Mikhail Petrosyan: BRICS countries show high digital ambitions

September 25, 2020

The BRICS Civil Forum concluded on 25 September. Participants of the session “BRICS Economies: Digital Transformation” discussed the development of cooperation between the BRICS countries in the field of digitalization.

Mikhail Petrosyan, Adviser for international cooperation to the Director-General, Data Economy Russia 2024, discussed the scale of the growth of e-commerce and the greater demand for digital services in the BRICS countries during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus infection.

  • Mr Petrosyan, the digitalization of all spheres of life has gathered a truly record-breaking pace during the pandemic. What is the current level of the Russian economy’s digitalization?

Indeed, the digital sector has become unprecedentedly important during the active phase of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The high level of digital technologies development allowed us to obtain various benefits after a lockdown was introduced. First of all, I am referring to delivery services, the food-tech sector, e-commerce and distance learning. Consequently, it became possible to meet people’s basic needs whenever possible. We teamed up with the Russian Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media and tried to compile a detailed catalogue of similar services in the crowdsourcing format on the «Все.онлайн» website. The catalogue includes over 500 services. Over five million people contacted this platform in the first three months. This confirms the fact that digital products remained highly popular during the lockdown.

The use of digital technologies in the field of healthcare is another critical aspect of digital efforts to resist the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes analyzing computed tomography images by a machine vision process, predicting pandemic development scenarios with the help of AI, online self-checking using AI, and using 3D printers for manufacturing PPE plus many other examples of digitalization. All this was accessible and helped respond effectively to the COVID-19 challenge.

I would like to note the role of the leading Russian digital economic companies that managed to provide the population with the above-mentioned services and to provide together with the Government a consolidated response to the COVID-19 pandemic consequences.

  • Is it necessary to digitalize all economic segments, if some of them have not yet been digitalized?

Digital transformation as a national goal is formulated in the Russian President’s Executive Order on National Development Goals 2030. This is a high-priority long-term aspect of the Russian national strategy; on the whole, this is motivated by the global development of digital technologies.

The quality of people lives is the main aspect. Digital technologies make it possible to effectively meet popular requirements. Of course, this should be duly balanced with such aspects as ethics and security.

Additionally, the digital transformation of economic sectors, new business models, the conversion to the platform economy and data-based management of business processes are now seen as stable global economic trends. They are crucial for the development of the Russian corporate sector.

All this is reflected in the fact that the attainment of digital maturity of key economic sectors and the social sphere, including the field of healthcare, education and public administration, is a key parameter of the Digital Transformation national goal.

  • What sectors of the Russian economy are most active in the digitalization sphere?

Mikhail Petrosyan: I believe that professional community has reached consensus on the fact that the economy’s financial, media, retail and transport sectors are marked by high digitalization levels. Industry, including oil and gas sector, healthcare, education, agriculture and others, are also demonstrating a digital transformation trend. They have different digital maturity levels, but the efforts of the business community and the state to ensure their digitalization should produce the relevant effect.

  • Speaking of BRICS and digital economy, it is obvious that digitalization is proceeding at a different pace in the BRICS countries. How can we facilitate the development synergy of national economies in this case?

Yes, although digitalization is proceeding at a different pace, the BRICS countries are showing high digital ambitions. It is important to enhance cooperation and exchange experience at all levels on such digital economic aspects as legal regulation and standardization, human resources and education, information security, expanded export and import volumes regarding digital services, etc. There is a great potential for joint cooperation in the Open Source sphere, an important component of the modern digital landscape.

  • What are your impressions of theyour session at the BRICS Civil Forum?

The discussion on digital economy is extremely necessary for the above-mentioned dialogue on topical matters of the expanding digital sector in the BRICS countries. As I have already said, this intensification is of high importance at all levels, including interstate, expert, scientific, corporate and, of course, the civil level. By synchronizing our actions in the multivector format, we will be able to achieve a mutually beneficial result for the entire BRICS grouping.