GENERICO.ruScienceGrebennikov: the right to make a mistake is necessary for the development of IT technologies

Grebennikov: the right to make a mistake is necessary for the development of IT technologies

What is the current situation in domestic IT? How important is import substitution here? Why are grants harmful and why is it important to give developers and entrepreneurs back the right to make a mistake? Correspondent Karina Ivashko talked to the director of the Russian Association for Electronic Communications ( RAEK) by Sergey Grebennikov.
– Sergey Vladimirovich, how do you look at the prospects for import substitution in the field of IT?
– Let's separate several concepts: hardware, that is, hardware, software and content import substitution in the field of IT. We have always had a lot of services: Yandex, Mail.ru, VKontakte… Russia is unique in this regard: we have always had content and banking services, so we don’t need import substitution here. On the contrary, the fact that Facebook* and Instagram*, now banned in Russia, as well as WhatsApp, Twitter, the giant Google, were present on the market, actively stimulated Russian IT companies to be on a level with these players. Now, I'm afraid, without competition, we will start to lag a little behind. And yet, I repeat, here we can do without import substitution.

– Let's clarify: are content services mobile applications?

– In fact – Yes. Let's open the phone: here they are our “icons” – maps, marketplaces, mail, social networks, calendars, banking and other applications in order to make life more convenient. And already under them are hidden different services: delivery, sales, communication, training, entertainment, and so on. That is, everything that we used to do in offline life.
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– And here we are doing well…
– Yes, but we have another problem: hardware. It will take years to create it – not five or ten years, but more. We know how to saturate with content: online cinemas, search engines, social networks, sales services – everything is there. But there are no gadgets and nothing to record it all on.

– Once they said: “We will buy everything. The most important thing is that we have natural resources.”
– From the point of view of a market economy, this is correct. No country produces everything at home – this is not necessary. But the main problem is that in Russia there seems to be no room for error in creating gadgets, services, or startups in general. About ten years ago there was a wonderful project – YotaPhone. Two models were created. Both did not “fly”, but there was an idea – the first Russian smartphone. And then they took and lowered their hands. And it was necessary to improve and improve: to make the fifth, sixth, seventh model – you see, the tenth would “fly”, and now one of us was probably with a jotaphone. The first “Samsungs” seemed “bricks”, and now it is one of the most popular brands.
As for the services, I repeat, we have those that we can be proud of. The main thing in IT is not to try to copy services that were created decades ago, but to look to the future, come up with something of your own and be the first in it. Study the market, realizing that we do not need 54 identical services. The strength of any social network is that everyone is present in it. In general, if we want to develop technologies and IT, we must pay a lot of attention to this and invest a lot of money. Whatever one may say, IT is the present and the future.

– And where should the money go? Today there is a lot of talk about the synergy of universities, development companies and production sites…

– The main thing is that the money does not go to grants. They do not work, because you are immersed in the world of reporting, and not in the creation of a product. It is necessary not to distribute grants, but to build an investment model for the work of the state with business. It is possible with public organizations, but it is investments that are needed. And there should be room for error. How many complaints were addressed to the Internet Initiatives Development Fund! That they are investing incorrectly, that they have a weak start-up output. And I, as a director, will say: how can an expert guarantee that in two years this particular startup will succeed? He's not Wang. Yes, it might be a great idea, but bad execution. Or – the idea is cool, but it was implemented ahead of time, and the market is not yet ready to accept it. It's impossible to predict everything. And in order for the IT business to develop, there must be a right to make mistakes.
You asked about the “universities-laboratories-companies” connection: yes, the chain should go from universities where ideas are born – maybe it’s worth highlighting 10-15 points across the country, choosing anchor universities, creating start-up departments there, where they will generate ideas and prototypes. And the university should have money to test ideas. If at the level of the university it “flew”, it is necessary to offer large companies, the state to invest in the project. This is how it should work. html” data->
– Do we have experts for risk assessment in IT projects? Let not Vanga, but with a flair based on experience …

– Certainly! We're not doing this for the first time. Why am I talking about anchor universities? Because even there, at the accelerator level, it is necessary to explain to students how to improve the project so that experts can make a verdict on the allocation of investments. Here at RIF, Rostelecom will purposefully look at startups, and it will probably take the best ones into a portfolio and implement them in its services. I wish there were more initiatives like this. It's a serious job to listen to startups for three days in a row!
– How can small and medium-sized businesses help import substitution in the field of IT?
– Programmers. We will not create our own factories for the production of chips and servers, phones or laptops tomorrow. But take the same applications, services, social networks – here small and medium-sized businesses are in business. However, there is an important point: access to the digital economy. There is a platform of the same name for interaction between business and the state to develop the digital economy in Russia – a very limited circle of companies has access to it. And, basically, it is the largest IT business. And small services, in principle, do not understand how to approach the formation of a digital circuit. And I really want big business to notice small and medium-sized companies that seek, among other things, to help them with their achievements.
And now I want to convince the state and market players to invest in small and medium-sized businesses, to develop albeit small, but interesting projects, and not create analogues, because “we are rich and want our own.” This is the main task of our association – to convince not to duplicate, but to develop what is already there. I will give an example: 2GIS. They shot in Novosibirsk. In the region, everyone used them, because it was possible, relatively speaking, to find a tent that sells donuts. And they, in theory, could roll out this service to the whole country, but there was not enough money. Then Sberbank came, gave money, but they missed the time – Google captured the “glade”. And now there is Yandex, Google, and it is very difficult for a third player in the market. If the state or a large investor would have started investing in 2GIS earlier, we would have had our own Yandex and 2GIS – without Google.

– How can RAEC influence these processes?

– RAEC is after all an association and we can only convince loudly from different stands: look here, do it. According to RAEC analysts, although the market is growing, there are big black spots, and we need to close them now. I repeat: you need to bet on your own, but where you do not need to catch up. Why Yandex fired? Because at the dawn of the creation of the Internet, I took the path of indexing what is already there – I started searching. Yandex was one of the first to start indexing Runet – pages in Russian. Philologists worked for him, and the search in Russian-language pages was very well done. Yandex was created before Google! And they survived by being a technology company, not just a service company. So let's believe in ourselves!
– Another RIF coming soon. What are your hopes for it?
– I really hope that the RIF will unite large businesses, small and medium, so that the big business sees in the small those ideas that need to be brought to the market and developed. If this happens, it means that we have contributed to the creation of the technological future of the country.
– How far do you think the digital influence should extend? Does a person become too dependent on it?

I agree – let digital technologies improve the quality of life, but we should not be their hostages. It is impossible that it depends only on digital technologies whether our child will go to kindergarten on time or whether they will give us a loan. We are already dependent on the phone: without it – as without hands. Now in general there will be a trend towards dedigitization – towards personal communication, towards a slight slowdown in the development of technologies, when schools and universities will again be taught to communicate with each other and use digital technologies less. And I think it's positive. We are humans, we must be able to communicate. Now in America, entrepreneurs are taught to speak on the phone at business trainings. Don't text, talk. We are used to the zoom – personal meetings cause fear. And artificial intelligence, which is developing faster than gadgets, is not needed by mankind in such a volume. The same Elon Musk is signing letters today to limit the development of artificial intelligence. Yes, in medicine and other areas where an accurate forecast is important, it is needed, but it should not be allowed into all areas of our life. As well as digital technologies – I say this as an expert.
* The activities of Meta (social networks Facebook and Instagram) are banned in Russia as extremist.

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