Russian Government IT Development Strategy: Free and Open Source Software

"The most promising developments in RFOSS must be selected and then we must focus on them."

by / March 2, 2009

"The most promising developments in RFOSS must be selected and then we must focus on them." -- Igor Shchegolev, head of the Russian Federation's Ministry of Communications and Mass Communications

On February 25th, 2009 the principal of the Russian Federation's Ministry of Communications and Mass Communications met with representatives of Russian Free and Open Source Software (RFOSS) development companies, including VDEL, at the Ministry of Communications and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss concrete steps that can be taken by the state to support the RFOSS development process.

Igor Shchegolev, head of the Ministry of Communications and Mass Communications, declared that the focus must be on the areas of RFOSS with the highest potential. Addressing the RFOSS representatives he noted that with today's rapid world development of free and open source software, Russia must make the best use of its capabilities in this field. According to him, "the most promising developments in RFOSS must be selected and then we must focus on them."

Shchegolev also stated that there should be national centers of competence that would attract foreign developers as well as promote the movement of domestic talent to the world market.

Speaking about the idea of an exclusively Russian operating system, he called it "exotic." He admitted that similar attempts had been made in some other countries, but weren't a success.

"The idea of open source transcends any national, religious or racial regressional fictive borders," said M. Prohaska, managing director of VDEL "and puts any idea of 'national' intellectual property into its place -- history. The future belongs to interconnected world of innovation and information that open source model is based on. We are very proud and happy that the Russian government supports this view and wants to take active part in this worldwide phenomenon."

All the participants agreed that for the successful RFOSS development it is necessary for all developers to combine their efforts and to naturally establish industry associations. Shchegolev said that the Ministry is eager to participate in such a project.

Earlier Shchegolov also supported VDEL and Red Hat in their effort to create a competence center in conjunction with several Western vendors that will open in April. The main focus of the competence center will be to transfer the best practices from other countries in the implementation of open source on the government level. Other goals will include:

  • Bringing open source solutions that have proven to work to Russia
  • Making sure relevant success stories and analysis of unsuccessful stories are presented, so that Russia will try to avoid mistakes made in other places
  • Helping promote Russian products to the rest of the world
  • Helping the formation of partnerships with the world wide community
  • Making sure that Russian specific issues are included in the world wide open source projects.

Also present at the meeting were: V.P Ivannikov, RAS academician, the director of the Institute for System Programming, Y. Zhukov, the first deputy director of VNIINS, M.Prohaska, managing director of VDEL, A.V.Smirnov, director of Alt Linux, and D.V.Komissarov, adviser to the President of IT Company. Also present were the representatives of such companies as 1C, Lenovo, Integral, IBM, Parallels, R-Style, Korus Consulting, Sun Microsystems and others.

At a previous round-table discussion on IT-security, organized by the Russian Parliament Higher Technology Committee on the 11th of February, a proposal to pass all Open Source Software development work to state corporations was rejected by representatives of the Ministry of Communications and Mass Communications and almost all Russian IT associations.

"It's unacceptable that the authors of the idea consider the federal public procurement law to be the main obstacle

to Russian IT-development," said Oleg Chutov, the head of the Department of Scientific and Strategic Development.

"The governments of China and Brazil made efforts to control the process of open source software development, i.e. to create closed operating systems. This approach just led them to a dead end," stressed Milan Prohaska, the CEO of the software distributing company VDEL. "The idea of creating an exclusive Russian information system (to be developed in Russia and for Russian users only) is, in essence, an attempt to build an 'information ghetto' for Russian programmers, to limit them both at home and foreign markets".

Dmitry Efanov, the representative of The All-Russian Research Institute of Control Automation in the Non-Industrial Sphere (VNIINS), stated that integration into the global development process is obligatory in order to create a real operating system in Russia. Ilya Massuh, advisor to the Ministry of Communications and Mass Communications, underlined the necessity to found a Russian Software Developers Association.