Current State of the Information Market in Russia: Main Producers and Basic Groups of Databases

Dr. Yakov Shraiberg, President, ILIAC; First Deputy Director, Russian National Public Library for Science & Technology, Moscow, Russia.

1. Introduction

To-date, the Russian market of information products has taken shape and is successfully integrating into the global one.

Large arrays of electronic information have been accumulated; the Russian sector in the Internet is experiencing a dramatic growth; telecommunication infrastructure is actively developing; more English-language information products appear; the latest foreign information and communication technologies, soft- and hardware products find way to the Russian market almost immediately after production; libraries and universities are becoming increasingly important as generally accessible information centers. Compared to other post-Soviet countries, Russia has noticeably advanced to modern information society.

The Russian market is efficient enough in meeting national requirements in software, hardware, technological, and communication products needed for the dissemination of information technologies. Computer awareness has significantly improved. Computer and communication market has started to occupy a more significant place in the national budget. Its share is estimated to reach 910 billion dollars till the end of this year. The number of PCs will total 20 million, while a share of home computers will change from the current 20 to 6070 percent. Other forecast characteristics of the market of information technologies are represented in slide 2.

Having said the above, I have to note that the Russian market of information products and services is still insufficiently stable, lacks a transparent structure, and, despite the adopted laws, suffers from legal illiteracy and illegitimate business. Specific features of the Russian information market are shown on this poster (slide 3). These features are the result of, on the one hand, modern tendencies on the global information market and, on the other hand, the history of information industry in Russia.

2. Background

Russian (Soviet) information market, database market particularly, started to form in the late 1980s, though the first databases appeared virtually together with computers and those software products that allowed one to generate, update, and offer users properly structured data sets. In the interests of historic impartiality I should note that, at the beginning of the 1950s, the Soviet Union and the United States pioneered together in the development and implementation of computers, and the required conditions were created in the Soviet Union for an intensive development of information industry. However, this did not happen because, first, the communist system was unprepared ideologically for general accessibility of information, and, second, the Party set an anti-computer course after Nikita Khrushchev declared cybernetics a false science. The research in computer science was folded. When this mistake became apparent at the end of the 1960s, the country had nothing else to do but copy western computer models and borrow the system software and software for the development and maintenance of databases.

Generally, the Party did not pay adequate attention to informatization and development of information industry. However, sensing the significance of the imminent information market and willing to preserve control over this sector of the economy, it authorized special powers to the most significant civil ministry of the country, The State Committee for Science and Technology. The Committee established the State System of Scientific and Technical Information, (GSNTI) and its Automated Subsystems for generating and accessing information products. Having this done, the Committee monopolized the development of information industry in the country. By layout, the State System of Scientific and Technical Information was a hierarchical set of central, branch, regional, and local information nodes, which were entitled to retrieve, process, store, and give in service (sometimes with some limitations) scientific and technical information. Only few major libraries were allowed to join the System. As a rule, they had to play the role of storehouses for the originals that served as raw material for information products generated by the System's centers. Over 90 percent of the information thus generated covered science and technology; humanitarian and social information was represented rather poorly. For this purpose there existed databases generated by the Institute of Social Sciences (INION) of the Academy of Sciences and INFORMKULTURA Center at the Russian State Library (the former Lenin Library).

However, the role of the State System of Scientific and Technical Information should not be underestimated: it gave birth to the database and information generation industry; its programs allowed one to introduce UDC into the practice of Sci-Tech information centers and libraries, and develop the automated system of the Union Catalog of Sci-Tech Publications still one of the largest functioning information system in Russia.

By the end of the 1980s, 3.8 million items of information resources were processed annually by the System's centers. Note that with a comparable staff engaged in information industry in the Soviet Union and the United States, the Soviet Union spent only 0.2 percent of the GNP against 1 percent spent by the United States; top-level foreign editions reached the Soviet Union 1.52 years after publication. In spite of that, by the end of the 1980s, the System's information resources were very representative: the central System's bodies only held nearly 30 million records and over 200 multi-subject and problem-oriented databases.

To 1990, the reference-information collection of the System held 1900 million items; the computer park had over 200 IBM 360/370 compatible computers and over 2000 PCs; 140000 people were on the staff.

Table 1 (slide 4) shows the main characteristics of the System's information generating centers as of 1990.

3. Laws and Regulations

Today, the development of information market in Russia is supported by a body of laws and regulations, which total 150. The main ones are the following:

    • On Information, Informatization, and Information Protection (1995);
    • On the Participation in the International Information Exchange (1996);
    • On Science and State Policy in Science and Technology (1996);
    • On Librarianship (1994);
    • On an obligatory Copy of Documents (1994).

In addition to federal laws and governmental regulations there exist normative documents adopted in order to ensure the compatibility of various parts of the national information infrastructure. In particular, they include documents on the maintenance of classification systems and formats. Several such documents, which we consider the most significant, are presented on slide 5.

It is noteworthy that the existing body of laws and regulations is fully capable of coping with the required civilized development of information market, and the cases of illegitimate business are explained not by the absence of the corresponding laws or regulations, as they often say, but by a reluctance or unpreparedness to work in the legal environment. But these are transient sorrows.

As mentioned earlier, economics and social sciences were presented in information products very little. Among 60 VINITI databases just one was on industry economics (104,000 abstracts, 19851989) and INION abstracts indicated in the table. Actually INION was the only one producer of social sciences information. Taking the ideological importance of this information into consideration the Party authorities established double subordination for INION having made it subordinate both to the USSR Academy of Sciences and CPSU Central Committee as well. At the same time for ideological reasons those materials were abstracted selectively. Social sciences information has had to serve as the tool separating Soviet user from "bad ideas" from abroad and concepts of foreign sociologists, historians, philosophers, economists and other social sciences were often presented wryly, but in the way needed to the Communist Party. Another reason for social sciences information "neglect" was the fact that the national library of the USSR, the State Lenin Library having millions of volumes in its collection participated in GSNTI with just one database on arts and culture ("Informkultura" Center). Other major libraries, such as All-Union Library for Foreign Literature, State Historic Public Library, M. Saltykov-Shedrin State Public Library, which had and still have in their collections a lot of materials on social sciences did not participate in GSNTI at all.

Other databases by central branch bodies GSNTI participants (line 2, same table) almost didn't include social sciences information. Materials on economics were found just in 4 databases on economic aspects of several branches of industry.

Similar situation in proportional relation of economics and social sciences takes place on other GSNTI hierarchical levels (table 1).

Another source of information products with international status generation was formation of the International Network of Scientific and Technical Information (INSTI). The Network was formed within the Council for Mutual Economic Aid (CMEA), the international body of socialist states. The Network was managed by the International Center for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI) located in Moscow. (By the way, this is the only one CMEA body survived in 19901991. Certainly, the principles and directions of its activities have been changed). INSTI included near 20 selected national bodies, institutions and members of USSR, Bulgaria, Hungary, Vietnam, GDR, Cuba, Romania, Mongolia, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Their information products mostly complemented products designed by GSNTI members, but several original information systems (databases) were designed especially within INSTI (for instance, MARSI database as an analog of the International System on Serial Publications (ISDS) for CMEA countries, databases MISOD, MSIS PK, others). Data on INSTI major databases are presented in the table 2, slide 6. These products were strictly oriented towards science and technique. Economics and social sciences were presented in these products very little.

Not just information infrastructure was formed within CMEA. CMEA members developed and implemented their own standards, formats and classification schemes. All this consequently affected their information disintegration with world community, which was evidently the desire of officials at that time.

Both INSTI and GSNTI collapsed in 1991. New course towards international cooperation and integration in information business (in policy and economics as well) was taken. In present we have something to talk about. The information infrastructure of modern Russia really becomes a part of world infrastructure.

4. Basic Parameters and Participants of Modern Russian Information Market

The Informregistr Sci-Tech Center subordinated to the Ministry for Communications and Informatization of the Russian Federation is responsible for registration, control and dissemination of information on all databases and databanks produced in the country (except databases on legal information). The Sistema Sci-Tech Center subordinated to the Federal Agency for Governmental Communication and Information is responsible for registration and control of legal databases. The Informregistr Center publishes the information on registered databases, publishes the catalog of Russian databases in printed and electronic versions (worldwide distributor International Library, Information and Analytical Center, ILIAC,, maintains the meta-database of the State Register of Databases, performs information service upon request of companies, institutions and individuals.

As of January 1, 2001 the electronic catalog of the Russian Register included about 6,500 databases and databanks.

At the same time the last edition of official publication "Russian Databases. Catalog. Issue 7" published by Informregistr Sci-Tech Center in September 2000 includes data on 5,204 databases and their 952 owners. These data are used in statistical reports, but actually there are 5-6 times more databases in the country. All types of databases, i.e. bibliographic, abstract, factual, full text, others are considered.

The following gradation of databases on the basis of number of records (size) is proposed:

    1. Large databases (over 100,000 records, 50 Mb).
    2. Medium databases (1,000 100,000 records, 1-50 Mb).
    3. Small databases (less than 1,000 records, less than 1 Mb).

The following gradation of databases on the basis of functional purpose is proposed:

    1. Sci-Tech databases.
    2. Reference databases.
    3. Managerial databases.
    4. Research Databases.
    5. Others.

If we take these gradations into consideration the situation looks as follows (diagrams 1 and 2, slide 7).

Over 86% of databases are produced by the state property institutions. The range of services offered by the databases owners is indicated on the diagram 3; the geographic location of databases owners is indicated on the diagram 4 (slide 8).

Russia does not have a lot of big companies-database producers, such as DIALOG, SilverPlatter, OCLC, STN International, others yet. But private companies-information producers make us to talk about them more and more. Nevertheless, in present the majority of information products is produced by state institutions, which often act not just as producers, but as publishers of their products and vendors, i.e. distributors of their own information products.

Major information systems for the modern information infrastructure of the country (slide 9) include centers of databases generation (databases producers or publishers), centers of processing and provision of access to databases (hosts), major Internet servers, information brokers, libraries, special information institutions.

4.1. Library Network of Russia

There are over 150,000 libraries in the country. The typology of the library network is shown on the slide 10. About 5,000 libraries have operating automated systems. 5,000 acquired (or are acquiring) computers. Besides their own OPACs libraries support a couple of hundreds of databases. They provide access to their resources via more than 200 library Internet Web-sites.

Characteristics of information resources of major libraries are presented in table 3, slide 11.

On the junction of library network and the network of Sci-Tech information there are several important information producers playing a significant, if not determinative role in the area of social sciences. These are:

  • INION (Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, that maintains over 20 databases in social sciences, the humanities and economics;
  • Russian Book Chamber, responsible of maintaining the database on national bibliography a new CDROM version of which has been issued recently (over 850,000 records);
  • "Museums of Russia" a comprehensive site containing information on most Russian museums, galleries and cultural web-sites, selected web-sites, CD collections, information for researchers and tourists. Information on 2,500 museums is updated daily. Over 3,500 masterpieces from collections of Russian museums are represented on the site. The site contains information on a wide scope of subjects related to arts and culture, such as history of Russian culture, history and society, outstanding personalities of Russia, decorative and folk arts, others. It is the most comprehensive multimedia database on museums in the country;
  • Information and Computer Center of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation is the official producer and owner of the Ministry databases as well as the official portal on culture and arts "Russian Culture"
  • International Library, Information and Analytical Center (ILIAC) non-profit corporation of international status. ILIAC represents and distributes worldwide information products produced by libraries, museums, universities, publishing houses, information institutions of Russia and CIS countries. You can often get information and full-text copies of documents on science, technology, arts, culture, ecology and education through ILIAC. ILIAC has English language interface and representative Web-servers in USA and Russia.

Internet-addresses and brief characteristics of these institutions are presented in table 4, slide 12.

4.2. Information Resources of Archival Collection of the Russian Federation

The Archival Collection includes both government and non-government segments; its total volume makes about 470 m items, as of early 2001. Still there is neither union electronic catalog nor reference database. Printed reference books, around 10-12 annual titles, make the most accessible information. Several have got their electronic versions. Over 420 databases on the structure and contents of archival documents have been maintained. You will find more detailed information on slide 13.

As a rule, archives are poorly computerized and barely familiar with information technologies. There is a strong need for national standards of electronic document circulation, electronic resources storage and utilization. The most valuable information resource of Russian archives has been awaiting until the clock strikes for it.

4.3. State Network of Sci-tech Information (GSNTI)

State Network of Sci-Tech Information (GSNTI) has been renewed and updated after the collapse of the old GSNTI in 1991. Today, GSNTI presents the most powerful information resource in the country; in fact, many old GSNTI centers have preserved their existence, as well as the hierarchic system structure (excluding intermediate republican information institutes which is connected with the formation with new independent states).

The new GSNTI has got no disadvantages characteristic to the former command and administrative system. Principles of its formation and development are based on modern tendencies of information society development around the world. In present GSNTI includes:

  • Federal STI bodies and Sci-Tech libraries (STL);
  • Branch STI bodies and STL;
  • Regional STI centers forming the "Rosinformresurs" combination (69 centers in various regions of the country).

Some quantitative and content parameters characterizing major Federal information producers within modern GSNTI are presented in table 5 (slide 14).

As we can see from the table 5, the information resource of GSNTI is really enormous and temps of its growth are actually stable despite of reduction of sci-tech documents flow into the country.

4.4. Information Resources of the State System of Statistics

The System includes:

    • Information collections on statistics branches;
    • Information collections of integrated databases;
    • The Single State Register of Enterprises and Organizations;
    • Statistical information reports.

The major producer is the Russian Federation State Committee on Statistics. Regional databases and registers are formed by regional statistical bodies. Afterwards on the Federal level they are integrated into Federal databases and registers. The Russian Federation State Committee on Statistics Network includes:

  • Federal integrated database "Operational Statistics" (4,200 records) containing value of statistical showing;
  • Bank of full text documents "Russian Statistics" containing official publications (1,400 records).

30-35 statistical databases are registered (actualized) in the State Register of Databases and Databanks annually.

One of the major problems in respect of statistical information use are big needs in original statistical data, which might contradict with the requirement of confidentiality of those data. The problem of statistical data representation without their individuality and their opening without any detriment to their subjects raises in this respect.

4.5. The State System of Legal Information

In the field of legal information the formation of the State System is still behind in competition with non-governmental information products producers. Having been responsive to the conjuncture, in early 1990-s several private firms and corporations entered the information market with databases on legal information. They successfully compete state systems, which appeared later. Existing resources of legal information (often added by other official publications) is presented in table 6, slide 15.

Design of a single system of legal information is considered on the state level. This system has already passed its first period and now looks like a successful symbiosis of state and private information companies. A single system of reference information (including financial, business and economic information) has more complicated tasks. This system has similar structure of producers, but is less coordinated and authenticated. We expect this problem to be solved in the near future.

5. Information on economic and social sciences

As was discussed, economics and social sciences do not dominate in a single information infrastructure of Russia. Partially this is a result of ideological orientation of former USSR and "neglect" of social science information in favor of rapidly developing Sci-Tech information. On the other hand, this information was often unauthenticated, depraved, was interpreted on the basis of marxism-leninism and did not take any other concepts into consideration.

Starting 1991-92 a number of information producers have paid more attention to economic and social science information. A number of new research works was done and published and production of information grew consequently. Unless information products on economics and social sciences are still behind Sci-Tech information products by their total number and nomenclature good results are reached in a number of cases.

Major databases on social sciences are presented in table 7, slide 16. It should be mentioned that most of them are bibliographic databases. At the same time the number of producers of full-text databases and multimedia products in this field (particularly in education) is extremely increasing. Besides 5 already presented major institutions generating and disseminating social sciences information (INION, ILIAC, Museums of Russia, RKP, Information and Computer Center of RF Ministry of Culture) both Russian National Libraries (in Moscow and St. Petersburg), National Public Library for Science & Technology in Novosibirsk, several publishing houses produce information databases on social sciences (table 7). Databases and other information products are available on CD-ROMs, on diskettes and on Internet. Approximately 1/3 of all social sciences information products are available on CD-ROMs. Internet usually hosts demo-versions, electronic catalogs of libraries and museums. These materials are usually free of charge. About 60% of information products are still distributed on diskettes. (By the way, just 20% of all databases registered in the State Register are published on CD-ROMs).

The number of private companies producing CD-ROMs with social sciences information products increases in modern Russia. These CD-ROMs are usually multimedia products corresponding with international standards. The company "New Media Generation" should be highlighted here. The Company publishes information products of about 80 titles including educational and entertainment products, encyclopedia, full-text products. Here we can also mention "Russian National Multimedia Center" (about 20 titles of educational and historic CD-ROMs), "Compact Book" (over 10 historic and science CD-ROMs), others.

Information on economics is represented in present by over 150 databases, about 120 of which contain information on general economics and business economics. Growth of information products on economics is logically linked with transition to new economic conditions and market economy in the country. Major databases on economics having the highest demand are presented in table 8, slide 17. It is necessary to add that ILIAC offers special service to its foreign customers interested in Russian information market. This service is preparations of general and specialized reviews with related bibliographic, factual and address-reference information attached.

Analyzing information market we can't avoid Internet. To analyze the situation in Russian Internet in full I actually need to give a separate paper. In the meantime let's briefly indicate following points.

Internet enormously develops in Russia and attracts information market participants. Unless the majority of databases and other information products are still available just on CD-ROMs and diskettes the role of Internet-sites as vendors of electronic information constantly grows. Internet is already not just a fashion in Russia, but realized necessity and an integral part of information society development.

Some parameters of Russian Internet (RUNET) were presented in slide 2. Table 9, slide 18 presents some additional characteristics including the list of major network providers. It should be mentioned that intensive penetration of Internet into Russian reality already resulted the double increase of Internet users during last year.

New trends in RUNET indicated in 2000 are as follows:

    • E-commerce;
    • Commercialization of Internet;
    • Attraction of investments;
    • Electronic libraries;
    • Electronic document delivery;
    • Introduction of wireless Internet.

Unless the telecommunications infrastructure (table 9), which is still not extensive enough retards the development of Internet, it can't restrain growth of Internet-sites and Internet-technologies. The nearest future of information products development and dissemination is undoubtedly connected with Internet. The analysis of Russian Internet-sites and Internet in Russia in general is the topic of a separate serious paper. I hope to do it next time.

Thank you for your attention!

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