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President Vladimir Putin has decided to establish a special fund from which Internet projects will be financed in order to give “young people with interesting ideas” an opportunity to implement them “in Russia,” and provide the “creative class” with jobs. The president put forward this idea at a meeting of the Supervisory Board of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI), which he chairs.
The agency has taken the idea with enthusiasm: by February 2013, the ASI intends to work out a concept according to which the “Internet Exchange” of the projects, which will be co-financed by the citizens and the state, will be working, the Kommersant daily writes. Experts believe that with the help of such a “carrot” the president wants to take over the control of the Internet, which is currently “not controlled in his interests.”
Vladimir Putin proposed to create the ASI in May 2011 when he was prime minister, the newspaper recalls. The autonomous non-profit organisation Agency for Strategic Initiatives to Promote New Projects was established by the RF Government in August 2011.
“Russia can establish a special fund through which the Internet initiatives, having a high social value will be selected and funded,” the newspaper quoted the president. According to him, the priority should be given to the projects, “which are based on new technology and management solutions” and that can create a “new quality of life for our citizens.” And the fund will provide money only to those projects, “which have already been able to attract a certain amount of resources, especially from individuals” through the process of collective funding.
Director of the ASI Young Professionals network Dmitry Peskov who will oversee the development of Putin’s initiative told the Kommersant daily that it is not just about state subsidies to websites. “It is planned to create a scheme to establish not only the fund, but also a kind of an online exchange where people will be able to present their projects and receive funding from other persons,” Peskov said. “Projects will be able to attract money from all who want to fund them.” According to Dmitry Peskov, he referred first of all to the support of regional, social and educational projects and projects “that change the urban space.”
“Everything good that has happened in the Russian Internet thus far, has happened not thanks to the authorities, but owing to the fact that they interfered less,” Internet expert, Media Director of SUP Media Anton Nosik stated. He also mentioned the federal target program Electronic Russia, which was launched in 2002 and was aimed at accelerating the process of information exchange, including between citizens and public authorities: in 2011, the Prosecutor General’s Office reported embezzlement of nearly 300 million roubles from the funds allocated for these purposes. “No matter how much money is allocated – everything will be used, but I think it will be a long wait for the benefits,” Anton Nosik said.
Political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin believes that the president “understands that the Internet is growing into a structure that is not managed in his interests, at the same time being a very influential one.” “So he wants to create a structure with serious money that will be able to support the projects that he likes, and oust or repurchase those projects that he does not like, at the same time limiting all access to independent sources of funding,” Oreshkin said. “It is possible to find on a website extremist statements and close it, but also it is possible to offer not only the stick, but also the carrot: to give money for keeping a loyal website.”
The Vedomosti newspaper believes that this project has shown unprofessionalism of the authorities. Even if the work of the fund is organised transparently, the very fact of massive injection of money into the venture capital business can ruin the business, according to the newspaper. However, the publication does not rule out that the fund’s money will rather help to legalise “social” initiatives in the Internet – as the pro-government propaganda activity there has been financed not particularly transparently.