is becoming an asset today. As they used to say in the Znanie Society, knowledge is power.
Our country has always been a breeding ground for talented professionals in all walks of life without exception. And Russia has had a colossal impact on the development of humankind. The names of our compatriots such as Tchaikovsky, Malevich, Tolstoy, Lermontov, Pushkin, Mendeleev, Lobachevsky and Landau are known across the entire world. We have much to be proud of, friends.
But I would also remind you that our academic community, as well the country itself, went through tough times in the 1990s. Young people preferred the idea of getting rich quick instead of getting a higher education. Much-needed engineers and scientists often left the country in search of better life. Luckily, our scientific school was not totally lost.
Even now we have great many talented, extraordinary people who are bringing our country back to the leading positions in science and technology. They are citizens of a great country. In those hard times they did not stop learning; they acquired fundamental knowledge and became true professionals and experts in their field.
I want to tell you several true success stories of the people who are making fantastic discoveries in Russia, moving the country forward and making the world a better place.
Do you know them? For example, who created the Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19?
We owe it to Denis Logunov, Doctor of Science, head of the cellular microbiology laboratory at the Gamaleya National Research Centre. He graduated from the Faculty of Biotechnology at Kursk Medical University. Ten year ago, Denis defended his doctor’s thesis at the Gamaleya Centre. Together with his team he designed a new vaccine and had the courage to test it on himself. He openly spoke about how the vaccine was being developed and how he felt. Thanks to him, many people changed their opinion of the Russian vaccine.
I personally know some people who used to be fairly sceptical about the vaccine. If you remember, nobody wanted to recognise the ability of Russian specialists to make such a breakthrough in science. It was crucial in that situation to competently and clearly explain, from the scientific point of view, why this vaccine would protect people from the virus.
The ability to convince people and present your ideas is very important. You must learn to do it, especially if you want to change the world and offer it something new.
Sputnik V is now registered in almost 70 countries around the world. The Russian vaccine proved to be safe and effective. We can officially declare now that Sputnik V is one of the best and most popular vaccines in the world. By the way, Russians can get a jab absolutely free of charge, and I once again urge everyone to do it.
Making effective vaccines is our victory, which was achieved thanks to the knowledge and, of course, professionalism and dedication of Russian scientists, doctors and other specialists.
They promptly joined the battle from the very first days after the news came about the spread of the new infection. In addition to the vaccines, they also created effective diagnostic systems for COVID-19.
A unique rapid test was also designed by our compatriot Anzhei Zhimbiev, who has been engaged in the area of innovations for over a decade and is an expert in designing medical diagnostic systems. When the coronavirus first began to spread, he took up designing a rapid test system. He did not do it in a big research centre. The idea was implemented by a small startup. This test system is now being used not only in Russia but also abroad. It is one of the most efficient tests.
Here is another success story.
The Soviet Union was one of the world leaders in aircraft building. However, after the collapse of the USSR the industry faced a crisis, and its revival began only in early 2000s, step by step.
Our country managed to overcome many hurdles, and the MC-21 aircraft is a clear confirmation of that. A really good aircraft was built, the best in its class of passenger airliners. For the first time ever, an aircraft with such a seating capacity was outfitted with a composite wing.
By the way, the wing was designed and is manufactured in our country. Our designers introduced and patented a unique vacuum infusion technology, which is used for the frame of the wing.
However, it required imported materials which stopped coming due to sanctions. Within a short timespan we launched the production of similar materials independently, while foreign companies lost the Russian market.
In addition, the MC-21 has the widest body among the aircraft of this class, which means greater comfort for passengers. Our competitors have nothing of this kind and are unlikely to have it for several years.
Credit for all that goes to the large personnel of the Irkut Corporation, and, of course, its chief designer, Konstantin Popovich, a Moscow Aviation Institute graduate. He began his career back at Yakovlev Design Bureau and for decades has been moving towards his dream of building an excellent cutting-edge high-technology aircraft.
At present the MC-21 is undergoing trials and will soon start carrying passengers. It is noteworthy that one of its modifications is equipped with the Russian-made PD-14 engine. The development of this engine became Russia’s major achievement in civil aviation engine manufacturing of the past 30 years. The engine was designed under the supervision of Russian designer Alexander Inozemtsev, a talented graduate of Perm Polytechnic Institute who dedicated his entire life to science and inventions.
This is evidence that we still have an enormously strong engineering school. Today Russian engineers have ample opportunities to realise their technological dreams: they have state support, including grants for young researchers, a system of state orders as well as close cooperation with business. So, do not hesitate to choose science as your career; this area has immense prospects.
We have a number of other instances of successful resolution of large-scale challenges.
The Arktika nuclear-powered ice breaker is a true Russian engineering masterpiece. I toured it last autumn. It was built in a Russian shipyard and is capable of breaking three-metre-thick ice. Its nuclear-powered unit enables the vessel to work for up to seven years without recharging the fuel.
Vladimir Vorobyov, a talented nuclear scientist and chief designer at the Iceberg Design Bureau, stood at the origins of designing the icebreaker. Unfortunately, he died at the end of last year.
In fact, everything about this icebreaker is innovative: the energy equipment, the reactor unit and the electric propulsion have been totally redesigned. This required tremendous effort and a labour-intensive process. Nevertheless, our specialists coped with the challenge.
Russia is still the only nation in the world which managed to build a nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet. We are leaders in exploring the Arctic. We are unlocking the potential and advantages of the Northern Sea Route, the shortest way from Southeast Asia to Europe. This task was set by the President.
It is impossible to list all the names of outstanding and talented inventors and scientists who are making an enormous contribution to the progress of our country. First of all, this has to do with AI-based technologies – drones, for example. Currently they are also being designed by ordinary students, such as Stanislav Voronov, who created a drone for diagnosing and repairing power transmission lines to make the process safe for people. Meanwhile, Stanislav has not yet graduated from Ural Federal University. This is one of his first efforts.
The project to manufacture robots which will able to identify and sort rubbish was implemented with the support of businessman Yevgeny Gudov, a graduate of the Financial University.
Here is another success story. After graduating from Perm Polytechnic University, engineer Oleg Kivokurtsev was among the founders of a company that manufactures assistant robots. They are in demand now both in Russia and in Europe. As a schoolboy, he was fascinated by technology, and he succeeded in making his childhood dream come true.
All these young people with great potential I have spoken about today are creating our future. Their noteworthy examples are inspiring. I am sure they still have many great discoveries and achievements ahead that will make us proud.
To conclude, I would like to once again revisit the idea about the importance of dependable information sources that you should and can rely on in your lives and careers. This is an indispensable element of education.
Today, we all are using social networks and the internet with a lot of different content that is either reliable or not. It is crucial to be able to choose trustworthy sources. Please, watch out. The efficiency of your decisions depends on the quality of information.
I am confident that your parents, teachers and mentors want you to have the best fundamental knowledge, to move Russian science forward and change the world for the better.
The Znanie Society is exactly the educational resource to make science popular and, crucially, to acquire real knowledge. This is what will help you to fulfil yourselves in life.
I want to wish all of you success. Don’t fear the new. Believe in yourselves and your abilities. Dream, invent and bring your most daring ideas to reality. All roads are open to you.
The Prime Minister answers questions from marathon participants
Mikhail Mishustin: The first question. Nikolai Ignatenko, a fourth-year student at the Faculty of Management and Politics, Russian Foreign Ministry’s MGIMO University, asks how to find the best balance between “knowing something” and “knowing where to look things up.” Especially today, when information flow keeps growing and nearly everything can be found online.
Nikolai also wonders which knowledge was the most valuable for my success and who was my most important mentor.
Nikolai, thank you for your question. This is what I think: the best balance can only be achieved on the basis of good fundamental knowledge. If you look at it as a foundation, a map that shows a route, you can see when and which sources should be used, and how trustworthy the information will be.
We lay the foundation of such knowledge beginning at school and then continue at university. But actually, you have to learn new things all your life. By the way, all conditions have been created for this in Russia. Our education programmes cover both pre-schoolers, schoolchildren and college students. There are professional training and retraining programmes for adult specialists.
There is no single way to success in this world. No one can say which subject or specialty will be in greatest demand in ten years. This is why you can succeed in this world only through constant self-improvement, learning something new, acquiring new knowledge. And it does not matter who we are talking about – an IT specialist, a researcher, a businessperson or a civil servant.
The knowledge of computer and information technologies and fundamental mathematics was extremely useful for me personally. It helped me first to automate and later to digitally transform the taxation service, which I spoke about today. Even the initial automation of many processes significantly simplifies any interaction between people and the services rendered by the government.
At present digital solutions are introduced in the operation of our government apparatus. Our objective is to provide government services automatically so that people don’t have to go to different offices and collect documents there.
Other knowledge and skills were equally important for me. For example, the ability to set up an effective team, delegate and distribute responsibilities so that different people could solve complicated tasks targeting the development of very diverse areas and our country as a whole.
As to mentors, I take this issue very seriously. By the way, I was a mentor taking part in the Leaders of Russia competition. I think that mentoring is an important part of any leader’s work.
Speaking about my mentors, I had them at each stage of my life. They were my best teachers at school who infused me with love of school subjects, among others, teachers of mathematics and literature. And most important is the trust emerging between the mentor and the student, so that one can seek advice 24 hours a day. Of course, this need subsides with maturity but knowing that there is a mentor close by and you can always address him or her is worth a lot.
I have already said that my most important mentor is President of Russia Vladimir Putin. This is a man I can turn to for advice at any time. I can address him in any situation and he will always give me his support.
The second question comes from Dmitry Furman, a first-year Master’s student at Moscow State University. He asks what I think is an ideal government service for citizens and how far we have progressed in building it.
We are all witnessing how digital technologies are changing the world and making our lives easier and more comfortable. This is also an excellent opportunity for government authorities to work more effectively. We have already radically revised our approaches towards the state’s interaction with people and businesses. The electronic format of government services has become one of the top government priorities. We have advanced quite far in this.
What are we striving for? We want to reduce civil servants’ participation in rendering services to a minimum so that there are no more certificates, paper documents or personal visits to government offices.
Solving all issues in any situation must be comprehensive so that a service is rendered by one click any time of the day. And we already have such services, for example, online university application service. Last year, over 70,000 applications were submitted via this service.
My vision of an ideal government service? It is a service rendered proactively. Just because a person’s status has changed, if he has graduated from school, got married or become a parent, there will be no need to notify anyone specially.
This is our vision of a bureaucracy-free state that is not burdensome for people and businesses.
The next question comes from Vladislav Dubrovsky, a political science student at St Petersburg State University. He asks in which areas Russia can make technological breakthroughs to be among the leading nations and which projects will be supported by the state.
Vladislav, I will begin with the second question. In his Address to the Federal Assembly, the President clearly outlined priorities in supporting innovative projects that are crucial for the country. They include developing Russian technologies for vaccine production and next generation medications; designing new approaches in nuclear and hydrogen energy, renewable energy sources and its storage; establishing a national system of high-precision monitoring and mitigation of climate-active gases, and ensuring an environmental transformation of our industries.
The Government is working on a special management system for implementing these projects. Thus, a commission is being formed on scientific and technological development of the Russian Federation. It will include representatives of federal agencies and academic and expert communities.
The Government also plans to support other promising fields of technological development, especially if large new multi-billion markets are likely to emerge around new ideas. Russia currently needs breakthrough products and services that existing production and services can be aligned with. This will make it possible not only to support an idea at the consideration stage but also to create a new ecosystem around it and engage related industries.
Now regarding areas where technological breakthroughs are possible. First, it is medicine and biology. Human health, increasing life expectancy and the quality of life have been and remain a priority, including for the Russian Government. We have made a lot of progress in this area, especially in fundamental and clinical medicine.
It won’t take long to find an example. Last year Russia became an unrivalled leader in creating an effective vaccine against the coronavirus. Now we have four such vaccines already. A mass vaccination campaign is underway and production abroad is being set up.
The second area is IT, I would say, particularly if we take into account Russia’s traditional strength in mathematical disciplines. There are a number of potential breakthrough points here. They include cybersecurity systems, standard software products for robots, including for domestic, industrial, medical and entertainment uses. They also include solutions for pilotless transport. The Government sees a large potential in using such vehicles not only for people’s personal needs but also in industry and cargo haulage.
Another promising area is quantum calculations and communications. It requires not only IT specialists but also scientists familiar with theoretical physics. We have a strong academic school here, too.
There are also good opportunities in photonics, including radio photonics, chemistry and bioactive compound technology for targeted therapy.
It is absolutely crucial to develop new areas but we should also look for solutions where we are leaders now so as to retain our strong positions in the global market and to subsequently transfer our leadership to promising new areas. For instance, we have serious potential in nuclear and hydrogen energy, and breakthroughs are also possible here. The Government will certainly pay special attention to these areas.
One more question. It is asked by Danila Yolshin, president of the student council at Kemerovo State University. He asks my opinion about distance learning and the prospects it has.
I would say I feel ambiguous about distance learning. It certainly has its obvious positive sides but it also has some negative aspects.
The transition to this format of learning was unavoidable during the lockdown. We felt it was important for studies to continue but we also had to protect teachers’ and students’ health. However, we all realise that nothing will replace live communication – in lecture rooms, laboratories and during seminars. The situation is now gradually improving, and there is definitely no talk about using distance learning as the only teaching format. We do not have such plans.
Of course, the development of distance learning formats became one of the past year’s biggest achievements. During the pandemic, educational institutions – from schools to universities – were able to increase their digital resources. The Digital Education Environment federal project, which is a crucial part of the Education national project, got an extra boost. Up-to-date equipment was purchased and new e-materials for distance learning were created. I am sure that the new education technologies are here to stay and we are planning to introduce a digital education environment in 75 regions for more than half a million school students in the coming years. By that time schools will have online access to digital learning resources and will definitely get the necessary equipment.
Here is another advantage. Even those teachers who, to put it mildly, were not on friendly terms with the computer, raised their digital literacy. We have a new standard for a teacher’s qualification now – an ability to work in all formats, online and in-person.
Today millions of people can watch lectures by best professors from the leading universities. This helps to increase the quality of education and makes education in Russia, with our immense distances, more accessible even for residents of the most remote regions.
To answer the question: we will not make the entire education system based on distance learning because we value what only an in-person teaching format can provide: teacher-student interaction. Otherwise, the quality of education is sure to be affected, for example, in engineering and natural sciences or at medical schools. How can you do without working in the laboratory? There are also issues regarding examination control. Let’s be honest: few students will resist the temptation to use a cheat sheet at an online exam.
So I think we ought to find a reasonable and necessary balance between all teaching formats and preserve personal contact between the teacher and the student.