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(English) Russia’s Hidden Silicon Valley

08 мая 2020

(English)

The US Silicon Valley is known around the world. However “Silicon Valley” as such does not exist on the map. This is the name of a conglomerate of cities on the peninsula between the cities of San Francisco and San Jose, where the offices of leading global and IT firms are located. The cities are Menlo Park (Facebook), Palo Alto (Quora), Mountain View (Google, Microsoft), and Sunnyvale (Yahoo, Motorola, Microsoft, Juniper, HP, Amazon, LinkedIn). There are many universities in the area as well.

In 2012, the Innopolis project was established in Tatarstan to resemble the set up of Silicon Valley. It is the first IT city in Russia that has its own university and digital infrastructure for the urban living.

It is slowly gaining momentum. Large company IT departments are situated in Innopolis. An investment of $176.4 million (13 billion Roubles) has been made. A video about Innopolis states that Russian made Aurora operating system was created there. Aurora is an OS for Linux-based mobile devices. The system code is open with some exceptions (interface elements, embedded applications).

Sailfish OS was developed by a Finnish company in 2012-2013 (partly consisting of former Nokia employees). In 2016, Open Mobile Platform LLC became their partner. In 2018 Rostelecom bought 75% of the shares of Sailfish. From that moment on, Sailfish became a Russian operating system. The goal of the creators of Aurora is quite realistic. They do not claim to compete with Android and iOS. Rostelecom’s goal is to create a modern corporate smartphone with Russian SOFTWARE.

The Kremlin is pushing for a Russian intranet with similar controls as the Great Fire Wall Of China. Expect Russian government employees to be the first ones to have the OS installed on all their devices. Kremlin officials will have their own version of the phone on Aurora with enhanced data protection.

However, despite all the positive publicity, the city is home to only 4,500 people, including those who are not directly engaged in the IT sector. The idea of Innopolis is certainly correct and useful, but in order to become a real competitor to the Americans it lacks the main element.

The difference with the Silicon Valley in the US is that Innopolis is missing innovation dreams, a relaxed atmosphere and a myriad of perks. Instead, it is a rigidly controlled environment which is not fun or even interesting.

It is highly likely Innopolis will become the Kremlin’s IT branch even with Russian private companies moving in. All Russian conglomerates are controlled by the Kremlin and their shares are owned by Russian oligarchs.

There is only one true Silicon Valley but Innopolis is clearly a Russian attempt to have the same. Innopolis is not publicized and does not get much media coverage. There is a possibly some of Russia’s cyber warfare tasks could be conducted out of this area in the future.

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