Russia's National AI Strategy Takes Shape

Offering the best hints yet about the upcoming national artificial intelligence strategy, Russian President Vladimir Putin has outlined several pragmatic lines of effort: training programs, public-private cooperation, legislative support, efforts to build on Russia’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) strengths. 
 
Somewhat surprisingly, he also suggested that the government would seek to enshrine and protect new intellectual property and citizens’ rights. 
 
President Putin ordered his government apparatus to create a national artificial intelligence strategy by June 25th. With that date quickly approaching, the world is waiting to see Russia’s AI plans. The key areas highlighted by Putin for Russia’s AI development include:
 
Training initiatives
• Legislative support
• Public-private cooperation
• Efforts to advance Russia’s STEM strengths
 
Putin spoke of the need to ensure “the readiness of society, citizens for the widespread introduction of such technologies. It is, therefore, necessary to provide widespread digital education, to launch retraining programs.”
 
An increased need for AI funding was also touched upon. Putin said cash will need to be invested from both the state and investors through public-private cooperation. “Russia should become one of the key platforms for solving complex scientific problems with the participation of scientists from around the world,” declared Putin.
 
In his speech, Putin declared that the crucial condition for AI development is “the readiness of society, citizens for the widespread introduction of such technologies. It is therefore necessary to provide widespread digital education, to launch retraining programs” in certain professions.
 
More funding is also necessary, Putin said, both from state coffers and by wooing investors through public-private cooperation. For the former, Putin and his ministers raised the possibility of investing up to $1.4 billion in domestic AI development in the next several years. He called upon Russian companies to join AI efforts, and said he was personally ready to talk to any company that was hesitant.
 
The increased funding will spur “the creation of fundamentally new reserves, mathematical methods, principles of operation of artificial intelligence, including, by analogy with the human brain,” Putin said. “Russia should become one of the key platforms for solving complex scientific problems with the participation of scientists from around the world.” 
 
He said some of this work can be organised or performed at international mathematical centers, like the ones slated to open next year in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi.
 
Perhaps responding to concerns about intellectual property rights in Russia, and the related emigration of talented IT developers, Putin said that “it is necessary to guarantee reliable protection of intellectual property, legal conditions for the registration of patents in the national jurisdiction of Russia.”
 
Putin also called for new legislation to foster AI, and to ensure the rights of citizens and their safety. “It is fundamentally important to tune our legislation to a new technological reality, quickly and efficiently form a flexible, adequate legal basis for the development and use of artificial intelligence-based application solutions, as well as special regimes for private investment in creating breakthrough solutions,” he said.
 
Ultimately, the Russian leader said, his country must at the least develop “technological sovereignty” in AI: “This is the most important condition for the viability of our business and the economy, the quality of life of Russian citizens, the security and defense capability of the state.”
 
Putin also reiterated his belief that AI will offer unprecedented power, including military power, to any government that builds a big enough lead in the technology. 
 
“Mechanisms of artificial intelligence provide real-time fast decision-making based on the analysis of huge amounts of information, which gives tremendous advantages in quality and effectiveness,” he said 
 
“If someone can provide a monopoly in the field of artificial intelligence, then the consequences are clear to all of us: he will rule the world.” 
 
In the quest for AI, he said, Russia has “good starting conditions and serious competitive advantages.” These include its “traditionally strong scientific and educational schools in mathematics and physics, on a competitive system of training specialists in the field of IT,” and “one of the highest global penetration rates for mobile communications and the Internet.” 
 
These have fostered world-class scientific research and products, “including in such areas as computer vision and voice recognition, as well as cybersecurity,” he said.
 
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