Digital Divide in Russia By Andrei Zemskov Russian National Public Library for Science and Technology, Moscow


Digital Divide in Russia By Andrei Zemskov Russian National Public Library for Science and Technology, Moscow

1. Definitions Development of information technology gives rise to social differentiation (digital divide or digital gap). This stratification is observed at various levels. Public libraries present basic tool for elimination of digital gap and provide universal access to information.

Altogether African countries with 740 mln population have 14 mln public telephone lines (less than Tokyo or Manhattan); there are 1 mln Internet users in Africa compared with 15 mln in UK.

Table 1 Information technology services per capita, comparison of African countries ( = 1) with OECD countries, in average Personal computers x 40 Mobile telephones x 110 Internet hosts x 1600 Africa provides 0.4 % of world content.

Table 2. Position with respect to ITP Position Country PC fax TV mobile Internet Index 1. USA 320 55 808 116 293 100 2. Finland 207 30 514 198 454 96 ... 5. Japan 227 93 674 198 210 84 9. Canada 207 24 670 81 155 63 10. Lux-g 375 23 518 64 59 61 51. Poland 25 1.0 350 5 8 15 53. Russia 17 0.3 381 1 3 12 103. Uganda 0.2 0.05 23 n/a 0.01 0.5

Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society, July 21, 2000 Virtual portrait of Internet user in US public libraries : < $20 000 salary, black or non white, no home computer and no higher education. American Administration spent a lot of money on analysis and compensation of digital divide causes and negative effects.

2. Russia, facts International seminar Digital divide in Russia and CIS countries, was held November 23, 2000, S-Petersburg under aegis of Federal government.

Table 3 Comparison of communication services, 2000 (percentage of population having direct access to services ) Telephone Mobile Internet users Europe 50% 35% 25% Russia 21% 2% 2%

Several remarks : 1. There were 2.7 3.1 mln registered Internet users and estimated ca. 7 mln Internet audience in Russia by 2000. 2. Majority (97%) of Internet users has switched telephone line connectivity

Several remarks : 3. Growth of PCs in Russia during 2000 by 25 % (1.3 mln PC sold); 4. Geographical divide : of total 3.1 Internet users 2.8 mln live in large and medium cities

Several remarks : 5. Geographical counter divide : Russian language Internet (so called Runet where sites with .su, .ru., ua, ge, kz., .extensions and sites with remarkable Russian content are counted) Regional (rural) part of Runet 88%, Metropolitan part (Moscow and S-Petersburg 12%.

Several remarks : 5. Gender divide : 80% Russian Internet audience is masculine 6. 20% Internet users are students, average age 31 years

Table 4 Percentage of Internet connected home computers Moscow 33.2% Novosibirsk 34.1% S-Petersburg 32.8% Ekaterinburg 22.2%

3. Internet and human rights Internet is pretty important with respect to provision of equal rights on information (as a part of quality of life) despite distance to capital or local population. The content available is the same all over net and that is essential difference if compared with local TV or newspapers.

Internet became remarkable component of mass media and influental factor of public life : PR campaigning at elections or important events (Chechnya war, m-r Gusinski affair, Parliament hearings, etc). Polls, ratings and public discussions.

Popular Russian sites (Rambler, aport, atrus, mail, Yandex, etc.) were sold to American media companies at the end of 90-th to develop the portals of social influence within communities of Internet users.

Foreign policy and other international issues are strongly affected by the English language and American content dominated Internet. To smooth the Language divide, free access to the Russian made site of governmental RIA Novosti Agency is presented at

Language Divide elimination by virtue of the computer aided translation systems : PROMT technology (Reverso technology) at, pretty effective is Systran technology at,, transparent language technology works at ca. 1 mln Net translations daily helps creation of unite information space.

Privacy and Security. According to 18 % of young Russians (18 24 years old) feel interference into private life after getting connected. -unwanted messages, -attempts to get physical contact instead of the virtual chats, -publication of personal information on specific sites without permission -and so on.

CD-ROMs with very confidential police gathered information : DB of stolen cars Rozysk; DB of Russian Drivers personal data; DB of wanted people and arms are openly sold at street markets for 50 150 dollars despite very serious declarations of Federal Police Office. People at site are ready to find your stolen car for 300 dollars.

4. Internet and economics PriceWaterhouse estimation of Internet trade turnover in Russia 50 mln dollars There are 600 shops, of which ca. 40 are engaged in business seriously. You could find books, disks, clothes, food and catering. Service is poor : multiple check calls, lazy delivery boys, unwanted delivery changes. Up to 35 % of goods are counterfeits.

Advertising market evaluations 3 3.5 mln dollars (compared with mass media ad market 260 mln).

US Federal Trade Comission has warned consumers that last year average user loses in Internet were 300 USD and may reach 480 USD this year. Internet troubles are common for America and Russia promises of gifts and prizes (25%); proposals of home job (10%); virtual stock exchange (Stock Generation affair by m-r Mavrodi); multiple marketing levels cumulative insurance companies, etc.

Russian young crook was arrested recently; he has 60 000 dollars stock of hard disks, memory chips, CD which were stolen via credit card forgery; credit card numbers were recorded from TV monitors during show biz prize awards procedure.

Electron digital signature Act was advanced by Minisry of Communication and FAPSI to solve four problems of e-trade : integrity of deal; authentication of partners; authorization of partners; confidentiality of deal.

Dotcom rush in Russia is over: 80% of banners are not engaged and 2001 would be the bankruptcy year for 30% Internet companies. As an example (a copy of,, (financed by Umar Djabrailov) were smashed away.

Personal bargain. One Internet user could get 150 300 USD monthly by surfing (downloading of certain programs), by free mail box creation or by advertising banner browsing. Its a lot compared with average over Russian Academy of Sciences salary 70 USD (RAS Trade Union information) .

iOne - survival project by Commersant publisher and Andersen Consulting: Internet newcomer was held three weeks in absolutely void apartments with 3 web cameras and Internet connected computer. He survived, has studied 750 sites, made 500 deals and sent 1200 mails and expressed disappointment on poor information on goods, bureaucracy and untimely delivery. May be this experiment could be referred to as a recreation or social voluntary self confinement.

5. Internet for education and recreation Different groups of researchers have studied the priorities of Russian Internet users by various methods. Averaged findings with very brief comments and spread of data are given in Table 5.

Table 5 Priorities of Russian Internet users 1. Entertainment (anecdotes, games, films, music) (59 -35%) 2. News (64-31%) 3. Communication (chats) (47-32%) 4. Education (42%) 5. .Information on goods and services (40%) 6. Business information (37%) .. (The last position) Erotics (this is typical for the oldest of target groups)

Expected 2005 investments in distance education 46 bln USD. Discussions of this problem and pilot projects get started at the Moscow University and elsewhere. Russian Federal program Development of unite education information environment for 2001 2005 is adopted with the first stage goal to supply rural schools with computers.

New kind of entertainment and communication is provided by Internet Cafe

6. Conclusion For Russia as well as for many non-front-end countries Internet is a chance to join the train, to restart once again. So in general its a positive opportunity.

Digital divide is the fact. It covers (or divides) the continents, regions and nations. But Digital Stratification could not cause social tension. The idea by itself is absolutely artificial, non real (virtual) just as well as virtual was the late Y2K problem.

Firstly, there are natural upper limits of growth. Even very rich human being or very high ranking company officer never needs more 2-3 computers (at office, at home and on move, all of them Internet connected). More probably he/she will try to get rid of any computer for not to bother himself/herself. There is only one direction for the digital gap to be narrowed ( but not to vanish !).

Secondly, by itself the Digital divide is not socially irritating. There exists different social sensitivity with respect to visible entertainment (Lamborgini, Ferrary, etc.) as compared with tools and instruments (Caterpillar, John Deer, Mac, etc)

Last but not least comment. For the high end technology there exists commune exploitation effect at rural and poor communities. So instead of envy one could see gathering at Internet connected PC now just as it was the first TV set programs.

Public libraries provides open access to information; our library has 308 PCs of which 75 (10 Internet connected) are free for public; Internet Cafe at the ground floor invites visitors to 34 Internet connected PCs.


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