Moscow is generally not considered one of the world’s top tech hubs like San Francisco, Seattle or London, but the city has emerged to be a haven for cutting-edge technology. Despite the traditional slew of landmarks like the St. Basil’s and the Kremlin, life in Moscow has become strikingly urban and modern.
Visitors to the city can easily see Moscow embracing smart technologies; people are glued to their devices and there’s free Wi-Fi access in public spaces and even in public vehicles. Charging stations are available at train stations and bus stops.
Its citizens and businesses are also quick to adopt the latest disruptive technologies such as fintech and cryptocurrencies. Moscow has a 35 percent fintech adoption rate, higher than New York’s 33.1 percent.
Cryptocurrency adoption is also being brought to the mainstream. Investcoin 24 installed 100 one-way cryptocurrency ATMs in hotels around the city. Moscow is even set to host the Cryptospace Conference – Eastern Europe’s largest gathering for crypto activities this December.
Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has been instrumental in the city’s transformation. Sobyanin took over as mayor in late 2010. By 2011, he centralized the city’s IT under one department. He prioritized cost-effective procurement and pushed for the interoperability of systems. Key to his IT agenda was to leverage big data in order to accurately understand the various situations within the city and use insights to drive decision making.
The city has implemented e-government services, automation, and Internet-of-Things (IoT) platforms to serve as a solid base for its continuing smart city initiatives. The city has invested $600 million a year to make put these in place. It also helps that the Russian capital is home to many of the country’s top businesses and generates significant revenue from taxes and tourism. Moscow might have dropped in the rankings of cities housing the most billionaires but the magnates living there still amount to a collective net worth of $217.6 billion. Its tech investments, however, are what transformed Moscow into a paragon of smart city living.
Central to transforming Moscow into a smart city are its citizen engagement platforms. The Moscow online portal features three key services that residents can use to engage and communicate with their government.
The first is Our City, an online complaints system that’s accessible either through the web or the mobile app. Citizens can send complaints if they notice anything awry in their community. For instance, if garbage collectors have been amiss picking up trash regularly, citizens can report the issue using the portal. The concerned citizen will then get a reply within seven days. If the issue is readily actionable, the system will also inform the sender with the resolution. The system has over a million users and has solved nearly two million complaints.
The second is Active Citizen. Through the web and mobile app, citizens are empowered to vote on city development matters such as proposed public transport routes, new speed limits, and even developments such as new parks. The platform has successfully involved nearly two million users. More than 2,600 polls have been conducted using the platform resulting in more than 1,500 decisions implemented.
The third is Crowd, a crowdsourcing platform on which citizens can propose ideas. Citizens could send in suggestions for the further improvement of Moscow’s city portal or even community projects. Over 130,000 citizens are on the platform. More than 84,000 ideas have been put forward, 2,700 of which have already been shortlisted for further study. Fourteen projects have been successfully implemented from the platform.
Several major developments have resulted from these platforms. Around 2.1 million citizens participated in the e-voting to push for My Street, a major urban redevelopment project with a slated budget of $1.6 billion. My Street covers 87 sites including renovation of streets, squares, and embankments to make them more people friendly and more energy efficient. In addition, parents are now involved in identifying new courses on the Moscow Online School platform including contemporary and relevant topics on cybersecurity, blogging, and even chess.
Aside from citizen engagement, Moscow has invested heavily on its infrastructure. The city has excellent broadband and 4G coverage. Citizens are also able to access the city Wi-Fi system. As early as 2011, the city implemented wide scale automation of basic social service facilities such as clinics and schools. The use of e-documents and automated budgeting helped streamline these offices’ operations.
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