Moscow of the Future Is Here
A couple of friends had told me about a certain pavilion at VDNX – from the pictures I glanced at, it looked almost unreal. As I work in the IT industry and generally am interested in progress and technology, I am aware of some of the moves the Russian state is taking to shift to electronic platforms. After visiting this permanent exhibition, I realised how much further and joined up that transformation is than I had presumed at this stage. Those worried about ‘Big Brother’ should come and check this out – to better understand the pros and cons, although it certainly isn’t a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’.
The Smart City Centre of Information Technologies at VDNH is a modern exhibition and conference space, demonstrating various technologies, split into different sections – security, medicine, education, investment, business, construction and citizenship engagement. Guides are available to not only explain the technologies involved, but to demonstrate how to use them.
That’s the exciting part – one starts to realise the ‘when’ part of the question is considerably closer than we perhaps thought. Most of the technology on display is actually here already, it is just that not everybody knows it is there. Everything on display demonstrates how we can, and I suspect will soon interact with each other and the city’s services in every detail of our lives. It starts with simple things like transport – smart bus stops have displays showing the real-time arrival times of buses and trams, equipped with wifi and USB charging points. Then schools – registering your children for school, checking times they arrived and left, attendance at lessons can all be dome online now. On to security – one can access any of the thousands of CCTV cameras in Moscow real time and even zoom back up to one week. You can catch yourself leaving your building or entering the office! These are for demonstration only – such access is not available everywhere; just at the centre.
For construction, there are now live cameras monitoring all of Moscow’s construction sites – so that authorities and Muscovites can monitor where their taxes are going. This saves money for site inspections and reduces theft.
Small business can now register themselves and receive electronic signatures, bidding for state orders and promoting themselves. Moscow property which the city government has obtained from confiscations or privatisations are open for sale online.
Anyone planning to go to the doctor? Book your visit online, check your insurance covers that, pick up your medicine using an electronic prescription. It’s all working in Moscow – and we are well on our way to this becoming the norm.
I won’t go through all of the services – I’ll leave it for the reader to go and visit the centre. Look out for the ‘active citizen’ portal – that will impress many who criticise Russia for not being responsive and democratic! E-Government is well on its way.