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Nov 30, 2007

GLONASS Major Part of Russian Plans to be a High-Tech Leader

R ussian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, wants to spend at least $60 billion over the next 10 years to make Russia a global high-tech titan, according to Bloomberg News. LyubovPronina has posted a wide-ranging article outlining the country's goals for competing globally in high-tech. Among the highlights:

Russia is spending 9.9 billion rubles [about $405 million USD] in 2007 to turn its Global Navigation Satellite System, Glonass, into a rival of the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS. Russia plans to have full global coverage with 24 satellites in orbit by 2010.

By 2015, says Yuriy Urlichich, head of the Russian Research Institute of Space Instrument Building, Glonass will be selling tens of billions of dollars of services annually to operators of mobile communications devices around the world.

For Putin and Ivanov, space remains a high priority. Anatoly Perminov, head of the Federal Space Agency, told the RIA Novosti news agency it spent 24.4 billion rubles ($1 billion) in 2007 on the International Space Station and other projects. The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration spent $16.2 billion.

Among the Russian government's other tech plans are:

  • To capture 10 percent of the global market for information technology and office equipment by 2020.
  • To put a man on the moon by 2025
  • To put a man on Mars after 2035.
  • To become the No. 3 maker of commercial airplanes.

To accomplish their lofty goals, Russia is abandoning the free-market if favor of Soviet-style central planning, combining smaller companies into single government- controlled conglomerates. Boris Chertok, who worked on the first Sputnik satellite told Bloomberg, "We need to restore what we have lost over 15 years of destructive reforms. The market economy is incapable of fulfilling such large national programs as flight to the moon."

It remains to be seen how well large, government-controlled companies can compete in a high-tech field where victory generally goes to the quick and nimble.

In addition to bureaucratic hurdles, there are at two other obstacles to Russian plans of becoming a high-tech power.

  1. Many of the country's smartest math and science students leave for better paying jobs elsewhere, while many young people favor business degrees, ignoring science and math altogether.
  2. The country is a technological backwater. A recent ranking by Economist Intelligence Unit put Russia 48th, behind India and the Philippines, in ability to support a competitive IT environment.

See also: Report: GLONASS Could Be Operating By 2009
GLONASS to Top U.S.'s GPS, Putin Says

Photo courtesy of Masta Bord.

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