By Setareh Behroozi

We are in Iran for cooperation, not to sign memorandums: Russian official

June 24, 2019

TEHRAN-- The Deputy Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation, Mikhail Mamonov, said that Russian working groups are in Iran for cooperation not just to sign memorandums.

He made the remarks during an interview with the Tehran Times at the Espinas Palace Hotel in Tehran on June 17.

Headed a delegation, Mamonov attended a meeting of the joint working groups in the field of communications and information technology.

“Right after this meeting the cooperation will begin. We have three working groups so I really hope that this working group will help set up cooperation between particular Russian companies. After the meeting we had with Iranian counterparts, my team collect all the contacts and agreements,” he said.

“Basically we are here as a part of working group that works within the premises of Russia-Iran intergovernmental commission. So we are a part of this commission. As a working group, we concentrate on ICT development and with first meeting of this sorts under the new minister. We have a new team in Russia basically focused on issues where Russian companies and government agencies can be of assistance to Iranian government in developing Iran’s national economy,” he explained.

“We will be also happy to exchange views and opinions about up-to-date issues like 5G networks, artificial intelligence, and system of data management; all these issues have critical meaning for national security and development and economic prosperity as well.

“The solutions that we offer for Iranian companies and partners as cyber security is a very broad domain. Basically we are speaking about ensuring the sustainability of internet, the protection of critical infrastructure, and data storage,” Mamonov explained.

Tehran, Moscow to join hands on smart city

“We are studying quite extensively what Tehran has done dealing with smart city and we are impressed by the level of your mobile device penetration rate, the progress you make in e-government. We invited our colleagues to come to Moscow to see how Russian government provided e-services because it is very impressive. We will be happy to have these bilateral talks between Tehran and Moscow between the municipalities. This is what the meeting is for,” he explained.

On smart city, Moscow, which is called number one smart city of the world by the UN, can be a great model for Iranian cities, he pointed out.

We will be also happy to exchange views and opinions about up-to-date issues like 5G networks, artificial intelligence, and system of data management; all these issues have critical meaning for national security and development and economic prosperity as well“Speaking about smart cities, we have a lot of things to offer to Iranian partners and friends to consider including intellectual transport systems, face and other recognition system as well as a number of online services provided by the government and municipal authorities,” he added.

“In Russia, we started to develop e-government since 2008 and that would be a long way. Now we have more than 30,000 services provided online and developing 25 online super services by which, I mean typical life situations that every citizens face with in his or her daily life including death, child birth or traffic accident through intellectual system and urban development infrastructure,” he said.

“In Russia, the ministry bans double or triple inputs of data by citizens and if you once enter the data in one of the systems they are prohibited to request it another time. There is a special environment called “State Web” that operate with one ecosystem to exchange data, which really helps the citizens not to feel pressure of applying for their license and documents.

“In Russia, you still have to go for some documents like passport and if you wait for more than 15 minutes they provide a cup of coffee for free. 

“Until 2024, we plan to have maybe 99 percent of our intergovernmental paperwork done without paper, a quite ambitious goal in the realm of digital economy,” he added.

Russia is more than ready to cooperate with Iran

“Russia is more than ready to invest in joint companies that could be developing joint products that develop products to be employed in Iran in this regard we provide special financial instruments and if financial issues are the only obstacle for cooperation, it can be solved with some facilities like long term loans,” he said.

Mamonov said there is a special foundation under the Ministry of Digital Development that its purpose is investing in prospective companies not startups. The companies that have already established with good record, which can be also trans-national.  May be this company supports Iranian companies depending on how serious they are. Iran can also invest on joint projects because Russian state fund doesn’t have ambition of earning a lot of money.

“We would be happy to work with Iranian partners. At the initial stage, Iranian government should nominate some partners for us to begin our cooperation through joint ventures now.  Russian companies cannot come to Iran without a reliable partner. We should know about the Iranian partners and how they want to work with Iranian side,” he said.

He said that like previous experience that Russia had in Vietnam cooperating in different fields of e-government, smart city and cyber security, his country basically supports B2G business model.

Business-to-government (B2G) is a business model that refers to businesses selling products, services or information to governments or government agencies.

“I am not sure Business-to-Business (B2B) works for Iran. The companies know better than enough that their market strong points. Besides, services like face recognition system for municipality or traffic transit inevitably engaged to states. As the result of this meeting we have a list of potentially fruitful companies and will be keeping up what is going on until two companies agree on something meaningful,” he explained.

Current ICT projects between Iran and Russia

“A number of ICT projects are underway between the countries. The main project which is there in place is the one between Rostelecom and Iranian partners on traffic transit. This is already working and is to be expanded,” he explained.

“What we want is to help our companies fully be compatible and comply with the rule and regulation set up by the Iranian state so it takes sometimes to understand the reality and translate it to Russian companies,” he said.

He also pointed to the Yandex, a Russian search engine, which was agreed to be present in Iran in October 2015, however it did not happen.

“Some market issues made Yandex to come back from Iran. Yandex was a very Russian company and  it takes time for them to become international. Besides, it is also very much dependent on Iranian consumers if they want a new search engine or not,” he said.

“The good thing about Russian search engine or social network is that they are very safe so no concern about political influence from abroad. I am sure that Russia is not going to meddle in Iranian internal affairs even if Russian search engines, networks or messengers are present here,” he said.

 A common market for startups in Iran

“We are now discussing the developing of a four-party center in Iran including Iran, Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan for regional startup center and now working to single out an agenda. I am not sure that Russia is going to invest on startup as a state we don’t invest on startups as a state even in Russia anymore.

He also extolled the idea for an ICT common regional market in Iran. “However what we need, are companies that they ask government to help them for finding market.  We want to be specific on what to be financed about and about the business model in common market,” he said.

“As you know in some aspects the companies are competitive and we need to set up rules of the game. Since if they will be only competitors not cooperatives, they maybe it is not the best way to do this and Russia is ready to set up rules of this game,” he added.

International payment system

“Post Bank of Iran and Russian Post are discussing the issue of international payment system and I know they are at final stage of negotiations and I hope they reach agreement soon,” Mamonov said.

“I am sure that our Mir payment system have chances of setting up direct contacts with Iranian payment system because we need to have a more stable diverse transaction ecosystem,” he said.

“I think it might happen. There are lots of issues that they don’t have to do with our goodwill political technical and economic issues. We are moving toward direct bilateral currency exchange and this is the right track so it may take some time but we are on way,” he said.

He said that Russia also suffers from unreasonable unjustice sanctions imposed by the U.S. and in this regard they are very much in the same situation as Iran.

“Russia and its European partners are opposed to the imposed sanctions so setting up this separate payment system between two or more countries is very reasonable and we step for it but it is really related to our financial authorities and our banks, it is not a cup of tea,” he lamented.

However the bilateral agreements stimulate or foster businesses and Russian government will be providing credits for their companies in order to cooperate with Iran, he concluded.

SB/MQ/MG

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