On March 18, 2021, at the seminar of the World Bank and the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation (Ministry of Construction of Russia), the main parameters of the study “Developing Smart Cities in Russia” were presented, as well as the experience of European and Asian countries in the field of smart cities. The intellectual partner of the research is the Institute of the Information Society (IIS).
The World Bank is conducting a study on smart cities in Russia, which aims to analyze the digital transformation of Russian cities. The study includes an assessment of the current preparedness level of cities to implement the latest approaches and technologies to ensure resilience to modern challenges, including the COVID-2019 pandemic. The research is carried out with the support of the Ministry of Construction of Russia.
The session was attended by international and Russian experts, representatives of cities and intellectual partner organizations.
Renaud Seligmann, Director and Permanent Representative of the World Bank in the Russian Federation, officially launched the study: “This year, the World Bank is conducting a study“ Development of Smart Cities in Russia ”with the support of the Ministry of Construction and Housing and Utilities and with the active participation of Russian cities carefully selected according to the recommendations of the Ministry of Construction.
This study raises several important goals and questions. First, conduct a high-level analysis and determine the current level of digital transformation in Russian cities. Secondly, to identify the key digital challenges facing the cities of Russia, what are the main problems that Russian cities face. Thirdly, to determine the main priorities for the development of smart cities in Russia. Fourth, to present the latest advanced global trends and practices for the development of smart cities: what is happening at the forefront of smart cities in other countries, in which direction cities are developing, how they respond to the main challenges and priorities of the 2020 year, and how regulation is changing”.
“We hope that today’s event will launch this project [“Developing Smart Cities in Russia” study] on a very beautiful note with the participation of leading international experts whom we have invited,” said session co-moderator Oleg Petrov, senior digital development specialist of the World Bank.
“I think we will really get a study that will answer us quite interesting questions, what challenges are now facing Russian cities, do they really follow the principles laid down in the Smart City project. The project has existed since 2018. For three years now, measures from the standard have been implemented. 209 Russian cities are participating in the project,”said Lelya Zhvirblis, head of the smart city technology implementation department, Ministry of Construction, Housing and Communal Services of the Russian Federation.
The speaker added: “The cities that will perform today, that are listening to us today – I cannot say that these are the best smart cities in Russia, they are absolutely ordinary participants in the [Smart City] project. I am confident that the World Bank study will thus show the real situation that is now happening with smart cities in Russia.”
Leading international experts Randeep Sudan (report on the future of smart cities), Jung Sung Hwang (report on trends in smart cities development and Korean experience) and Kim Andreasson (report on the experience of European cities) shared their global experience in the field of smart cities.
“When we talk about smart cities of the future, we mean that we will have to use data. Data coming not only from public sector organizations, but also from the private sector. This will allow us to use new approaches based on artificial intelligence,” – said Randeep Sudan.
He is confident: “Smart cities need to use a new, modern data infrastructure and develop new competencies in the field of data use. It is not enough to have data, platforms. It is necessary to have the potential that will allow city administrations to effectively use all this data, to apply all these advanced technologies so that they bring positive results.”
Jung Sung Hwang believes, “The main difference between smart and dumb cities is that smart cities are not only consumers of smart innovation, but also sources of it.”
Talking about the experience of Europe, Kim Andreasson mentioned: “The main priorities for building smart cities have been identified and the main problems that need to be solved are lack of data and lack of cooperation. This is why Helsinki and Stockholm, as well as other European cities, are now looking at data, primarily open data, as a way to overcome these challenges.”
As part of the presentation of the research “Developing Smart Cities in Russia” Ellen Hamilton, lead urban development specialist of the World Bank, shared: “We are trying to understand, analyze the current state of development of smart cities in Russia, the problems you face, the approaches that you use to solve these problems. We will be in constant communication with you, discussing how you do this, and use the information received as a basis for shaping a body of global best practices. Some of this information is already available today. We are also interested in seeing what is happening in smaller cities, comparing their experiences with those of similar cities (again, as part of the formation of a set of best practices). Finally, we will try to come up with a set of recommendations.”
It is planned that the final version of the report on the digital transformation of Russian cities will be presented publicly in June 2021.
Separately, Ellen Hamilton noted the work carried out by the Ministry of Construction of Russia and the NTI Competence Center on Big Data Storage and Analytics Technologies based at Moscow State University: “What I especially like about Russia is the amazing work that you have done in relation to the IQ of cities index. This is a great starting point. You don’t see such results in every country”.
On March 3, 2020, the Ministry of Construction of Russia presented the first index of digitalization of urban economy “IQ of Cities”, developed jointly with the NTI Competence Center on Big Data within the framework of the departmental project “Smart City”. The index was calculated based on data from 191 cities at the end of 2018. Then a similar calculation of the index was carried out based on the data of 209 cities for 2019.
According to Kim Andreasson, the World Bank study explores three key areas: 1) the main priorities for the development of a smart city; 2) best practices for using digital technologies to solve problems of emergency response, resilience to modern challenges such as COVID-19; 3) the use of data and artificial intelligence to improve decision-making, service delivery and response to modern challenges.
During the next part of the session, representatives of Zheleznovodsk, Kazan, Krasnodar and Moscow answered the following questions: “What is the main priority in the development of a smart city is relevant for your city?” and “What is the most important challenge / barrier for the development of your smart city?”.
The World Bank is assisted in the study by intellectual partner organizations who have also commented on the above issues. Head of the international information exchange department Tatyana Boyko spoke on behalf of the Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat), on behalf of Strelka construction bureau – head of the urban governance department Max Ivto, on behalf of the Center for Strategic Research – deputy head of the spatial development department Ilya Lagunov, on behalf of the Institute of the Information Society – Head of the directorate for regional programs Peter Ershov.
“Our experience shows that if at the regional level sufficient attention is paid to the problem of the smart cities development, then the municipalities, in fact, have much more chances of success in the implementation of their initiatives,” said Peter Ershov.
He also mentioned the barriers to the development of Russian smart cities: “In addition to financial support, I would like to mention staffing. Unfortunately, we can state the fact that at the level of municipalities both the willingness of residents to use the services of a smart city and the qualifications of municipal employees leave much to be desired. The local level suffers from the fact that all cadres are attracted to larger centers.
One of the important barriers is the problem of synchronizing the initiatives of the municipality and the level of the region, because both technical and managerial decisions that are made at both levels of government are usually the same. If you synchronize them in time, you can avoid many problems.”
According to Peter Ershov, there is also a problem of public awareness: “One of the reasons for the failures is insufficient work with the citizens at the stage of implementation of these projects. Before introducing them, it is necessary to work closely with the people, to understand their real needs”. “The slow change in the regulatory framework also affects: half the battle is to introduce some kind of service / solution at the level of the municipality, another thing is to provide it with an adequate regulatory and legal framework that would take into account the interests of citizens and ensure adequate control by the municipality”, – summed up Peter Ershov.
Giving the floor to Dmitry Rakov, head of the expert and analytical department of the NTI Competence Center for Big Data at Moscow State University, session moderator Oleg Petrov noted: “We see Moscow State University as possible partners [of the research].”
“Our MSU team, commissioned by the Ministry of Construction, is the developer of a methodology for assessing the IQ of cities. At the moment we are updating the methodology … From our side, one of the key barriers, probably, is an incomplete understanding, including on the part of the population, why the city needs to become smart at all. The introduction of new technologies (digitalization in general) is only one of the sides of the digital transformation of the urban economy, at the same time it is important to understand that the main goal is to make the functioning of the city and its management more efficient, to ensure safety and comfort for citizens. We are very glad that this barrier is already decreasing and that this ideology is already fully beginning to be accepted by cities,”said Dmitry Rakov.
“If we talk about the cities of Russia as a whole, then another key barrier is financial constraint, but mainly, it seems to us, this stop factor is expressed in the ratio of effects and costs, because a large number of effects from the implementation of smart cities are indirect: it is difficult to see an immediate monetary effect. But at the same time, it is important to see that with the development of smart cities, among other things, they become attractive for investment by building effective ecosystems, partnerships, technological development, and creating comfortable conditions for business,” added Dmitry Rakov.
Nikita Utkin, RVC program manager, chairman of Technical Committee 194 “Cyber-Physical Systems”, is sure: “Those practices that have been successfully tested require immediate adoption of certain standards. It is this path that will ensure high efficiency in project implementation, their compatibility and, most importantly, scalability.”
On behalf of IIS, general director Tatiana Ershova and chairman of the Board of directors Yuri Hohlov also took part in the event.