My interview Government 2.0 in Russia: megabyte democracy – An interview with russian
e-gov-expert Alena Popova was published this week.
The author of the blog is Julia Talmazan. She lives in Vancouver and blogging about Russia, from the perspective of someone who was born
in the USSR, but grew up in Canada. Thank you Julie for the excellent
In interview I’m sharing with you about 10 points on the current situation in Russian Gov 2.0.
For Alena Popova, a young Russian woman specializing in the
nic government,” a lot of international conferences go the same way.
When Alena tells people she is from Russia doing consulting work in Government 2.0, a common response to her “elevator pitch” is disbelief.
“Really? You have Gov 2.0 in Russia? Are you joking?” is what Alena sa
ys she gets a lot.
At last month’s Government 2.0 Expo in Washington D.C., Popova was in high demand.
She is one of the pioneers of Government 2.0 communications in her
“I kept on repeating 150 times a day that there are elements of Gov 2.0 in Russia and that this area is being actively developed. People
started to ask questions.”
Alena says the interest toward how Government 2.0 is developing in Russia is high. And, the offers for partnership keep coming. For one, a
community engagement site seeclickfix.com
that is growing big in the United States by letting citizens report
issues in their neighbourhoods is now also expanding into the Russian
“Ben Berkowitz (the co-founder of seeclickfix.com) is smart for recognizing this project could pick up in Russia,” says Alena.
Alena Popova is a representative of the new generation of Russian women – confident, smart, ambitious. So ambitious in fact that she says
she wants to become Russia’s first female Prime Minister by 2015.
I have first heard about Alena on Twitter. Popova’s handle ranked way up there in the Russian list of “key influencers,” hence she made it
onto my Twitter feed. I started paying attention when Alena began
referencing the Russian version of Government 2.0, a mystery term to me
at the time.
I consider myself to be quite web 2.0 literate, but I have never heard about electronic government before. It made me curious, so I
turned to the omnipotent Wikipedia
to find out what it actually stands for. Turns out the
so-called “Government 2.0” is a system for “creating a comfortable,
transparent, and cheap interaction between government and citizens.”
Once I got Alena to share her insights with me, I asked for her own definition of what Government 2.0 means.
“Often people say e-gov is all about new technology. I think that Gov 2.0 is about the new strategies of communication between citizens and
people in power, the greater public control by people over government’s
Sounds good, but does it work in Russia?
Alena says they are not that much behind.
“There is a lot that still needs to be done, but we are moving forward.”
The bottom line according to Popova is that Gov 2.0 experts in Russia understand that citizens using government services should be the ones
to decide what services are offered to them, that the politicians should
be active online, and that the government can benefit from the social
“Our President has a Twitter account and a blog. On top of that, he calls on government officials to react to the
citizen appeals they get online in an efficient manner. But in Russia,
there is no one platform for that, no government e-mail system…The use
of agency work is not up to par either, which forces the government to
take on the functions that are not the government’s primary job. So we
are consulting with a lot with international experts to discover
mechanisms of Government 2.0 that would actually work in our country.”
Meanwhile, Popova is battling it out on the home front.
Duma 2.0 is Alena’s brainchild (Duma is Russian for
“Parliament”). Originally, the project was supposed to become a place to
bring citizens and government officials together. The job of the people
would be to discuss current issues and changes to laws, while the job
of the government would be to listen in.
Yet, this experiment in “megabyte democracy” turned out to be too big a bite for the Russians to chew.
«We understood that right now this scheme does not work,» Alena sums up. «Primarily because users in Russia give few suggestions, reverting
to scolding instead. So the efficiency is low…We are the
pioneers in this format. That is why we had failures that we learned
from. But, Duma 2.0 piqued interest. And people are waiting to see what
it will ultimately end up being.”
Alena says the online market in Russia is aware of her project, and so is Medvedev’s administration. But Popova says she is not the one to
see the world through pink coloured glasses.
“We realize that it is hard to get politicians to be open and accountable. But for now, we have the lobby of the President who helps
along with different programs in the realm of government openness.”
Popova says open data will never be 100% accessible. But, how effectively will things that do become accessible work is something that
only future will tell.
For now, Russian e-gov experts disagree on how long it will take the idea of Government 2.0 to find solid ground in Russia — some say it
will take 3-5 years, others say it could take up to a decade.
«I think the next two years will show how this area will develop in Russia,» says Alena. «One interesting fact – there are 2-3 mobile phones
per household in Russia, but only 30% of households have access to
Internet. Our e-government has to find a model that works under these
circumstances. I believe in apps. Plus, the mobile Internet is growing
very fast in Russia…But on some level it will depend on myself and the
like-minded individuals who are ready to create, fail and create again,
while looking for models that work.»