Russia, despite its current economic difficulties, remains a relatively well off and developed country. However, the effects of high commodity prices, a conservative fiscal and monetary policy, and administrative reform which lowered barriers to doing business in the country and thus fuelled high growth in the first decade of the 2000s are no longer present. The main challenge for Russia is how to create a new economic model that can lay the foundations of sustainable future growth.
A series of three year-long projects conducted by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Russia addressed these issues and possible scenarios for the future. The first in the sequence reports, Scenarios for the Russian Federation (2012), outlined a set of political, societal and economic challenges that Russia would face in the near future. One of these scenarios indicated that regional growth may be an important driver for the national economy. The second report, Russia’s Regions Drivers for Growth: 4×4 (2013), built on this insight and focused on the best examples of Russian regions that were successful in fostering economic growth. The third report, Unknown Russia: Powered by Entrepreneurs (2014), focused on successful and innovative Russian firms, the barriers they have to overcome and the strategies in which they manage to do it.
In 2015, the Global Agenda Council on Russia embarked on the fourth part of the agenda, analysing the potential sources of sustainable growth. In contrast to previous years, the Council will not include examples of possible scenarios, successful regions or world-class companies, but rather commission a series of essays that describe the mosaic of changes happening in much less visible and often imperceptible ways. Specifically, the focus will be on the digital space that is changing the society, culture, norms – and ultimately building intangible infrastructure that will create foundations for what economists call “growth at the frontier”.
Launched on 20 October 2015, the Global Agenda Council on Russia’s latest project – Digital Russia (www.digital-russia.com) – has commissioned a series of essays in which Council Members, leading academics, entrepreneurs and public figures argue that a digital transformation in the country is underway. The essays focus on a range of issues, including:
• How the digital life of Russian regions became “hyperlocal” and why the internet does not defy the notion of locality
• How the social media landscape in Russia is distinct from other countries and how it has profoundly different social effects from other forms of online and traditional media
• How one of the Russian regions succeeded in creating a volunteer project teaching thousands of elderly people to use computers
• How Russian museums took to sharing art treasuries, cultural traditions and scientific heritage creating frontier digital technologies
• How e-governance facilitates changes in the business climate and improves services provided by governmental organizations
• How the digital revolution influences everyday life and cognitive style of contemporary Russian society