Cyberstate and digital twins

Digital twins for citizens, lower administrative burden on businesses and, subsequently, lower governance mechanism costs are the results promised by the Center for Strategic Research headed by Alexei Kudrin, former Finance Minister, in case the Center’s idea of A State as a Platform program is implemented. The state governance system is suggested to be subjected to a comprehensive transformation and based on the most advanced and breakthrough technologies (ranging from Big Data to Artificial Intelligence). According to the Center, that will improve people’s wellbeing and facilitate national economy’s growth fuelled by information technologies.

Former RF Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin | RIAN

IT company as a state substitute

Center for Strategic Research’s program suggests an overhaul of the relationships between the people and state agencies. The state’s and its organizations’ functions are to become more like those of an IT company providing services to clients.

“A state as a platform shall be focused on each and every citizen”, program authors say.

As the Center’s concept puts it, people will get comprehensive and, to a great degree, predictive solutions to their problems through AI technologies which will replace currently disparate services provided by various platforms including portals of varying agencies. That will be ensured by a unified and comprehensive architecture of a state digital platform relying on and employing a common database which will gradually replace currently independent information systems of various agencies. The common platform will generate for the individuals the so called digital twins to accumulate the maximum of all and any information on every Russian national available.

“An individual, identified by the state digital platform, will via a digital twin communicate with the digital ecosystem and get digital services in line with the emerging needs”, Center for Strategic Research’s report notes.

An access to the platform will be provided via a remote biometrics base identification, while the format of communicating with the state should be made fully digitalized.

Thrifty transformations

All government services should be put in a digital format, as well as government supervision, monitoring and licensing/permitting activities. The platform will also be useful for businesses since their interactions with the state authorities are to be digitalized as well, thereby lowering the administrative burden. Besides, a portion of the platform may be developed by business entities, therefore the project will be financially interesting to businesses as well.

The digital transformation is expected to generate some benefits for the state as well. Apart from taking it in its entirety to the global digital age, it will ensure savings for the state budget. According to the Center for Strategic Research, the reform will bring about the governance mechanism costs reduction by 0.3% of the national GDP by 2024. That will be due to, among other things, increased efficiency of the government management performance, greater number of paperless services and, primarily, cuts in government employees number.

The state digitalization will be the responsibility of a ministry, while the overall process shall be supervised by a special official, a deputy prime minister, who is referred to as the chief system architect. The latter will also supervise the operation of the Digital Transformation Center. Besides, every government agency shall get a senior manager in charge of the digital transformation. The chief architect shall handle all current budgets allocated for the national governance entities’ computerization which will ensure funding for the digital governance platform.

Pointless counterstand

The shift of the government to the digital format is virtually inevitable. The state will keep digitalizing its operations, experts believe. That is also evidences by the experience and practices of the Western countries. Therefore, the idea of Alexei Kudrin will hardly see any objections. A further isolated computerization of separate government agencies no longer brings about any substantial increase in performance efficiency.

“Interagency e-synergy has simplified the teamplay of the government agencies, yet they remain a sort of feudalistic IT states within the country. Building a state digital platform is logical and indispensable in accomplishing a shift to a mature governance model” Yury Gilev, Director of Solutions for E-Government at CROC IT service provider, specifies.

Boris Pimonenko, Director for Computerization and Servicing Process at NAUMEN vendor and integrator, shares his viewpoint.

“The challenge is difficult but doable. The project implementation will result in an awareness overhaul and present-day governance process reconsideration. This translates to not merely improving the state’s information maturity, but to facilitating development of new competitive technologies, products, and solutions”, the expert believes.

Still, an absolute lack of any specifics regarding the declared plan, is the cause of some uncertainty.

“The initiative is great, and we all are interested in launching such projects. Yet I hope the projects’ authors do realize the key factor is the project’s practical implementation. At the moment, the Center for Strategic Research only has an idea”, Alexei Parfentiev, chief analyst at SearchInform information security company, says.

The project implementation deadline is also questionable. If the platform is ever brought to existence, it will not happen as soon as the idea proponents expect, Leonid Delitsin, analyst at Finam (Financial Analyst of Moscow), claims. He refers to the idea of a National Computerized System promoted by Anatoly Kitov in the late years of the USSR. The program was never implemented due to its complexity. The new idea may face similar obstacles as well. The analyst also warns of significant side effects of the Center for Strategic Research’s program implementation. The redundant government employees will have to be assisted with new employment, for instance. Besides, the dependence on the IT solutions providers will grow. Whereas the ultimate envisaged savings for the state budget do not seem to be too impressive.

“0.3% of the national GDP means billions of dollars, but it is doubtful the state has no comparable alternatives”, Leonid Delitsin thinks.

Olga Uskova, Cognitive Technologies software developer President, finds the idea of building a common state digital platform utopian. And the problem is not about technologies.

Over twenty years ago, Cognitive Technologies took part in the national project of developing and implementing a unified comprehensive social number of a citizen in Russia”, the expert says. “Even though the initiative gained support at the very top level and of all interested agencies and legislators, it never brought any significant results. Until now, instead of a single data card, we all hold a variety of tax, insurance, social, pension, etc. cards. If bureaucrats had failed to reach an agreement on a much simpler issue, what is the point of discussing a common state digital platform? With reference to a projects of that kind, the structure of the bureaucratic mechanism we have in this country does not allow to reach any consensus on its various components”.

By Olga Blinova

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