Meeting with experts on the issue of “Open Data”
Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues. We have gathered here in order to discuss issues to do with open data. I believe that it would be pointless for me to speak for a long time at this meeting with experts. There is one thing that I want to do. I would like to apologise because probably not everyone here will be able to speak. The organisers of the meeting should probably be blamed for this. We should hold smaller meetings, so that all the concerned participants would be able to make their brief statements. Nevertheless, it is quite good that we have gathered for this expanded meeting. I would like to give the floor to those who want to tell us something. Please go ahead.
Ivan Begtin (Director of the Information Culture non-profit partnership): Good afternoon, my name is Ivan Begtin, director of the Information Culture non-profit partnership.
The relevant principles that were formulated by public organisations addressing the open data issue amount to public and state requests that all data owners create the required databases. Consequently, these principles are the result of public work…
Dmitry Medvedev: Are these already generally recognised principles? Have they already been adapted by the community, and are they being used accordingly?
Ivan Begtin: Yes, they are. Actually, this is considered an innovation in Russia, but it is a generally accepted trend worldwide. There are over 200 open data catalogues. <…> Dozens of competitions have already been held all over the world. In my estimate, over 60 competitions have been organised, but no one knows their exact number. However, in most countries where open data catalogues have appeared, competitions for developers of computer applications using state data are inevitably and immediately organised. Thousands of applications using open state data have already been developed. As soon as people obtain accessible data, they try to use this data creatively for business purposes, so that society could use this data for its own benefit.
And, finally, there are dozens of projects in the area of civil oversight. This is a key aspect of the open data issue. This includes anti-corruption programmes, efforts to combat various violations and the possibility of monitoring specific aspects. What one, two or three public activists who are able to find something manually are doing is a far cry from what people who have the necessary skills for using automatic systems can accomplish. This concerns efforts to oversee expenditures and purchases and a great many other issues.
Let’s see the next slide, please. I would like to say a few words about the relevant global experience. These screenshots shows several web portals worldwide. This is the World Bank’s open data web portal, this is an inter-state web portal, and this is the official web portal of the United States Government at data.gov. This is the data/gov.uk project in the United Kingdom, and this is the data.gov web portal in Australia. There are 202 other state, inter-state, regional and municipal web portals. This trend has already become extremely popular.
And now let’s see the next slide, please. I would like to single out a US project, which is a logical continuation of the open data project. Instead of merely declassifying specific data, we must realise that such data is the foundation, and that it is not an end in itself. These are essential tools and the building blocks of public projects, and these projects… For instance, the United States has developed a special programme making it possible to support all small-scale public projects through competitions. Over 150 competitions for developers have been organised in the United States under the challenge.gov project, an official web portal. People submitted hundreds of projects during these competitions. A community of developers continues to evolve. In effect, developers promptly learn about new inventions, which are spread actively through social networks. The main ideology holds that some data might be of interest to people, and that society might be interested in some other data. Right now, society is in no position to request or comprehend some types of data. But the state can draw attention to various issues by creating declassified databases and by providing incentives in the form of competitions.
Dmitry Medvedev: Whose web portal is this?
Ivan Begtin: This is a US web portal.
Dmitry Medvedev: I see, but is this a federal or some other web portal?
Ivan Begtin: This is a federal web portal.
Dmitry Medvedev: Federal, I see. Does the Government own the servers?
Ivan Begtin: At first, it was a private web portal. In fact, US federal officials noticed it, and they decided to create a similar federal web portal.
Dmitry Medvedev: Does it currently accumulate all these data?
Ivan Begtin: Yes. This is part of the US Government policy.
Let’s see the next slide, please. This has to do with the evolution of knowledge and the role of data. This slide is more general, and it will allow us to get an idea of open data, and how this data is obtained. Data is the basic ingredient. People who have cooked their own food know that they need the necessary ingredients – flour, eggs…
Dmitry Medvedev: But sometimes you are unable to accomplish what you want.
Ivan Begtin: Data provides at least some opportunity for doing this. Data is the mainstay of databases. We have created some “edible” products on the basis of these data, but so far they are not very “tasty.”
A presentation requires attractive-looking data, which has been compiled and “decorated” in some beautiful manner. When we “consume” data, it turns into knowledge. The purpose of open data is to serve as the “ingredients” of knowledge that will be consumed by us. And this signifies a transition to a knowledge-based economy, a transition to an entirely new form of organisation of society. We strive to attain this form, and, in effect, we already live in such a society.
Let’s see the next slide, please. Russia was the first to launch the OpenGovData public project. Without false modesty, I can say that this project was developed by our partnership. We displayed initiative, while working on this private project. We collected open state and commercial data. Our main objective was to convince officials to declassify certain types of data, to clarify various priorities and to assess public demand for specific types of data. Fortunately, this is not the only project, and everything is continuing to develop.
Dmitry Medvedev: Did you have any problems with this OpenGovData public project?
Ivan Begtin: Strangely enough, we did not.
Dmitry Medvedev: Did someone try to catch you and tell you that such data should not be made public? Did someone ask you why you were doing this, and tell you to mind your own business?
Ivan Begtin: Of course, questions were asked. But, on the whole, we are rather persistent, and we have been doing this for several years, about three years, to be more exact. We have been promoting the open data ideology during this period.
Dmitry Medvedev: What do you have on this portal currently?
Ivan Begtin: We have compiled a catalogue of all open data that we have found at the federal level, and in part the regional level, at the level of major state corporations and private companies. A considerable part of machine-readable information has already been published. We are also developing special programmes for obtaining non-machine-readable information from government sites. We are converting it into machine-readable information and making it public. We are collecting information that can be made machine-readable. But this is not always the case, and sometimes we publish beautiful applications, such as visualisations. There are about 700 arrays there. Of course, this is not all. We believe that there are several thousand arrays in Russia, if we consider all levels and branches of power.
Dmitry Medvedev: How are you doing this? Where do you get the money?
Ivan Begtin: We are a non-profit organisation and work as experts. Above all, we are trying to promote all this. This is not such a large problem and does not require too much money. All in all, our costs ran into several hundred thousand roubles. In the beginning, I paid out of my own pocket for this.
Please show us the next slide.
I have shown you several examples of government projects. Regrettably, I cannot do this interactively. As for our projects of revealing data from the sites of federal government agencies, I have shown you slides related to the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media, to name a few. There is also the portal of the city of Moscow (I’m sure you will hear about it in more detail – it is one of the first regional portals, perhaps the first, and the most informative), and the portal of the prefecture of Zelenograd, which was also opened at their own initiative. In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk they have also made a portal for developers, so we can safely say that this is in large part a grassroots initiative, which at the same time comes from the authorities.
Show us the next slide, please. This is the most impressive portal of open information in Russia. It shows what is being published and how. First, there is the portal of the Moscow Government – data.mos.ru. It has appeared recently and this is a big step forward for Moscow and the world in general. It is very good that it has appeared. At last we can have a dialogue with Moscow and say, “Guys, you have not published everything there,” or “That’s great, we’ll start using that.” This is the first step toward dialogue. This is open information from federal government bodies and there are interesting data on tax breaks and the media register. As a public organisation, we are using this information. We are confident that business community will use it. The Federal Treasury has published this information for a long time now. The register of government contracts has allowed public organisations to monitor them now. The Bank of Russia has also published its information for many years, and our portal OpenGovData is actually a catalogue of what we are monitoring, rather than our own data.
Show us the next slide, please. Now I’d like to say a few words about information that is conspicuously missing in Russia. Access to certain data is a huge problem here. It is comparable to the same problem in other countries. We do not differ from them in any way. This is not a specific feature of our country. We do not have criminal statistics, say, on a police unit. It simply does not exist. We can get such information at the regional level, but no details. In fact, we do not have user-friendly Rosstat (Federal Service for State Statistics) statistics.
Dmitry Medvedev: What do you mean by “user-friendly”? They probably think it is user-friendly for everyone.
Ivan Begtin: I don’t want to criticise the Federal Service for State Statistics, yet I believe that the data they publish are extremely not user-friendly and are published for reading only. This information is not real data; it cannot be checked and is not very user-friendly. European and US statistical agencies publish this kind of information as a complete database in a single file, which is available to download, sort out and analyse. This is impossible in Russia. We hope that this is not done deliberately, but is only an established practice.
Regarding the statistics on accidents, fires and the like, these do not include details, just like the crime statistics. There is no contact information for the relevant government agencies – basic information such as their working hours, addresses, officials in charge, telephone numbers, е-mail addresses, etc. You have to look for them in various different databases, which is not easy at all.
And lastly, environmental monitoring statistics are, unfortunately, not available in a digitalised format in Russia, and possibly not even in any format.
Next slide, please. These are competitions for designers. I have already mentioned challenge.gov, but I must tell you that it is not the only project of its kind, although it is possibly the largest and most embracing. NASA regularly holds competitions for space applications, where entrants develop designs using data provided by NASA. We have already held two Apps4Russia competitions and will hold the third one this year. We have held several of these kinds of competitions in Russia, for example Code4Country, and so we are experienced in this. We believe that this experience should be used in all areas. It could be a government-sponsored practice, although many commercial companies would also be ready to finance it and so the government would only need to provide the data and promote the event.
The next slide will sum up this presentation. In my opinion, open data is an inalienable part of an open state. A state cannot be open, in principle, without levelling the digital divide between common people and information owners. Open data provides the basis for a knowledge economy and for the establishment of companies which work in the information market and which search for and create new services and new information. Public monitoring is impossible without open data and will never become effective without it, because it will only be able to monitor some individual elements. The first steps towards this goal should be the adoption of a law and specific requirements for disclosing information in a computer readable format. There are laws that allow the publication of information, but there are not enough laws on computer readable data. If we take this first step, we will be able to progress to the next level.
Dmitry Medvedev: Ivan, what decisions should the Government make? You have been invited here to convince me, so that I can issue instructions to draft the necessary documents.
Ivan Begtin: I believe that the most crucial thing is to adopt legislation on disclosing data in a computer readable form. This provision must be sealed by a law, which would…
Dmitry Medvedev: Are there any draft laws on this issue?
Ivan Begtin: Yes, the State Duma is currently hearing a law on this. It must include all the necessary details so as to be truly comprehensive. For example, the current wording only concerns federal agencies, whereas it should include all branches of power, all government agencies at all levels, including regional level. It should also cover the other branches of power, namely the judicial and legislative branches.
Also, I believe that it is extremely important for all officials to know the meaning of the term “open data.” It is also important to launch an educational programme that would include all forms of education, from introductory education for officials to advanced training, competence centres, workshop conferences and seminars. This should be done everywhere and should become standard, not only for open data, but for everything regarding Open Government and an open state.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much. Let us continue. I just have one request, which is to speak a little more concisely, okay? Go ahead please.
Vladimir Gerasimov (executive director of the Interfax International Information Group): I represent consumers of open information. My name is Vladimir Gerasimov, from Interfax. For us, the main point is that one of the goals of publishing Government information is to create new segments of the news market, new services. This process is already taking place. In fact, developers, public organisations and private companies were waiting for the Government to start officially publishing this information. They are already monitoring it and there are many examples of how they are overcoming legal, technical and all other barriers on the way to it. I’d like to tell you about these examples. Show the first slide, please.
Let’s start with the Government purchases that have already been mentioned. There are two groups of services here. The first one unites services that are being created for public monitoring. The ability to obtain computer readable information allows the public to assess the performance efficiency of individual departments.
Analysts have conducted many studies of a number of major Government clients, such as the Moscow Department of Information Technology. They have also studied many other specific topics and have openly published them on sites that make it possible to assess the effectiveness of expenses in several areas. There is also a very large group of services containing marketing information that companies need in order to make a decision on their participation in Government bargaining. They can find out what purchase is taking place in some particular region. They can monitor it and assess prices and competition in different regions.
The amount of accessible information is tremendous. There are about 200,000 agencies that act as Government clients, another 200,000 subjects of the 223rd federal law and another 500,000 companies that supply goods and services. The market is already there. There are several dozen agencies operating on it and its overall turnover of commercial services amounts to $40-$50 million per year. This slide shows the addresses of these numerous companies.
The second area is judicial information. Although data on courts of general jurisdiction are not fully available as distinct from the information of commercial courts, there are quite a few services that allow the public to analyse the severity of judgments in different regions and compare cases. People can assess the performance of prosecutors and lawyers, see the ratio of premeditated murders and involuntary manslaughters and obtain a host of other information that may be helpful for public control and for citizens as potential participants in this process.
There is another large area in which this information is used – the assessment of credit risk. Banks and companies must know what is happening with borrowers, whether they are under threat of court actions or have been faced with demands by creditors. This information (judicial information – the electronic catalogue of bankruptcies) is already being used in information systems. Their turnover has already reached about $80 million in Russia. This is also a large market. It is growing at the rate of 20%-25% per year. The World Bank is using this information in Doing Business – the assessment of credit risks. Regarding this parameter, we have four points out of five, which is not bad at all.
Show the next slide, please. Now I’d like to tell you about some even more useful items. A public cadastre map has become accessible some time ago. In a matter of weeks private designers have created services for iPhone and Android that allow users to receive information on their mobile phones – about a plot of land, its area and designation and the agency of the State Register that is in charge of it. Our journalists, for one, have made an analysis of a building on Tverskaya Street and established who owns this luxurious property. Analysing large information arrays is a new direction for journalism.
Information on the incomes of officials is accessible on many sites in different formats. Some services have already generalised it – it is possible to see what they earned in different years, see a comparison between officials and their family members. The amount and, hence, the transparency of this information is growing.
Information on the budget is available at least at two major services where one can see expenses in different areas and regions and assess their effectiveness. Thus people are being involved in efforts to determine the most efficient spending of budget funds.
Next slide, please. This information is even more helpful for ordinary users. These are examples of cities that have accessible information on public transport. Importantly, they already have private, that is, independent services based on the information of municipal governments on transit. One can see where a particular tram is, when it will arrive and when it will reach its final stop. Novosibirsk has a service based on information on accidents with pedestrians. It shows the most dangerous places and describes the circumstances of these accidents and the people who are most typically involved. This is an example of how developers and journalists are turning unemotional official information into something accessible and understandable, which is being actively used.
Show us the last slide, to conclude. I think the state is already trying to catch up… The demand for open information has already taken shape and it is already being used…
Dmitry Medvedev: The state is always trying to catch up. It is very rarely in the lead.
Vladimir Gerasimov: Nonetheless, the existence of the demand is important in itself. I think one of the major achievements is the ability of private developers to improve the quality of information and make it more accessible. Needless to say, not all information is of equal interest to everyone. Some information is not commercial and we will require contests and grants, as my colleagues have mentioned, because we must support this demand. That said, the state itself must not replace this business by creating finite services – otherwise it will discourage private companies from processing this information. Providing data in computer-readable format is a form of support for such business, a form of subsidy, and businesses will see it that way. The main conclusion is that we need effective feedback, because evaluating what citizens, businesses, and civil society most need, and evaluating the effectiveness of measures we take – that’s what this kind of mutual exchange is supposed to accomplish. Dialogue is very important, it will make the process more efficient. Thank you for your attention.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thanks. And what do you think should be done in the near term?
Vladimir Gerasimov: There are basic documents. We need to move step by step, because we have the necessary foundation, there are just lots of details still to work out. There are certain legal and legislative constraints on processing and using certain kinds of data that will be needed. There will be technological challenges. This is a long process. We can’t resolve all the issues with just one decision. It is important to remove the main barriers, and then dialogue…
Dmitry Medvedev: What are these barriers? Let’s just get rid of them. What barriers should be removed?
Vladimir Gerasimov: It is important to clarify what computer-readable data involves.
Dmitry Medvedev: We discussed it already. Converting data into a computer-readable format.
Vladimir Gerasimov: Adopting a regulatory document that sets basic standards and requirements on how the information is to be provided. Standards, general technical and legal information, and pilot agencies where the system will be worked out, and then…
Dmitry Medvedev: Which agencies should these be? Suggest some.
Vladimir Gerasimov: Four agencies have already been involved. The major ones are the Tax Service, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography…
Dmitry Medvedev: Should we involve more agencies?
Vladimir Gerasimov: Yes, we should. As part of our dialogue, we compiled a list of agencies that are already prepared to make public their data and whose data is needed.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good. Colleagues, whoever wishes to, please go ahead.
Viktor Panin (Chairman of the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Rights of Consumers of Education Services): My name is Viktor Panin, I’m the Chairman of the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Rights of Consumers of Education Services. Since they mentioned the Ministry of Education and Science, Mr Medvedev, I’d like to list the major advantages of open data in the system of public and state oversight. The President also mentioned this at the meeting with his supporters recently. I’d like to cite an example of the need and importance of this work within the education system.
For example, disclosing information on educational institutions’ funding – on expenses and revenue, teacher salaries, various grants, non-budgetary funds and so on – in my view, this would considerably reduce corruption risks in this area. It is no secret that forced voluntary payments, essentially extortion, is a serious problem in kindergartens and secondary schools. And this phenomenon is partly the result of closed information, or a lack of necessary information. Swindlers and dishonest officials gain from this. This is my first point.
Second, in our view, opening information pertaining to academic plans and the programmes of all educational institutions would reduce costs as well as the time that our officials, the heads of these educational institutions and heads of departments of education, spend responding to the numerous queries they receive. This is also a big problem.
And the third example. In my view, posting open source information on the results of exams, including the Unified State Exam, would contribute to forming an unbiased system of rating educational institutions and would help parents to make better informed decisions when sending their children to specific educational institutions. This open source information would create feedback and thus improve the quality of education. That is, a system of open data, for example in education, would directly support the quality of education and spur new public initiatives in education.
There are some examples. The Moscow Government is intensively working in this area on the Open Government platform. They have begun to disclose the information on the location of educational institutions, linking it with an interactive e-map. They plan to post all the relevant information on the budget and so on in the future. This proved very interesting for people. I think you could instruct the Government to request regions and municipalities to consider this initiative. We know that local government bodies have their own peculiarities. Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. You know, I’d like to comment on what you have said, Mr Panin. First, you are absolutely right, even about the current situation in the higher school. We are all not very happy with this situation. We want our universities to grow stronger and improve in the ratings. To achieve this, we must know what they are worth because the reality at a university and the legal or illegal information about it that is in circulation are absolutely different things. So I’d support the idea of a more open attitude to information concerning the operations of a university. It could apply to any university – one of the top five Russian universities, a major state university or a private university. We need some common standards of providing information that show what a university has to offer a consumer of education services, an applicant or an applicant’s parent.
Regarding salaries, this is also an important component. I worked at a university for a long time. I can say that the situation with salaries varies greatly among different universities and cities. However, it often differs from the available data or from the situation described by some individuals. This situation is better in one place and worse in another – in fact we have set ourselves the goal of doubling salaries of professors and teachers. You made a good point, especially considering the fact that extortion is a feature of higher education too. We know that unfortunately this practice is rather widespread.
You made a good point about curricular and programmes, because these curricular vary. Some time ago I became interested in comparing the curricular of quality law schools, since this is a subject I’m familiar with. I had a practical interest in it because my son was deciding where he wanted to enrol. I saw that those curricular varied. Perhaps I had a concept of the post-Soviet period, when everything was basically identical in Moscow, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg or anywhere else. I saw that those curricular varied a great deal. They have a common programme, but it differs in terms of courses, credits, and examinations. I’m sure this is true for all other professions, especially for technical professions that are much more difficult than the humanities (I hope nobody will take offense here). I think it is very important to understand how these curricular and programmes look. I also support the idea of posting the exam results to be used as an indicator.
I will mention one more issue, which has become very popular and pressing recently – research, dissertations, the work of special councils. Everybody has known for a long time that the situation is unsatisfactory here. The number of fake PhD’s and DSc’s exceeds any reasonable level. I believe it is absolutely appropriate that this issue has surfaced now because if the institution of research continues to take this path, it will discredit graduate degrees. It is hurting to think about it for me, personally. I think: I have invested some labour in writing my dissertation – and somebody downloaded his dissertation from the internet or paid for an error-riddled dissertation to be done for him/her… Should he pay for an original dissertation, it would not be that bad. But they just copy bits from different sources! Why do I say this? Some time ago, I suggested that all theses be posted online. This is something obvious. Various software packages would make it possible to assess these theses, to find the sources of quotations or to detect the lack of quotations. Therefore, everyone would see immediately what kind of a thesis this is. I believe this is a sensitive issue for universities and for our entire academic community, but we need to go through it. In fact, this is penitence of sorts because, I repeat, otherwise the essence of academic efforts and the system for awarding academic degrees become devalued. All this should be part of open databases. This information should be easily accessible, so that we would be able to quickly assess the sources of any specific thesis, rather than its contents. This would make it possible to see whether any thesis is the result of independent research or whether this is an unscrupulous compilation when ideas are thrown together without attributing them to their true authors.
I believe that all this is very important, and that we should start with theses. After that, we should examine other research papers and even students’ papers. I have mentioned this before, but perhaps it is somewhat excessive. We know how many students write their papers, and the way term papers are researched. Basic principles are learned at a young age, and if a 17-18-year-old student does not want to put any effort into his or her term paper but just downloads it from the Internet or makes a compilation of other people’s work, then he or she will continue to work in a similar way in the future. Therefore, I understand that it would be impossible to introduce this system at universities overnight, although we could try. I don’t know what our esteemed rectors who are present here think about this, but, obviously, the current situation leaves much to be desired. The way things stand at some universities is more or less acceptable but others require major improvements. And this, too, should serve as a criterion for assessing the effectiveness of any specific higher educational institution. This is a rather painful issue.
The Government can issue instructions on this issue. I don’t mind. So, who would like to go on? Go ahead, please.
Artyom Yermolayev (Moscow Government Minister and Head of the Department for Information Technology): May I say a few words? My name is Artyom Yermolayev, and I am a member of the Moscow Government, which is working to make this information widely available. We have already been mentioned several times…
Dmitry Medvedev: There have been some positive comments about your efforts.
Artyom Yermolayev: We are currently implementing three aspects of the process. The first stage focuses on open data. We have created an online resource, which was coordinated with Mr Mikhail Abyzov, including the relevant information disclosure. We have disclosed 140 levels of information in the form of spreadsheets, diagrams, maps and computer-readable texts. The main purpose of this project is to provide information to Muscovites about new facilities in their respective districts. People will be able to open maps and see all schools, kindergartens, pharmacies and libraries. For instance, they can find out what fun rides have safety certificates. This is very important for us... When you take your child to a playground, you must be sure that this neighbourhood fun ride really has a safety certificate. We know that, unfortunately, illegal fun rides are installed every now and then. That’s why we are now posting this multi-level data. I would now like to discuss various problems we have encountered. Nevertheless, this is the first aspect.
The second stage involves disclosing information that has a direct impact on the quality of life. We must allow Muscovites to run their city. We have opened three web portals where people can submit their complaints and recommendations on how to improve a local courtyard, residential building or road. We currently use this data to plan budget funding for all municipal utilities projects, including repairs, routine maintenance and overhauls. People make an active use of this online resource: we process hundreds of thousands of requests.
The third stage is also very important. It involves various mobile gadgets. Previously, we had talked about web portals. The city now has 100% mobile phone coverage. In fact, this coverage now exceeds 100%. As a rule, smartphones featuring all sorts of online applications make up for 30-40% of all mobile phones. It is important that people should be able to use these applications and to access all this open information any time they need to. You can forget your purse at home and go out, but you never forget your phone because you are absolutely helpless without it. We are currently introducing all these services so that a person can take a photo of the area and upload these images on the website. These images can tell the utility services what changes need to be made. Moreover, it becomes possible to access databases or to find the required facilities in neighbouring districts. We are implementing all these projects.
What problems do we face? The first problem is the mentality of officials who, for some reason, were always closed to society. And we must try and convince officials at every level that they must now adopt transparent procedures in their work. This is a huge challenge because it is impossible to change the mentality just by issuing instructions.
Dmitry Medvedev: Actually, the whole point with officials is that you can issue instructions to them. You can tell them to unbutton today and to start behaving in an open and transparent manner. But they won’t do anything, of course.
Artyom Yermolayev: This leads to another problem, namely, the secrecy regime. They are trying to fence themselves off from the public. Unfortunately, numerous regulatory documents prohibiting the publication of this data have been issued. Here is a simple example: a colleague has revealed that Interior Ministry data, which is in high demand, including crime statistics, city maps and road accidents, are contained in a closed database. If you start working, they tell you that there are ten resolutions and ten laws making this data inaccessible. This data may be in high demand, so this implies the liberalisation of such information.
Dmitry Medvedev: We must address this issue, especially crime statistics, no matter what. I remember that absolutely all crime statistics remained classified in Soviet times when I was a student. These crime statistics could only be declassified with the approval of top leaders. Therefore, we must declassify certain data whose publication is not fraught with any security risks. Sorry for interrupting you, but failure to publish this official information leads to all sorts of conjectures, and the consequences are far worse. In reality, accurate statistics, whenever possible, are often better than conjectures, for example, about fighting crime.
Artyom Yermolayev: The third aspect implies the introduction of legal responsibility for the publication of this data by officials. We must assume responsibility for updating this data regularly.
The fourth, and most important, aspect is that we now have declassified large amounts of multi-level data, and we are being told that our information is not entirely correct. This is very important for us but we face the following problem here: can we change information on the basis of an individual opinion when each database has tens or even hundreds of thousands of entries. We must also assess the relevant mechanism for introducing changes. If mistakes are found by members of the public rather than officials, then this means that the databases in question have to be updated accordingly.
Dmitry Medvedev: I don’t know if you can make changes in the databases the way Wikipedia does. I think that the attitude towards this data should be somewhat different.
Artyom Yermolayev: That’s right, and that’s why we are currently searching for an algorithm that would help us to find a balance between Wikipedia and the real legal significance of specific actions.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. Mr Yermolayev, you have mentioned several problems. For instance, you have noted that many Muscovites already use smartphones and other gadgets to access databases. I would like to bring up another issue which I have recently discussed with some colleagues present here. I am talking about the poor quality of communications in Moscow. As you know, I arrived in Moscow from St Petersburg in 1999, and I was surprised that Russia’s largest city and capital had such substandard communications networks. Now, 14 years later, Moscow still has the worst communications networks. I visit the most remote areas in the country, and the situation there is better. They have 3G, so everything is downloaded quickly, and the Internet connection functions well. Even this EDGE format doesn’t always work in Moscow. You know, I am not blaming the City Hall for this because it is a job for our mobile operators, but, frankly speaking, something has to be done about this. We are standing on the verge of a technological age when each person downloads colossal amount of data on personal computers. We have to introduce fourth-generation communications and do it as quickly as possible; meanwhile in Moscow even elementary early 2000s standard communications are not working. This cannot be tolerated. I would like to draw the attention of the Ministry of Telecommunications to this and I would like to draw the attention of all our mobile phone operators responsible for this and of course of the Moscow Government.
Sergei Plugotarenko (Director of the Russian Electronic Communications Association): To follow up on the topic of business aspects of open data which has been raised here, I am ready to answer for business, but only for the internet business.
Let's move straight to the next slide. My name is Sergei Plugotarenko and I am the director of the Russian Electronic Communications Association. I will be very brief and try to keep my contribution down to the seven minutes I have been allocated as my presentation has just four parts. All four parts are based on simple and understandable studies we have carried out together with the Higher School of Economics and I will then present the conclusions we arrived at.
The RECA is an internet business association created in 2006. We have our own conferences and our own venues, which enables us to conduct expert surveys on various issues quickly. And there is our experience of work with the Open Government that was launched in the autumn of last year… The study we carried out jointly with the Higher School of Economics, called “The Economics of Runet,” about which I will speak in some more detail later on was a kind of catalyst. After that study we asked ourselves what needs to be done to boost the Runet economy and we reached point five (it is marked as point five here) and it deals with open data. In the opinion of the members of the business community that we brought into the work with the Open Government, open data should be one of the key aspects of its work.
I’ll tell you in a nutshell about the study. We carried it out last autumn, it was the first full-scale economic study, we measured 11 markets and obtained the following figures. We realised that Runet today is worth 0.5 trillion roubles, that's 1% of Russia’s GDP. The internet is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy: it is growing at a rate of 30% a year. Next we started asking questions…
Dmitry Medvedev: Do I understand that 0.5 trillion is the turnover or is it something else?
Sergei Plugotarenko: Yes, this is the turnover of the 11 markets shown in the previous slide.
Moving on to the next slide we see that the so-called ecosystem of internet-dependent markets (we have tried to probe into that also) is much larger. But our study was not concerned with communications in general. We did not look at infrastructure issues or issues of government procurement, we looked only at what is generated by business in terms of content, in terms of services. And if we try to assess all the rest as well, the figures are much higher.
We in the Open Government naturally ask the question, what can be done to increase the percentage and speed up growth? We identified the five areas for which… We named them depending on how good or bad their progress was, that is, whether they were growth points or headaches. Open data is one of our positions to which we pay particular attention and on which we at our Association have worked pretty hard over the past four months or so.
What did we find? First, we saw that Russia has something of an advantage because we can now analyse the West, look at what is happening in the West and draw certain conclusions about the problems they have, draw conclusions for ourselves as to what could be a better approach. But we understand that this is a strategic area, and the business community is aware of that. I will demonstrate this by citing the results of the survey we conducted.
First, we have consulted the experts. Let me tell you frankly that half of them did not understand what the term means. Once we explained it to them, they said, “Ah, yes of course, now we understand”.
Dmitry Medvedev: One half is a good figure.
Sergei Plugotarenko: You understand that this is half of all the internet companies who know about this subject.
Dmitry Medvedev: So you mean only the internet companies?
Sergei Plugotarenko: Yes, of course, the internet business. Half of them did not understand…
Dmitry Medvedev: That's another matter then.
Sergei Plugotarenko: When we told them about it they said: “Oh yes, of course, we are working on this, this is cartography and meteorology. We simply didn’t know the term.” What was the result? Next slide please. First, we rated the demand coming from the 50% who were able in some way to associate their company with this trend. The environment came first, followed by other quite understandable categories (I am not going to list them all). They include the expectations of the experts as to whether these categories could underpin business and perhaps we could make some comments on this. Next please. There are eight altogether. We see that in the opinion of our experts, medicine and scientific data are at the bottom of the rating.
Next slide. To sum up the answers we received from our experts, about three quarters think it is a worthwhile idea. They think it can help the economy, that it makes data more valuable in general and that it can promote the growth of the internet economy. However, 84% of those who work with open data complained that they are very hard to process, which raises the question of systematisation and computer readable forms. They believe it is the main brake on business working successfully with open data. Even so, 46% of them say they believe the economic effect is positive and that the use of open data can add significant value to their products. About one fifth of the experts were interested in non-commercial services, they are ready to take part in them and to help them develop, Ivan Begtin was speaking about this. And more than half believe it is necessary to promote this idea precisely because not everyone understands what it is all about.
Commenting on the conclusions, we find that the companies feel that if Russia stakes a strong enough claim and takes some steps towards disclosing data, that could help us to attract additional investment, so this idea is up in the air. And they note the need for this open data to be interconnected and they say that the main obstacles are opaqueness, low quality and sometimes not enough relevance. Interestingly, they say that they are ready to use scientific data because, not to put too fine a point to it, the state has made outlays, government money has been spent and it would be great if this data was accessible to business and we could build our services based on them.
The market has noted that if Russia becomes committed to the open data idea it would help to make government bodies more transparent, form a market of applications and services, both mobile and stationary, and generally improve the investment climate, including in the Runet, it would help to implement the Open Government concept and the business community is ready to help. And finally two points that businessmen made that do not directly pertain to business. That is the increased involvement of the civil society and improved quality of life in general as a result of disclosure of data.
Very briefly I will go over the international experience, other speakers have already touched upon it. We have singled out a number of countries and we realised that, for example, as regards navigation and cartography it is the USA and Australia, we can look at their experience; labour and government spending, that’s Great Britain; medicine and agriculture, you have to go to Kenya, but I repeat we are lucky because we can look at these cross-sections.
The next slide shows in more detail what is happening in the financial sector in every country. Take, for example, Australia: they get about 400% returns for every dollar invested, and Australia believes that in the coming years the disclosure of data will add 1.2% to its GDP. In Britain things do not look so bright, but as our experts have gathered…
Dmitry Medvedev: Things are never that bright there.
Sergei Plugotarenko: Yes. They expected the benefits from the opening of data to amount to 1.6 billion, but in reality it turned out to be 100 million pounds. But they did something very clever, they concluded that apparently the demand rating was not correctly structured. So they set up the first Open Data Institute in the world, which hopefully will set international standards and help our experts, among others. For example, the United States saves $350 billion on medical services, that is, government services, due to data disclosure.
Dmitry Medvedev: Who did the counting? And why 350 billion? I am just curious because it is a fantastic sum.
Sergei Plugotarenko: Yes, this is the highest figure of all that can be measured. This data…
Dmitry Medvedev: How was it counted? After all, you understand what 350 billion means.
Sergei Plugotarenko: It’s a lot of money.
Dmitry Medvedev: It's simply staggering.
Sergei Plugotarenko: I can read out to you what I have here: “350 billion dollars have been saved due to the creation of services that optimise the work of preventative medicine, help clinics and medical institutions to exchange best clinical practices and keep electronic patient records.”
Dmitry Medvedev: Still I think this is a very rough estimate. Obviously, considerable sums of money are being saved, but not 350 billion. How much is 16% of GDP in America?
Sergei Plugotarenko: 14 trillion.
Dmitry Medvedev: You see, 14 trillion of GDP, that’s one-sixth. What is their healthcare budget?
Sergei Plugotarenko: It works out at 1/42 of GDP.
Dmitry Medvedev: All the same, it’s too much.
Sergei Plugotarenko: Unfortunately I…
Dmitry Medvedev: But if this is really the case, it is really great, it is a colossal resource. But honestly, with all due respect, I am a bit skeptical. Well, anyway, do continue.
Sergei Plugotarenko: We will pass this question on to McKinsey. The European Union is much more modest: they put the effect from introducing open data at 40 billion euros.
Dmitry Medvedev: For the whole of the European Union?
Sergei Plugotarenko: For the whole of the European Union. That seems to be a more realistic figure.
Conclusions and recommendations. You have asked the previous speakers to give concrete recommendations. I’ll tell you what our sector has come up with. The industry believes that data disclosure should be a higher priority for the state than the creation of new services. That applies to all the technological platforms and all the sites. Let us pay more attention to data disclosure within the structures that already exist, the business community believes. And we would like to offer businesses – and hopefully that would meet their expectations – the list of the data that the state will disclose in the first place in computer readable format.
“Determining the responsibility of civil servants for untimely or incomplete data disclosure”: the business community believes the whip should be there.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, that's absolutely correct. Otherwise nothing will be done.
Sergei Plugotarenko: Businessmen also insist that the requests for proposals describing the information system the state is creating must specify the terms, principles and criteria for data disclosure. In other words, information on open data must be included in the request for proposal.
Another issue that worries our Association and which will definitely become more acute once we embark on the path of complying with the law on open data is part four of the Civil Code, which deals with open licenses. We have to balance and harmonise, and basically this position developed by working groups at the Telecommunications Ministry, agreed with the Private Law Institute, with the Culture Ministry, with the rights holders, with the Skolkovo Foundation and with our Association already exists. Apparently we have to exert joint efforts to speed up the adoption of the amendments that we have proposed for Part 4 of the Civil Code. Otherwise we may fall into a legal pit.
The next recommendation for the state is to pursue active work to foster demand and to promote our idea. This is basically what we did with the .rf domain when the idea was promoted at the highest level to send a signal that this is the right thing to do. I think government resources should be tapped in order to promote the open data idea.
Recommendations for business. That is simple. Those businesses that already know how to use open data should on no account be killed by the new rules, that is, they should continue to use them. They include some of our major companies.
Stimulating startups in this field. We have a very rough estimate that in two or three years’ time about 100 startups may appear that will use open data. This is the experience of the United States, adjusted to Russian conditions. And then an applications market should be formed on the basis of open data. Identifying demand, this is the classification that we have roughly developed. Work is needed to optimise it.
I would like to note something that I consider to be doubly important. There are no users, users have no internet access, regional users are more constrained than those in Moscow. There is no mobile internet, no use of open data. If we…
Dmitry Medvedev: I have already spoken about mobile internet in Moscow, and you should have no illusions.
Sergei Plugotarenko: Yes, you have spoken about it. I have four gadgets on me here and I switch from one to another to pick up a signal here and there.
Dmitry Medvedev: That’s it.
Sergei Plugotarenko: That is true. They perform better or worse, but there is no permanent trend. So, the digital divide exists: the open data idea is being neglected, legislation is not balanced, as I said earlier, the open data idea is not doing well. If the growth of the internet audience slows down, the open data idea will suffer, and the same is true of business. These are the key points. We should not allow internet penetration, which is high in Russia at present, to fall because of additional regulation.
Our aim is to keep up the growth rate and go from 1% of GDP to 2-3% in the coming years, and what is underscored at the bottom here… I think it is an attractive idea… I think one should offer a good idea to the state: to advertise the Russian internet at all levels as Russia’s greatest innovative economic achievement –to show its tremendous growth rates. Though government investment does not spread to the internet and online businesses but are limited to infrastructure, the Russian internet is growing at an unprecedented 30% a year – something to take pride in and deserving of assistance. This is our best idea. We arrived at this over a year ago. We really think we have something to be proud of.
The last slide please.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, this one is important.
Sergei Plugotarenko: Yes. Just a few words on this: we are prepared to make our modest contribution even right now… The next Russian internet forum, RIF+CYB, will convene in April. I think as may topics as possible should focus on open source data. We have a platform where all businesses are represented. Let’s work with Open Government to come up with ways to organize it, with sections, workshops, talk shows – anything you like. Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. By the by, 1% is not bad at all because we know what huge numbers it implies. Possibly general accounting will arrive at larger figures. We’ll see.
I would also like to talk a bit about a theme you mentioned – amending Part Four of the Civil Code concerning open licensing. I think it’s extremely important for us to consider other countries’ experience as we codify the relevant phenomena in our civil legislation because the issues of standardising and formalising, and of copyright and responsibility is a vital concern worldwide. Not to reinvent the wheel, we, including the internet community, should see in what direction this legislation is developing because legislators and jurists can be conservative, for the most part, and dogmatic about what we should do and what we shouldn’t.
So we should see what direction intellectual property rights are taking in theory and in practice. I call on the expert community to do so, too.
Ladies and gentlemen, who can make a concise statement? Speak up, please.
Marina Yanina (Yandex Director for Contacts with Government Agencies): My name is Marina Yanina, from Yandex. I’ll just say a few words. We are a unique company in terms of open data due to our interactive contact with users: We know from queries what information is in the greatest demand – traffic, addresses and education.
Our company can analyse the use rates of this information and provide feedback to the agencies that open it. This is only the beginning, and we must keep these activities going. If they stop, the public will lose confidence in the services that offer open data.
There is also a danger that must be avoided: Legislators might impose regulations that have no bearings on the legal acts that actually need improving. There are many kinds of data, and they demand different treatment. Open Government provides an unprecedented platform for detailed analyses of these questions. Businesspeople also think that little will be achieved in this field if the business community or public services work for it alone. What we need is a team effort. We are willing to organise a broad-based, representative competition for the developers of such supplements so as to promote competition and the establishment of new services, or the cause will be a failure. We will try to promote it in the regions also because Moscow doesn’t have a monopoly on talent. Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. I think it would be good if you were to organise such a competition. Yandex can afford it.
Marina Yanina: Yes, of course.
Dmitry Medvedev: So, pursue it. Anyone else wish to speak?
Andrei Potylitsyn (deputy chief of the presidential staff, Republic of Bashkortostan): Good afternoon. My name is Andrei Potylitsyn. I represent the presidential staff of Bashkortostan.
I’ll say just a few words about this work in our region. We launched an Open Republic project about a year ago. It includes several subprojects that concern open data – a computer-readable open budget, open data on contacts with public services, and a reorganised procedure for online applications of various sorts, which has had considerable economic impact.
I’ll also mention our problems and expectations from the project. My colleagues have mentioned the main problem already – it is legislative gaps. Here’s a simple example: We are working on a housing and services resource that envisions, among other functions, the monitoring of managing companies. Current legislation says these companies must open information about themselves and their budgets. To our regret, the law does not specify where such information should be placed. As a result companies deliberately choose obscure websites to post their information.
We think the law must stipulate, at the regional level at least, the mandatory publication of such information on an aggregate website for the public to have equal access to it. I mean any user obstacles should be removed. At this point, it takes considerable computer knowledge to get to this information.
There is another problem – government agencies don’t realise that such openness is mandatory. This needs a legal basis to make them open information that does not pose a security risk, as we talked about. That’s about all I wanted to say.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. As regards mandatory publication at some common resource, an aggregator, as you put it, I think that makes sense. You know, in general it is not an uncommon situation. The people working at certain kinds of outfits are very smart, and indeed things can be hidden such that nobody would ever be able to find them. That is true even of the internet although it would seem that searching the internet is much easier. This reminds me of a certain historical period in our country when announcements on tenders were published in newspapers with a circulation of 500 copies. The procedure was observed. What else was needed? The information has been conveyed to us. A certain number of investors were involved in preparing regulatory documents… You wanted to say something?
Oleg Fomichev (State Secretary-Deputy Minister of Economic Development): I would like to report, on the part of the Government, how we are catching up…
Dmitry Medvedev: Well, if you are going to speak on behalf of the Government you have to be concise, unlike some of our friends from other commercial and non-commercial sectors. You have three minutes.
Oleg Fomichev: Very well. In that case I will skip the introductory part: anyway you have already said that we got off to a slow start.
Show us the next slide then. The concept of open data was approved by a Government sub-commission in December, and we are proceeding in accordance with the concept and the roadmap that has been attached to it. We have completed the first stage. Today we heard about pilot federal executive bodies and pilot data sets that have been posted in order to see how it will all work out.
Today we have about 50 sets of open data, 48 to be more precise, and they are provided by four federal executive bodies. Starting this week we are launching the second stage during which we have to jointly announce on the Open Government site what priority sets of data we are going to disclose. You see, we formed pilot sites rather on the basis of accessibility and our ability to post them at once in order to test how they will work.
Now we are facing a more important task because under the presidential executive order we have until July 15 to post information that is the most useful for the market and for consumers. The target set in the roadmap is to move on from 50 sets of data 15 to 500 sets by July. We understand that these 500 sets should be the ones most in demand among the business community.
Next slide, please. It shows the pilot project. Next slide.
Dmitry Medvedev: Why only the business community? What about citizens in general?
Oleg Fomichev: And our citizens of course. But business provides a link, as it were, between ordinary citizens and the state.
Dmitry Medvedev: I agree, they are the most active group of people but in principle it must be accessible to all people…
Oleg Fomichev: I agree, but if citizens are to be able to use these data business should develop an application to translate the data from a machine-readable form into a form accessible to all citizens. That is the whole point. Another thing that needs to be done is to make it obligatory for Government bodies to post andupdate these bodies of data. We have already set up a system to monitor state sites. We are putting the finishing touches on it (it will be finished within the next two months) so it can be used for automatic monitoring to see how various bodies of open data are updated by federal executive bodies, the data they are obliged to post.
Next slide. You can skip this one, the first speaker said everything about it.
You asked what needs to be done in the short term in the area of legal regulation? First of all it’s the draft federal law that was practically developed by the Government, then submitted jointly with the deputies and passed in the first reading on January 15. We have now prepared draft amendments jointly with the Open Government and the Ministry of Telecommunications in order to finalise it at the State Duma. These are amendments to two laws: No 8 on access to information on the activities of state bodies and No 149 on communications and informatisation in order to solve the problems of identifying open data, of making their publication mandatory, authorising the Government to form an organisational mechanism – how federal executive bodies will publish it – and the obligations with regard to newly created information systems.
We have two problems: how to post what we have already developed and how to continue developing new resources so that those who are creating these state information systems would be able at an early stage to provide for the need to post open data. That should be included in the law. Under the Government resolution this is an element of organisation, that is the requirement for federal executive bodies and recommendations.
Dmitry Medvedev: It may be just about organisation, but still…
Oleg Fomichev: It is a very important…
Dmitry Medvedev: … component. Where is it? Has it been prepared?
Oleg Fomichev: Proposals have been sent to the Government but we are proceeding according to the schedule set by the roadmap. It will be done, but the deadline, if memory serves, is March. We should name the authorised federal executive bodies in this sphere. A very constructive triangle has emerged: the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Telecommunications and the Open Government. Their respective areas of responsibility should be determined by a Government resolution, including a resolution on introducing amendments to the statutes on these agencies. Amendments need to be introduced to the statute on the Government Commission on the Open Government so as to vest the commission with the corresponding powers.
There are several other forks in the road ahead on which we will have to make up our minds very soon: whether or not we need a separate portal for open data, that is, whether we need to post the actual data or it could simply be…
Dmitry Medvedev: What is your personal view?
Oleg Fomichev: We are creating two resources simultaneously. The first resource is on the site of the Open Government, which has general information where one can apply for disclosure of certain open data, and on the administrative reform site operated by the Ministry of Economic Development where there is a register of these data sets. The reason is that we believe it is rather difficult to create a single portal where primary information will be posted. The volumes are huge and they need to be updated constantly. And of course we want the Government bodies themselves to be responsible for the accuracy of this information, and for its timeliness. So, having a third portal to post what they are responsible for is simply…
Dmitry Medvedev: All right, I leave it to you to pass the optimal decision. Very well.
Oleg Fomichev: That is about all. The next slide reads “Thank you for your attention.”
I would just like to add that we have built up a good amount of momentum, and I am sure that by July 15 we will do everything that is needed in the framework of the second stage, and bring it up to 500 sets. But what needs to be discussed without delay is the formation of an organisational mechanism and how it would work on the basis of the Government, so that we may be able jointly with the business community and the public to determine these sets of data and post them. Questions connected with access do arise. Our competent bodies are not yet fully conversant with this structure. As soon as we bring them in, I think we will have some problems. Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: In reality all the agencies, including the Ministry of Economic Development, must be brought into it. If you mean the special services, that is a bit different. Otherwise we might come to the conclusion that the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Finance and some other structures are not competent structures.
Mr Kuzminov, what shall we do with the Higher School of Economics and with open data about your school? I understand that you wanted to speak about something else. But anyway, what do you think?
Yaroslav Kuzminov (Rector of the Higher School of Economics): You know, Mr Medvedev, data on the Higher School… let me give you an example. A discussion is going on about what the Ministry of Education and Science has done with ratings and identification of higher education institutions that they consider to be inefficient in some ways. In reality they have done a good thing: together with the community of rectors (we have discussed it at length) 50 criteria have been determined and we have discussed them thoroughly. They are not subjective, and we have collected these data from the institutions. This database should have been published, and then some time should have been given for people to come up with independent ratings and to compare these indicators themselves. Instead, and this was a mistake I think, our colleagues themselves chose five criteria, which are not indisputable, because some other people might have chosen a different set of criteria… You see, the state should not assume the function of rating higher education institutions. The state, certainly in the education sphere, should assume the function of providing information. This is the first case.
The second case is the EGE (Unified State Exam) and personal data. We are afraid of closing data and creating pseudo-state secrets. But our agencies are horrified of the prospect of the law on statistics and the protection of personal data. Granted, databases on the EGE should not be published, because that infringes on human rights. Ah, look, this guy scores 58 points on the EGE, it would hurt him if we publish these data. But listen, if somebody decides to take part in a public competition for a state-subsidised place at university he has to disclose this fact.
Dmitry Medvedev: Listen, is there any country where such data are protected by law? For example, data on a person’s test scores, be it at school or university?
Yaroslav Kuzminov: If the tests are voluntary he analyses his results himself...
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course it is a voluntary test.
Yaroslav Kuzminov: If we are talking about invading some public sphere where that is a valid argument entitling him to occupy somebody’s place, it automatically becomes public information, that part of it becomes public.
It is the same with the launching of sites (you spoke about the openness of sites). The Higher School of Economics was among the first to open it. I remember that seven or ten years ago we were engaged in a veritable battle with our professors. “Why should I post the programme? This is my know-how.” We at the Higher School are fighting, Nikolai Kropachev (Rector of St Petersburg State University) is fighting at his university and a number of other higher education institutions are fighting against the approach whereby good and clever people do not understand that they are doing harm to themselves by closing off their information. Another question is, where, how should personal information become public? So I will pass on from higher education institutions to presenting our proposal on behalf of our colleagues. What the Government’s expert panel thinks needs to be done on the open data system – there are several problems there. I have mentioned some of them with respect to education: there is the problem of disclosing personal data, and we need to regulate the relations in the use of personal data at the aggregation stage. For example, we want to know how effective this or that educational institution is. We must (as many countries do) measure the incomes of its graduates over the past five years in various areas. This is certainly personal data, but we have the Federal Tax Service and we have the Pension Fund. By providing them with the individual taxpayers’ numbers we can get from these agencies an estimate of the average income of a graduate of the law faculty at St Petersburg University and a law graduate of some regional technical university in the first five years after graduation. This is necessary information, it is definitely necessary.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, it is interesting information, indeed.
Yaroslav Kuzminov: But there is no other way we can obtain that information. At present we are practically unable to provide the public with an assessment not of which institution has a passing EGE score, but what output it produces. The first problem is to put in order the relationships with the officials so that they are not used as a cover. Surely serious problems will arise there. I for one don’t know how these problems can be solved with medical professionals.
Dmitry Medvedev: How to solve them?
Yaroslav Kuzminov: With the medical people, medical information.
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course, it’s more complicated there.
Yaroslav Kuzminov: Very much so. We have held a lot of discussions with medical representatives. They have serious arguments against, for example, disclosing information on the effectiveness of treatment at various clinical institutions. But this line must be pursued. It must be pursued in any case.
Dmitry Medvedev: That contains an ethical element. On the other hand, assessments of the performance of various medical institutions are made, informally, by word of mouth.
Yaroslav Kuzminov: Yes, through networks.
Dmitry Medvedev: It is spread through networks in the modern context: it is better not go to a certain hospital if you do not want to be “treated to death” or have something else happen to you. So the question is, what is the better option: this spontaneous and often unverified information, or information that has been selected through a rating process? That is a tricky question.
Yaroslav Kuzminov: The second group of problems. We have spoken about Federal Law No 8 (8-FZ). In fact it regulates the behavior of agencies with respect to data disclosure, federal agencies. I think 70% of our data is of interest to the business community and to ordinary citizens. This includes constituent entities of the Federation and the municipalities. With regard to them, we often provide nothing more than recommendations, which is patently ineffective, or we recall that under the Constitution the provision of information is, if I am not mistaken, within federal jurisdiction. Then a decision must be taken that would establish that the regulatory amendments that we introduce are mandatory for the regions. Unless we do this, the results of our activities will be much less useful. The third question is, how do we go about it? We are facing a major challenge, for example, to disclose 500 sets of data in 2013.
Dmitry Medvedev: The previous speaker from the Ministry of Economic Development mentioned this, 500 sets.
Yaroslav Kuzminov: We have shared our views on how we propose to do it. We have a commission on Open Government. A working group should be set up, half of which would be heads of departments and state secretaries of departments (whoever the departments appoint) and the other half simple experts, such as Ivan Begtin, for example. If we charge this working group with discussing 10-20 sets of data every week (and that is a tall order)…
Dmitry Medvedev: It is a perfectly normal assignment.
Yaroslav Kuzminov: It involves a lot of work.
Dmitry Medvedev: It is a lot of work, but somebody has to do it.
Yaroslav Kuzminov: Anyway it is in our view the only approach that would enable us to do this important job thoroughly. Otherwise… I am afraid of such grand figures promised by Government bodies, it may end up “as always,” to quote the late Viktor Chernomyrdin. Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. I think the idea of setting up a special working group is reasonable. Let us bring in all the specialists from the government agencies and other structures, and let them work.
In general, the theme of open data and disclosure of data as a new resource for economic development and social communications is inexhaustible. I would simply like all those present, all those who took part in preparing this meeting today and are going to work on it in the future, I would like them to know that we (I mean the Government) are aware of the need to go down that road. There are problems, of course, there is the inertia factor, there is a conservative mindset that is typical of the civil service, not only in Russia but in other countries as well, there is nothing extraordinary about it. Our conservative traditions have their roots in the 20th century and the fears that something could go wrong, even if completely open data are being discussed, this is always subconsciously present in the minds of bureaucrats. But the more actively we involve them in this work, the sooner this project will get off the ground. As for how much it would add to our GDP, I don’t know, but even what we see happening is already grounds for high hopes that this would be one of the drivers of the growth of the Russian economy and a means to improve communication among our people.
Dear friends, I would like to cordially thank you for what you have accomplished to date and I hope that this productive cooperation will continue. I’ll be seeing you.
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After meeting with open data experts, Minister Mikhail Abyzov replied to journalists' questions
Mikhail Abyzov: In 2012, we drafted the Open Government management concept and formulated the major principles and priorities for this work in 2013. Based on the Open Government priorities for 2013, a fundamental task that we need to fulfil together with the expert community and our colleagues from ministries and departments is to establish open data standards. Open data is our primary project in 2013. This is why the Expert Council and the Open Government have started working in this regard this year. Without open data, which is a technology for publishing information for economic entities and ordinary citizens, the Open Government will miss out on major elements such as civil control and ensuring the involvement of public organisations and businesses in Government decision-making. Without these elements, it is impossible to create products that are needed by ordinary people, which substantially improve their lives. At our meeting, we discussed positive examples from both Russian and international experience in terms of how the use of open data improves the general public's living standards.
This applies to information products that are presented online to ensure the public's control over the quality of utilities – which is a priority for us here – as well as medical services and education. Today, we discussed in detail examples that show how the open data format makes it possible to create online products that improve management quality in education and the provision of information on educational services. People can choose where to study, what educational services are available and how effective they are. This is why we are now focused on this major project.
Question: Mr Kuzminov (Yaroslav Kuzminov, Rector of the Higher School of Economics) suggested establishing a working group at the Open Government. Mr Medvedev seems to have supported this proposal. What will this working group do? This is my first question.
And now in terms of the second issue. Mr Kuzminov said that if the regions are issued recommendations on open data, then they will not do anything. But they must be obliged to do this... How will this be done? Thank you.
Mikhail Abyzov: Work in the open data format must be held at both the federal and the regional levels. We do not plan to square the circle this year and organise work at all levels. We believe that the correct approach would be to first establish open data standards at the federal level. We must then implement pilot projects, develop practices and common approaches, and only at that time extend them to the regions... However, in 2013 we plan to adopt approaches to work at the regional and the local government levels this year, and to describe them as recommendations to the regions. As for turning the open data format into a legally binding obligation, I think that this should be done during the next stage.
As for the formation of a working group in the Open Government commission for working with open data, we studied this proposal over the past few months and we will propose establishing it under the name of the Open Data Council. Why do we need to do this? The open data format requires the implementation of pilot projects for concrete online products and their use. This project concerns many departments and this kind of interdepartmental working group will make it possible to coordinate their work and to choose the best forms of their cooperation.
I think it’s absolutely logical that the Council on Open Data should include both government officials and, as Mr Kuzminov proposed, representatives from the internet community, plus consumers. It is this balance that will actually accomplish something. There is a working plan for this programme. As soon as the plan is approved and published, it will be accepted by Open Government and the concerned ministries and agencies as a roadmap for publishing data and technology and for producing distinct products in 2013.
What’s important here? For one thing, open data is important for public scrutiny and a key to public involvement in state administration. The other thing is that open data is a huge resource that could boost the internet economy’s growth. Despite its high growth rates, the internet economy constitutes just 1% of the Russian GDP as compared with 5 to 8% in the leading European countries and the United States. This means that, growing as we do at 30% per year, we still have considerable potential for a significant breakthrough. We can promote much faster progress of the internet economy by opening information and providing it with the production resources. And, an internet economy creates high-tech jobs. We believe that the internet economy can reach 3% of GDP within two years – which means a much more rapid growth rate than the current 30% per year – should we open information in the open-data format. (This is confirmed by our colleagues from the Russian Association of Electronic Communications.) This means that Russia will benefit from increased tax revenue, new jobs, an evolving high-tech sector and a totally different structure of Russia’s economy.