Working Day

13 march, 2012 14:30

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a working meeting with Minister of Communications and Mass Media Igor Schyogolev and Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a working meeting with Minister of Communications and Mass Media Igor Schyogolev and Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko
Mr Putin, Mr Schyogolev and Mr Fursenko summarised the results of the system to facilitate public monitoring of the presidential election. They also discussed its possible future use, primarily for educational purposes.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Schyogolev, I would like to hear your own assessment of how the work to monitor the election was organised. To be more specific, I would like to hear your opinion of how the necessary conditions were created for public organisations and the Central Election Commission to monitor the election. This is my first question. My second question is a general one, about the so-called heritage of the system, and I would also like to address it to the Minister of Education and Science. Substantial federal funding was spent on this system. From the very beginning, we had noted that the funding must be disbursed effectively, so that all equipment used, purchased and installed by us could be used in the future, primarily for educational purposes and by the school system. Please.

Igor Schyogolev: Mr Putin, we have organised a public discussion of this project, as per your instruction. We have received a lot of proposals from ordinary users and public organisations. This had to do with the project itself and the organisation of the voting process at polling stations. Naturally, the most important points depended on the Central Election Commission, which set forth specific terms and provided the relevant instructions. We provided technical support.

It was a daunting task to install equipment at 91,000 polling stations nationwide. Despite initial doubts, we managed to work out the necessary logistics. Thus, we installed computerised systems virtually everywhere, except for one single polling station. Such computerised systems made it possible to monitor the election. Live broadcasts were held from 80,000 polling stations. For technical reasons, it was impossible to organise live broadcasts from the other 11,000 polling stations. But computerised systems were also installed at those polling stations. Web camera footage is currently being downloaded at the nine data processing centres, which were built nationwide.

In all, 70,000 kilometres of the so-called last miles were modernised. We managed to install a total of 180,000 cameras. The system was designed to accommodate 25 million clicks. It should be noted in this regard that we had underestimated public interest. The number of clicks reached almost one billion.

Vladimir Putin: Almost a billion?!

Igor Schyogolev: Yes, there were almost one billion clicks. In all, 3.5 million registered viewers spent at least 40 minutes, on average, watching the developments nationwide. We faced another unexpected situation. Of course, the greatest public interest was in Moscow. This includes polling stations where the public watched live broadcasts, and where users also clicked on screens. After Moscow was St. Petersburg. Russian citizens staying abroad and foreigners in other countries were third in terms of the number of clicks.

In effect, we can say that we have set up a public monitoring network, which has opened the Russian election to the entire world. This system is absolutely unique. At first, we tried to find equivalents for such a number of cameras and video systems catering to an unlimited number of users. But these systems simply do not exist anywhere else in the world.  

Naturally, all Russian technologies that we could use, we used. We involved several Russian suppliers and specialists who helped us to install computer software. And all software was Russian-made.

This is our know-how, which has completely proved its worth. I told you somewhat cautiously on election day that, in our opinion, 98% of operational web cameras was an optimal number. In reality, 99.3% of web cameras operated smoothly. At the peak of some complications, several dozen cameras, at most, were switched off nationwide. We had 6,000 stand-by emergency teams made up of 20,000 specialists nationwide. Just imagine how many people were standing by to prevent any serious malfunctions. And they succeeded in preventing such malfunctions. Both the people and the system did a very good job. And, as we understand, the whole of our society was pleased with that. We spoke with foreign observers who told us that Russia had created new high-tech election standards in this respect. And we can certainly feel proud of this.

Vladimir Putin: I would like to thank you and all your employees, everyone who helped organise this work.

Igor Shchegolev: Thank you very much. The Interior Ministry personnel have helped us a great deal by ensuring the safety of the equipment. There have been several cases of theft – all of them were solved immediately. This is also important. Local authorities worked perfectly. All in all, it was a major national project and everyone worked eagerly to implement it.

In a word, completing it within two months is obviously unique, a unique occurrence for Russia. Moreover, we did not create all this for the short term. We said we had to build it with the future in mind. Thanks to the infrastructure we have created, thanks to this effort, internet capacity throughout Russia has increased by 50%.

Of course, the majority of our electoral districts… many of our electoral districts are located on the premises of education institutions, and this has improved their internet access. This is why we discussed a number of projects that could be potentially created after this project, so that this infrastructure will not sit idle.

One such project provides for creating a large information and education resource, a television resource of sorts, a channel for educational content that could be available at all our schools, starting with the schools where the necessary equipment has already been installed. This channel could broadcast the best old and new, Russian and foreign programmes, such as video lessons and video lectures prepared by our best teachers, and all other teachers in this country who are willing to do this. All of this could be made available to our students.

This could certainly help resolve the question that has been posed very often by various civil society organisations and teachers’ associations to Mr Fursenko – the question about a need for such a resource. They usually meant a television channel, a terrestrial channel. We, however, believe that in this age of the internet we need interactive programmes, which would give people a choice, a broad choice, and would be continually replenished. The infrastructure we have created suits these goals ideally.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Fursenko, go ahead.

Andrei Fursenko: Thank you. We have discussed this with Mr Shchegolev, and our colleagues have discussed this... Mr Shchegolev cites statistics showing that half of the schools now have a completely different quality of access to information resources. This is a big step compared to what we had after the completion of priority national projects. And the second point is that 70,000 kilometres of the so-called “last miles” have been laid. This really means that fast internet access – fast by modern standards – has been ensured for at least half of our schools.

We have also discussed the issue of an educational channel many times, but these discussions have mostly boiled down to a television channel. However, it would be much more interesting if television opportunities were realised through the internet, that is, if several television channels were broadcast via the internet, and if, at the same time, all of the other resources created in past years were also available. This involves not just tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands of educational modules. But, unfortunately, they are not accessible for everybody due to insufficient speed and insufficiently developed infrastructure.

Today, we have a unique opportunity to use the new infrastructure that has been built over time, initially covering at least the backbone schools, as we have agreed with you, and subsequently reaching out to all schools. This would give us an opportunity to introduce distance education and to improve the quality of teaching. Furthermore, we now have a financial resource – under the school education modernisation programme. Part of the allocated funds is being used to increase internet bandwidth and buy new equipment. If proposals are made to use available equipment or to complete unfinished networks, this would probably close up the project so that we could have a finished system by 2013. We are prepared to work on the substance of this initiative jointly with our colleagues. Much has been done in this area, but we probably need to streamline and categorise the process. As I have said, this could be a fundamentally new educational resource.

Vladimir Putin: Do we need to do anything at the government level, such as adopting a decision? Do you need additional funds to get the project off the ground to a new level?

Andrei Fursenko: We have discussed this with Mr Shchegolev. If you gave us a month, or at least until the end of March, we would come up with agreed proposals and submit them to the government. We may need additional funds, but we also reckon that the regions use the bandwidth anyway, and will join us in this project, especially since they have been given subsidies to modernise the school education system and could use these funds.

Vladimir Putin: All right, that’s decided then. I expect you to submit agreed proposals in the first half of April. Thank you.