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Russian e-Development Partnership and PRIOR North-West: Case Study
Tatiana Ershova, General Director, Institute of the Information Society (Moscow, Russia); Andrey Chugunov, General Director, PRIOR North-West Non-Commercial Partnership; Deputy Director, Interdisciplinary Center of the Institute of Philological Studies, Saint Petersburg State University (Saint Petersburg, Russia)
Multilateral partnerships are considered in this paper as one of contemporary society development factors noted in the Declaration of Principles of the World Summit on the Information Society. As an example of combining efforts for reaching the common goal of building the Information Society for All a commonwealth is described which is not usual for this country and is established for equal participation of all social forces in shaping the development policy rather than just government. This commonwealth is called Russian e-Development Partnership and has an efficiently operating independent segment in the North-West of Russia.
One of the UN Millennium Development Goals  set by the member-states for the period of up to 2015 is to “develop a global partnership for development”. This goal, apart from other things, includes the taking of measures by the UN in cooperation with the private sector “so that everyone can use the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communication technologies”.
The programmes where activities are based on networking principles are acquiring greater importance. In the opinion of the leading researchers of social and economic processes related to the transformation of social institutions in contemporary society and globalisation trends, the development of social networks and systems operating on self-organisation principles is one of the key factors which ensure the progress of contemporary society. The Declaration of Principles, the main document adopted at the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva, December, 2003), makes significant focus on this development factor. It should be noted that the “Declaration of Principles. Building the Information Society as the Global Task in the New Millennium”  is an international consolidated document which reflects the aggregate philosophical, social, political, cultural and technological vision of the future society.
ICT advancement has potential for mutual assistance and conscious efforts, and consolidation of the key segments of society such as governmental bodies, business community, research and education community, non-governmental and international organisations are required. The question of whether we need an Information Society or not is not on the agenda any longer for decision-makers regardless of whether they are civil servants, businessmen, civil society leaders, the managers of investment companies and donor organisations . It is quite topical currently at this stage to involve leaders and the entities and forces, which they represent in active operations for the benefit of social development. The activities aimed at building a community of the allies ready to take strategic decisions, work for the future, even if it is quite remote, are in the foreground in this respect. 
The process of realising the need for Russia’s integrating in the Information Society and building social partnership of the leading development forces made transition from theoretical research to practice in the late 90-ies of the XXh century, and the expert society consolidated around the Institute of the Information Society with support from progressive leaders of the governmental bodies, business community, civil society and the research and education community, the publishing of an updated version of Information Society journal started, and the first conferences on the subject under the title of “Information Society Technologies” (November 1998-1999, distributed videoconferences with a centre in Moscow) and “Internet and Modern Society” (December 1998-1999, Saint-Petersburg State University)1 were held. Then a five-year institutionalisation period came during which Russia signed the Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society (July 2000) developed the eRussia programme (January 2002) and launched a number of regional e-Development programmes.
The years 2001-2002 mark transition to a new Information Society development stage in Russia based on partnership. One of the important factors in this process was establishing the Russian e-Development Partnership.
The history of the Russian e-Development Partnership (PRIOR)2 dates back to November 30, 2001. This is a commonwealth, which is not typical of Russia; it was established for making all social forces rather than just government involved in the Information Society development policy on an equal basis. PRIOR is a voluntary association of organisations and individuals who combine their efforts and resources, provide mutual information, technological, consulting, financial, institutional and other support for reaching common goals and addressing common objectives.
The purpose of PRIOR is Russia’s rapid and competent development in the global Information Society3, establishing a Knowledge Economy in Russia4.
The activities of PRIOR are aimed at assisting in:
The goals set will be reached through:
Provisions are made by the Russian e-Development Partnership for addressing the following tasks:
The implementation of PRIOR goals and objectives will allow to significantly extend the nation’s initiatives aimed at Information Society and Knowledge Economy development and to ensure support for basically new activities for which there is demand in society.
As of May 17, 2005, 276 organisations are members of the Russian e-Development Partnership, including 266 Russian organisations, four international ICT companies, 2 Finnish companies, one US organisation, one Belgian, one Ukrainian and one Canadian organisation. These organisations represent the key driving forces of e-Development such as the government (32), the business community (126), non-governmental organisations (69), the research and education community (57). Besides, individual members (individuals, sole business proprietors, online mass media) started joining PRIOR in February 2003. Currently the aggregate number of partners in the Russian e-Development Partnership is 288.
From the very beginning the Partnership was positioned as a network initiative supporting inter-regional and cross-sectoral cooperation. The peculiarities of Russia’s territorial structure (municipal entities – constituent entities of the federation – federal okrugs) determined the specifics of PRIOR’s development in the regions of Russia. The development of similar partnership entities started in the Russian regions immediately. Independent partnerships have been established for e-Development in the following regions: the North-West of Russia (including regional segments in Kaliningrad and Novgorod Oblasts), Perm Oblast, the Republic of Tatarstan, Stavropol Kray, Tula Oblast, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug - Yugra, Southern Urals (including the municipal segment in the city of Magnitogorsk). The member organisations of the Russian e-Development Partnership are operating in 29 regions of Russia.
The Russia Development Gateway12 is used as the enabler for efficient cooperation. The development gateways are established by development communities as the depositories of development information, and also as a tool for the exchange of ideas, knowledge and expertise, the coordination and support of development programmes and projects. The gateways are incorporated into a distributed network, which implies that a coordinated information content programme is in place, however, each regional segment is independent in the terms of maintenance and content generation. A pilot prototype of the distributed Russia Development Gateway segment was established in 2003 within the framework of the federal target programme under the title of eRussia (2002 – 2010) with support from the Russian Federation Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, as well as regional administrations of the cities of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg; Kaliningrad, Novgorod, Perm, Tula Oblasts and Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug - Yugra,.
A convincing example of the efficiency of the partnership idea is establishing and development of the e-Development Partnership in the North-West of Russia (PRIOR North-West)13. It is quite natural that such processes started in Saint-Petersburg, the capital of the North-Western Federal Okrug, which is not only Russia’s second largest city but also the focus of ICT and Internet development, immediately after the Russian Partnership was established. Another important fact is that the expert community of Saint-Petersburg actively participated in the consideration of the Russian e-Development Partnership’s concept and action programme and in establishing this organisation. As early as on preliminary talks on Saint-Petersburg e-Development Partnership establishing it was determined not to be a single-city Partnership (as Saint-Petersburg is a separate constituent entity of the federation) but a Partnership including all the regions of North-Western Federal Okrug. It includes 11 constituent entities of the federation, such as Saint-Petersburg, Karelia Republic, Komi Republic, Archangelsk, Murmansk, Novgorod, Vologda, Kaliningrad, Leningrad, Pskov Oblasts and Nenetsky Autonomous Okrug.
The set-up conference of the PRIOR North-West was held in January, 2002. The Memorandum was approved at the conference and the coordination board was established. It was announced from the beginning that the North-Western Partnership is an inter-regional public initiative extending the existing government and non-government programmes aimed at the development of various Russian information society components. Much attention is paid in the Partnership’s operations to assistance in the efficient implementation of the eRussia programme in the North-Western Federal Okrug, regional programmes and the development of the inter-regional Information Society Technology development programme.
The North-West of Russia and Saint-Petersburg has historically been considered as one of the most promising regions in the terms of resources, industrial, science/education and cultural potential. Saint-Petersburg has been steadily ranking second in terms of the concentration of Internet and mobile communications users. Hundreds of the organisations that produce information resources, study them and train new staff to operate them are concentrated in this region.
The constituent entities of the North-Western Federal Okrug develop the regional programmes aimed at Information Society Technology development in various fields of social life, such as education, medicine, government administration, small and medium-sized business support. Comprehensive regional programmes are established such as Electronic Karelia and Electronic Saint-Petersburg; a programme under the title of Electronic Leningrad Oblast was approved in 2003. However, it is difficult to say that these processes are of a coordinated nature and are implemented with regard to the best Russian and international practices – regional programmes are frequently replicas of eRussia. A reliable methodological framework is absent, there is lack of association between departments – a coordinated budgetary policy in informatisation fails to be pursued everywhere, and incompatible sectoral information systems are frequently established.
It is obvious three years later that the operations of PRIOR North-West are supported by the regions and the organisations operating in various fields, such as governmental bodies and administration (federal okrug, region, municipality levels); the scientific and technology community, commercial companies; non-governmental entities and international organisation. The Fourth Inter-Regional Conference of PRIOR North-West took place in April 2004 where the representatives of the Partnership’s member organisations considered a report on operations, the development programme for 2005-2006 and elected the new Coordination Board, the joint management body. PRIOR North-West Coordination Board includes representatives of six constituent entities of the federation (Saint-Petersburg, Republic of Karelia, Novgorod, Leningrad, Kaliningrad and Vologda Oblasts) which established institutional conditions for broadening regional activity in the North-West of Russia.
Partnerships are being established under the umbrella of PRIOR North-West in the constituent entities of the federation in the North-West of Russia. Such partnerships were established in the Republic of Karelia, Kaliningrad and Novgorod Oblasts, and integration is underway in Murmansk and Pskov Oblasts. Currently PRIOR North-West comprises over 100 organisations from 7 regions of the North-Western Federal Okrug (Table 1).
Table 1. North-Western e-Development Partnership member organisations growth curve
PRIOR North-West Coordination Board is in close interaction with the Secretariat of the President’s Plenipotentiary Representative in the North-Western Federal Okrug, the Association of Economic Interaction of the North-Western constituent entities of the Russian Federation (North-West Association), the Scientific Board for Informatisation under the Saint-Petersburg Governor, specialised committees of the Governments of Saint-Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, the Coordination Board for Informatisation under the Head of the Republic of Karelia and other entities.
PRIOR North-West cooperates with the Institute of the Information Society which supports the operations of the Russian e-Development Partnership’s Directorate, the Russian e-Development Foundation, RIO-Centre, Global Knowledge Partnership, Finnish e-Development Centre TIEKE, Information Society of Ukraine Foundation and other non-profit organisations and consortia, the operations of which are aimed at Information Society.
The North-West of Russia and Saint-Petersburg have historically been considered as one of the most promising regions for the implementation of TACIS technical assistance programmes. This is determined not only by a common border but also by the significant resource, industrial and scientific/educational capacity of the Russian side. It is also important that Saint-Petersburg and the Leningrad Oblast provide a “transport corridor” between Europe and Russia.
A number of telecommunications projects have been implemented in Saint-Petersburg and the North-West since 1996. These include Business and Telecommunications Training (1996), “Teleport Development” (1996-1997), “Assisting the Development of Radio Frequency Band Management” (1998), “Telecommunication Equipment Standardisation and Certification Centre” (two projects: 1997 and 1999), etc. The information and telecommunication component existed in the projects implemented in sectors such as transport, environmental protection, small near-border cooperation borders, projects under the umbrella of INTERREG-IIIB and PHARE. In particular, sector “Information Society” was included in 2001 as one of the priority lines of cooperation development within the framework of a project under the title of the Baltic Palette (Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Russia). A project under title of Saint-Petersburg ICT Network Development under the Northern Dimension Framework was implemented in 2002-2004 and was a coupled TACIS-INTERREG project laying the basis for further cooperation between the North-West of Russia and the South-East of Finland, two bordering territories.
One of the key objectives of PRIOR North-West is interaction with European e-Development programmes: a number of European Commission projects aimed at the North-Western Federal Okrug, such as Electronic Karelia, e-Skills Development, The Development of e-Government Technologies for Business in the North-West of Russia are under development.
ICT cooperation of bordering regions is also under active development. The North-Western e-Development Partnership is actively involved in establishing an international consortium of the Saint-Petersburg and Finnish companies and organisations interested in cooperation development under the Northern e-Dimension ICT-Network14.
The European Commission started the development of Good Neighbourhood Programmes in 2003 covering the external borders of the extended European Union. These programmes will be developed jointly by the participants located on both sides of the boards. The good neighbourhood programmes will include a broad range of the measures resulting from the goals identified in the report under the title of “Extended Europe - Good Neighbourhood: a New Framework of Relations with Our Eastern and Southern Neighbours”, in particular, not only the measures relating to transport infrastructure development, environmental protection, energy, border-crossing rules, telecommunications, but also to cooperation in scientific research, cultural and educational cooperation of adjacent territories .
Coordination with other cooperation programmes which exist or under development will be maintained in good neighbourhood programme development, and full compliance of the Programmes with the regulatory documents of a given country and a given region will be ensured. The adoption of such Good Neighbourhood programmes will allow to apply uniform requirements to the submission of applications when projects are launched, uniform bidding terms and uniform selection criteria on both sides of the border. The Good Neighbourhood Programmes will be financed from the funds that have been allocated for existing programmes, while the formal decision-taking process will remain the same.
In this connection with regard to the Recommendations for the Development of Programmes for Good Neighbourhood at the External Boards of Member States and Candidate State and Report of the European Communities Commission under the title of “The Introduction of a New Mechanism for Establishing Good-Neighbourhood Relations”, PRIOR North-West Coordination Board proposed to consider item “Information Society Technologies Development” as one of the priority items in the European Union’s Good Neighbourhood Programmes, including the following subject areas or project lines:
These proposals were considered and approved at the extended meeting of the PRIOR North-West Coordination Board and were submitted to the corresponding entities of the European Commission through the Saint-Petersburg Administration . The inclusion of item “Information Society Technologies Development” into the top priority items of the European Union’s Good Neighbourhood Programmes will allow to significantly advance unified information society development and to increase the volume of research and technological implementations carried out within the framework of the European Union Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), in particular, for item “Information Society Technologies” (IST) which forms part of FP6. Arrangements for the next Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) are currently underway. The total programme budget will be approximately doubled and ICT development projects will form a significant portion of it.
An important factor which may significantly increase the efficiency of project operations in the North-West of Russia is establishing coordination with the projects and programmes aimed at the implementation of Information Society Technologies in culture, education and science. This first of all is the UNESCO Information for All Programme (IFAP) aimed at the development of the individual-centric information policy, the development of human capacity, resources, skills and knowledge. For the purpose of targeted cooperation with this programme a development project is under consideration which would establish the North-Western Information Centre of the Inter-Regional Public Organisation for the Support of IFAP under the North-Western e-Development Partnership.
The programmes aimed at ICT development and use has been extended significantly by global and regional economic cooperation organisations in the recent years, and establishing a significant number of new specialised international organisations is currently underway.
Targeted efforts are required for using the possibilities related to broadened participation of Russia in EU e-Development programmes; these possibilities emerge in connection with the gradual development of the Unified Russian-European Economic Space. The top priority task in this respect is maximising the participation of Russian organisations in cooperation projects within the framework of the European Union Sixth and Seventh Framework Programmes which requires partial co-financing of projects from the Russian budget.
In the opinion of the experts the goals of Russia’s participation in the international e-Development activities should be:
Support of the participation of Russia and North-Western regions in international cooperation in the sphere of e-Development, the development of the efficient tools which facilitate participation in international forums, programmes and projects, in the activities of specialised committees and workgroups within the framework of international organisations is of vital importance in this environment. It is also important to provide information support for international cooperation (assistance in partner search, the drafting and broad distribution of information and analytical materials, holding work meetings, international forums, etc.).
Cooperation and the coordination of the efforts of governmental bodies and administration, the business community, the research and education community, non-governmental organisations at the Russian national and regional levels is the guarantee of success in the development of the regional information policy and the promotion of Russian and international e-Development programmes.
1. UN Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). – http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/
2. Declaration of Principles. Building the Information Society: a global challenge in the new Millennium // World Summit on the Information Society. – http://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-s/md/03/wsis/doc/S03-WSIS-DOC-0004!!MSW-E.doc
3. Tatiana Ershova. Our Goal: Societal Development through Human Development // Managerial Consulting. - N 3-4 (15-16). - 2003. - Pp. 28-43. (In Russian).
4. Implementation of a New Mechanism of Establishing Good-Neighbourhood Relations (EU Report on Extended Europe) // International Co-operation in the field of ICT Development: Analytical Survey / PRIOR North-West; Ed. by A. Chugunov; 3rd ed. SPb., 2005. P. 43-57. (In Russian).
5. Suggestions on Priority Lines of the Good Neighbourhood Programmes Aimed at EU and North-Western Russia Co-operation in the sphere of Information Society Development // PRIOR North-West: Documents and Informational Materials. Issue 2 (March 2004). SPb., 2004. P. 29-32. (In Russian).
1 Starting from 2000 Saint Petersburg holds All-Russian Joint Conference “Information Society Technologies – Internet and Modern Society”.
2 http://russia-gateway.ru. Abbreviation PRIOR comes from the Russian name of the association – Partnerstvo dlya Razvitiya Informatsionnogo Obshestva v Rossii.
3 We define the Information Society as the current development stage of the modern civilization, which is characterized by the increased role of the information and knowledge in the life of the global society, by the growth of the telecommunications and information products and services share in the gross domestic product (GDP), by the formation of the global information infrastructure enabling effective interaction and information exchange among people, providing their access to the global knowledge, and satisfying social and individual needs for information products and services.
From our point of view, the concept of Information Society development includes the following:
4 There are a number of various definitions for Knowledge Economy used by the researchers and practitioners. We use the definition suggested by one of the leading specialists in this area – the former Program Director of the Knowledge Programs and Outreach Division at the World Bank Carl Dahlman: The economy, where innovation – the creation, acquisition and dissemination of knowledge – is the major driving force of economic and social development.
5 Knowledge worker of the 21st century is, essentially, any worker who cognitively applies knowledge to their job. They are not just doing repetitive work, they are applying their understanding to a task. This could be in the form of a critical analysis of data, making decisions, innovating and communicating interpreted data to others. They operate in a fully networked and integrated world. They can take data generated by integrated systems, make sense of the data, and use and apply it for the benefit of the enterprise and/or society. Shaun Lake, Content and Technology Director, Global Trade Training, South Africa.
6 e-Governance is a process whereby organizations, companies and population groups formulate their needs and wants, realize their rights, obligations, and capabilities, and settle emerging controversies. This process requires a search for ways of implementing more effective, transparent, and participatory forms of governance in the knowledge societies at the local, regional, national, and global levels.
7 Electronic government (e-Government) is a term used to describe the interaction between the governmental bodies and the public with the use of the ICT.
8 Network society is a society in which the major part of informational transactions and interactions is performed with the use of the information and communication networks.
9 Electronic business (e-Business) is conducting business using the paperless office and electronic transactions through the Internet. E-Business includes publishing a website on the Net, establishing an e-Commerce site, forming electronic company management, and using the electronic advertisement, marketing, and B2B and B2C models.
10 Distance learning is a new way of providing education, based upon the use of the modern ICT, which allow executing the educational process across distances without direct personal contact between a teacher and a student.
11 Digital library (DL, e-Library) is a distributed information system, which allows to store and to effectively use heterogeneous collections of digital objects (text, graphics, audio, video, etc.) through the global data transmission networks in the format convenient for the end-user.
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