Russia Wants Domestic Alternatives To Replace Foreign Tech

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Some government oprganisations ban Google services, while the procurement process changes to favour Russian companies

As part of a large set of actions that are designed to lessen Russian reliance on foreign technology and digital services, government agencies in the Irkutsk region (Siberia) were ordered last month by the presidential administration to stop using the services provided by Google.

The ban concerns the use of Google’s web resources for the storage of official documents, the use of Google software to create websites for government agencies, the use of Gmail for official mail and “Google search engines for searches of the Internet sites of state agencies.”

In addition, state agencies are forbidden to involve Google in educational programs or competitions. The prohibitions are being chocked up to heighten “information security.”

No foreign software in Russian state companies

The first informtion about the “Irkutsk Google ban” was published on the Your Irkutsk portal (irk.ru), which has since taken it down. The news was then reported by online tech portal CNews.ru.

Russian Dolls - Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisA quick survey made by CNews among regional IT directors showed that the “Google ban” is not an isolated incident, though it does not seem to stem from a systematic approach.

The current ban by officials on the use of foreign Internet resources is the second in the last eight months. In November 2013, it became known that officials in the Rostov and Perm regions were recommending that the Google email, YouTube video hosting and other foreign services be avoided.

Russian business daily Vedomosti has reported that members of the Duma and their experts are preparing amendments to legislation that will require Russian companies with state involvement to replace foreign software and IT with Russian products.

A source in the parliament told Vedomosti that the proposal would give Russian products and producers preference in price and eligibility. In practice, it will mean that in the contractual tender process a Russian company will receive more points than a Western one for a bid with an equal price. Also, a purchaser that wants to choose a Western product when there is a domestically made analog available will have to provide a written explanation for such a decision.

Russian-made microchips for government IT systems

Russia’s new anti-western IT stance is supported by new measures to develop local substitutes. The Russian business daily Kommersant has reported that a government-controlled consortium of developers is planning to roll out Russia’s own microchips under the Baikal brand name as early as next year. The homemade microchips are supposed to oust American-made chips from government IT systems.

The consortium is said to include Baikal Electronics, a subsidiary of Russian supercomputer developer T-Platforms; United Instrumentation Corporation owned by Rostec, an umbrella company for national high-tech manufacturers; and Rusnano, Russia’s nanotech giant. None of them has leaked any investment amount, but experts approached by Kommersant reckon the project will cost “tens of millions of dollars.”

Protecting GLONASS from foreign dependence

The patriotic IT drive is set to encompass satellites and even tablets. Russia is presently developing a production program for modules to receive GLONASS signals, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told journalists Friday.

“All the chipsets and receiving modules for the GLONASS signal are produced outside of Russia. That is, we support orbital groups, give the signal for the navigation system away for free and using it requires modules bought by us abroad. That’s nonsense,” he said.

Rogozin stated that he has signed an order, under which “telecommunications, communications, positioning systems, cartography and similar things should all be produced in Russia.”

On an academic level too there is a growing emphasis on domestic functionality and security.  As reported by CNews.ru, a prominent technology institute, the CNIIEISU, has released prototypes of especially secure tablets that run on the Android-based Russian operating system (OS) RoMOS. The OS is protected by Russian encrypted technology, secured through VPN coding and is defensible against viruses and spy software. An integrated system is also able to locate and monitor cyber intruders through a virtual base station.

This story originally appeared on East-West Digital News.

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