Ban on foreign software: What do technology zones and open source have to do with it?

On March 30, 2022, President of Russia Vladimir Putin banned the purchase of foreign software for state agencies and governmental customers to be used at critical infrastructure in the country; since March 31, it has been illegal to purchase it without approval by a federal executive body. So, starting January 1, 2025, the entire country will have to transition to Russian-made software. It is noteworthy that this is a global trend related to the division into new technology zones. It means that all critical infrastructure in these zones must use secure software to literally prevent aircraft accidents, nuclear power plant disasters and blackouts in cities. But all in good time…


What is a technology zone?

Back in the early 2000s, famous scientist and economist Oleg Grigoryev developed the theory of technology zones for a new economic science, neoconomics. According to the concept, a technology zone is an area that includes one or several countries linked by the division of labor in the economy so tightly that relations with countries outside this area play a minor role.

In the recent years, the US has been the center of the global technology zone, but the recent global events have revealed a change in the world order. Analysts say that the world has already broke up into new technology zones with their own labor division, currency and the common critical information infrastructure, that is, information systems, information and telecommunication networks, automated control systems and computer software. The critical infrastructure comprises companies that operate in the strategically important areas such as healthcare, science, transport, communications, energy production, banking, space exploration, mining, metallurgy and chemical industry, as well as telecommunications. All these sectors use computer software whose security directly depends on what kind of software it is.

Russia’s place in the world of technology

The division into technology zones is an obvious trend, its example being even the mere fact that Huawei was excluded from the US market; in addition, Google-owned applications are no longer pre-installed on Chinese Android smartphones. Under these circumstances, Russia needs to implement a strategy to boost its own technological sovereignty.

Today’s world currently has a western technological zone which includes the USA, UK and Australia (the AUKUS pact) and an eastern one (China and others), while the rest of the world remains undecided and located in a zone of some sort of turbulence.

So far we can hardly call Russia a developed zone; rather, the country is currently in a stage of total separation from the West and the formation of its own technological zone (or where else would sanctions come from?). But Russia’s population totals only 144.1 mio, a relatively small figure. In order to develop a technological zone, the country should have a population of at least half a billion people. Therefore, it is reasonable for us to consider different formats of partnership with other neighboring countries that are mostly in technological isolation as well – such as India, Iran and Turkey, and possibly Europe.

Open source as a technology trend

A particular role in the process of development and interaction of technological zones of the future will be assigned to open-source software, which has already become a major global technological trend. This software has its source code open and available for any user. For certain types of software, open source has already become a standard. The main value of the open source ideology is the availability of the source code to its users.

Western IT companies that have announced the suspension of their activities in the Russian market, such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco and others, are those that supply proprietary software. Yet, as regards information security, proprietary software is not transparent about potential vulnerabilities; its code cannot be verified as software manufactured by these companies does not have access to the source code.

Software developers’ major task is the opportunity to detect the stage when an error occurs and correct it. Software can often be used to handle various incidents. As regards proprietary software, you cannot figure out the main cause of the incident, while open-source software allows you to scan and analyze the code, and get an understanding whether it will affect key processes.

According to our forecasts, Russia will develop its technological zone in collaboration with other countries that are in a similar situation. Russia’s IT industry needs to advance and target the markets that will potentially be located in our technological zone.

In general, we should note that any hardware, be it an aircraft, a smartphone, a laptop or a hydroelectric power plant control system, is just an idle device or machine that will not work without any software. The trend towards software localization seems totally right and logical as the issue of security is essential. The work of any critical information infrastructure object depends entirely on security of the software in use, and countries’ urge to abandon foreign software and utilize domestically manufactured open-source software seems perfectly reasonable.

By Dmitry Golubovsky, CEO of the IT company TAGES

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