IT Trend. Russia Has Taken up Building Domestic Analogues Instead of Western IT Solutions

IT Trend. Russia Has Taken up Building Domestic Analogues Instead of Western IT Solutions

A difficult year for the Russian IT industry has dotted all the i's. Russia will have to reconfigure the IT services market, unlock the industry's innovative potential and get rid of dependence on foreign software. It is necessary to learn to rely solely on one's own strength, experts think, and believe that the time of change has come for the industry as a whole, and, therefore, the time of opportunity. 

The Russian IT industry in 2022 may be compared to a ship caught in a storm and being at mercy of winds and weather. The unprecedented events associated with the departure of leading global IT companies, zeroed-out market connections and forced migration to domestic software will continue to affect the health of the Russian IT market for a long time to come. However, it has obviously managed to cope with the blow: it was able to consolidate efforts, find a balance point and define goals. It is not easy to swim against the current, but there is no other way: Russia will have to form a highly competitive and independent of external factors IT market, based on the development, widespread implementation and use of domestic counterparts of Western IT products and services. 

The trend towards creating basic platforms and software that meet domestic needs and are attractive for exports was formed in 2022 and will dominate in 2023, experts believe. Last year, about 200 IT companies slammed the door loudly and withdrew from the Russian market, where, by the way, they were earning billions. The biggest of these were Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Dell, SAS, Huawei, NVidia and IBM. The market restructuring was also facilitated by the blocking of a number of platforms that violated Russian legislation. This has created niches that have yet to be filled by domestic businesses. 

“In the current geopolitical environment, when established mutually beneficial partnerships can be easily sacrificed to the political conjuncture, one has to rely only on one's own strength,” believes Vadim Glushchenko, Director of the Centre for Global IT Cooperation. 

In his opinion, the decisions by a number of Western players to leave the Russian market, which clearly contradicted common sense, clearly illustrate the need to strengthen digital sovereignty and develop their own IT capabilities.

According to IT expert Ilya Kostunov, control over user and company data in other countries is a tool for new cross-border power. Data are needed to capture new markets, military intelligence, and influence social and political processes.

“Western IT corporations” once assured everyone that their products were absolutely safe to use, thus making almost all of humanity dependent on their software, social networks and Internet services. And now the West is in fact openly trying to use this dependency to pressure those who disagree with its demands and plans. First through ignoring national legislation, then through disabling functionality and refusing to support solutions for which money has already been received. The next step is cyber diversion and cyber warfare,” Kostunov notes.

Global experience shows that creating alternatives to Western IT products is not only possible but necessary. This will make it possible to achieve independence in the digital space, to build a reliable and objective system of services and platforms, which will not be biased towards users and will not be able to impose artificial restrictions on their presence depending on the political conjuncture.

“Take the case of China's Huawei, for example: in 2018, after being prevented from collaborating with Google because of US sanctions, it began developing the Harmony OS based on open Android, the AppGallery app shop and the Huawei Mobile Service (HMS) platform. In 2021, the number of AppGallery users reached 580 million, with a total of 730 million people using HMS services,” recalls Vadim Glushchenko. 

Russian developers also have something to offer our consumers instead of IT products from global monopolists.

“This is especially relevant at a time when Western platforms are tightening the screws, practicing biased moderation and violating the rights of Russian users, hiding behind sanctions. The presence of several domestic counterparts is a big plus, because it creates conditions for healthy competition not only externally, but also domestically,” adds the expert.

Import substitution and innovation  

Import substitution in IT, which was not started yesterday, nevertheless received a serious impetus in 2022 to accelerate the outlined processes. Russia has its own competitive IT solutions, which are in demand, have been in operation for many years, and have outperformed the products of the vendors who left. Nevertheless, the future of the industry is seen in a deeper analysis of needs, closing them with own developments and eventually moving towards exporting alternative and unique solutions to other countries.

“In fact, there are Russian analogues for any mass foreign IT product. There are their own social networks (the same VKontakte), search engines, video hostings, office, video and graphic software packages. There are operating systems based on Linux. Domestic mobile operating systems based on Android are being developed. There are already several mobile app shops, and there are video hosting sites of their own, which are popular with our citizens. There are services for selecting Russian counterparts, such as ARPP's Domestic Soft, or the Ministry for Digital Technology, Communication and Mass Media's marketplace russoft,” notes IT expert Ilya Kostunov.

At the same time, the Russian IT market is very competitive, there are usually several analogues, he underlined. 

“Switching from Western to domestic is more an issue of habit and digital literacy. As the number of users grows, developers will improve their products based on the real needs of users. Do not just “like theirs”, but what “we need”. That is how you can move from import substitution to proactive import substitution, and not forget about export,” the expert commented.

In his opinion, it is important for the state to train specialists, to teach schoolchildren and adults not only how to use, but also how to create the information technology of the future.

“Secure, honestly working without “tracking tabs”, high-quality programs from Russian programmers will be in demand all over the world,” predicts Ilya Kostunov.

Attention can be drawn to Russian IT developments, which are used not only in the Russian Federation and whose audience is growing rapidly. There are now several mobile app shops launched in Russia, and there are video hosting sites such as RuTube, VK Video and the Yandex.Video service for searching and watching video clips. The figures speak for themselves: since the beginning of 2022, RuTube's audience has almost doubled, while traffic volumes have increased by 526 percent; VK Video's peak viewing record in 2022 was three billion views per day. 

At the end of December, the media reported on the intention of VK, Yandex, Sber and Rostelecom to establish a company that will develop a mobile OS based on the open public code Android and create a platform of compatible mobile services capable of replacing Google Mobile Services (GMS). 

“The main thing is not to stop on the import substitution path. And if possible, continue to create our own IT products that can fully replace Western ones. This is certainly a thorny path, but it is the only possible one. And I am sure that our developers can accomplish this task,” said Vadim Glushchenko.


IT industry