Can digital keep Russia open for business?

A visitor stands in front of QR-codes information panels during a ceremony. Image: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Dmitry Kostygin
Chairman of the Board, CJSC Ulmart
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how The Digital Economy is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

The Digital Economy

The world is rapidly changing. The digital revolution is eliminating distances with split-second clicks and beeps, bringing information, goods and even transfers of money.

At any one time, around 70% of the world's population is engaged in the digital sphere in some way. Whether the action is online shopping, searching for information, talking to friends or just playing a game of chess with a person thousands of miles away, the internet has transformed huge portions of the world into a small village, where we’re all connected.

Russia is also a resident in this village.

Left out in the cold

For the past two years, global investors’ interest in Russia has cooled. This is despite a booming digital sector, the largest number of internet users and fastest-spreading connectivity in Europe, plus the dynamic growth of smartphone usage across one-quarter of the earth's landmass.

By all metrics, Russia is a modern, European nation with a fairly sound macro-economic foundation. Yes, the price of oil has dropped considerably and is unlikely to rise for years to come, and yes interstate relations are strained – but is this a reason for foreign investors to completely turn away from one of Russia's most dynamic growth sectors, the digital industry?

We in Russia say no

We are saying no because we do seek foreign investment to rapidly grow our businesses; but, at the same time this gathering in Davos is called an “economic forum” and if we, “the gathered”, feel that economic prosperity can lift the world to greater heights, then how can we sanction freezing investment into the very sector whose name is the main subject of this year's meeting—the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The sheer existence of the internet in a country suggests a somewhat open and liberal approach. Yes, there a large examples of government-sensored internet but the individual will always beat these measures to suppress the free exhange of information and experiences. By drastically limiting investment in the most dynamic growth sector in Russia, foreign governments are not changing anything—they are only uniting people against. They are preventing the very lifting and increased prosperity to which we are all committed.

The power of words

We can all appreciate the power of language. Over the course of thousands of discussion with potential investors, colleagues in other countries, people at conferences and exhibitions, I have often been asked: why is Russia so dependent on the central government?

There are thousands of unique and truly amazing companies in Russia and we are asking to be evaluated on the merits of our business models. We believe 2016 will be the year in which we, the companies playing leading roles in the digital transformation of Russia, will take back the language. We will empower it with our successes and not be drowned out by state-to-state tensions. In any business deal, in any market at any time there is always an upside, there is always an angle and strategies for investment.

The digital transformation of the world and Russia, a major and truly quite complex world economy, is going to continue. Whatever takes place in the corridors of state power, we work together. While they do their things up top, business is still business.

The season is open for foreign investment.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum