Andrey Belozerov, Strategy and Innovations Advisor to the CIO of Moscow, shares how he landed the role, his greatest achievement so far and what’s keeping him awake at night.
Describe your role
The Moscow IT Department has been leading the process of implementing the smart city strategy since 2011. We have created and successfully implemented large city-wide automation systems for all areas of the urban economy. We are also constantly looking for new possibilities for implementing innovations.
This is what I am responsible for, along with building new partnerships with businesses, and coordinating strategy development and implementation.
What was your route to the position?
I joined the Moscow IT Department team in 2011. I supervised the process of the city digitalisation.
Between then and now, over 100 information systems have been developed in the areas of education, utilities, transport, city security, culture and sports, tourism, etc.
Under my guidance, a number of successful projects have been implemented, including: online data city portals, city Wi-Fi, the Moscow Mayor website www.mos.ru, mobile applications for Moscow residents, etc.
Before that I was in charge of the Digital Government initiative at the Russian Government.
What does being a smart city mean to Moscow?
A smart city uses technology to create possibilities for growth and development for the citizens and businesses based in the city. It creates a comfortable and safe environment, taking into account the needs and opinions of all interested parties, and continuously works on improving this environment.
Can you describe a typical day?
My typical day is usually loaded with meetings and discussions of various new solutions and improvements related to implementing new technologies.
I coordinate teams who are working on projects such as implementing blockchain in the Active Citizen project, development of computer vision for healthcare, an IoT platform for municipal vehicles, and so on.
I also often participate in events that serve as platforms for dialogue between state, science and business representatives, as it is useful to share experience and keep up with the industry trends.
What is your #1 priority right now?
The top priority right now is the development of our 2030 strategy. This the strategy that will define our approach to implementation of cutting-edge technology in the city.
We now need to need to think it through, taking the challenges into account. We need to find the right way to adapt these innovations to the needs of citizens and get maximum efficiency. These innovations also need to be aligned with the legal framework and socio-cultural issues.
At the same time, we need to turn implementation of this strategy into a self-sustaining process, so that the technology is not outdated by the time it is implemented.
What is your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is not technology; it is people. You need to persuade the city officials to use new things, and they often think they are doing just fine as it is.
Even more importantly, we need to not only provide digital services; we need to create services that will be in demand and will really make a difference for the Muscovites. The citizens are also much more demanding these days, as they have experience with digital products in all spheres of their lives. We need to build apps and services that exceed their expectations.
What do you see as your biggest achievement since you started the role?
The biggest achievement is the speed of digitisation. In 2011, the Moscow Government had digital systems with limited opportunities, and they were not centralised. Today we have city-wide systems that connect various institutions, and this is why our citizens truly enjoy their experience of interacting with the city authorities.
At the same time we are staying on the edge, working on the implementation of next-generation technologies.
What is the best part of the job?
The best part of this job is that it is a never-ending challenge. Technologies evolve with great speed, and the citizens’ demands are also evolving. There are always new tasks, or the need to develop new approaches to the old tasks. It keeps me motivated all the time.
What keeps you awake at night?
There are definitely things that keep me awake sometimes. When a million schoolchildren are about to open the newly implemented digital tool on the first day of school, I cannot help but wonder if we did everything right and whether the system will withstand this load, and whether our teachers – and some of them are elderly – will have trouble using it.
With some things, you just can’t provide for all contingencies, no matter how hard you work.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
Well, I can hardly imagine myself being occupied with something else apart from what I am doing now.
If anything, it would be a job related to travelling in order to quench my thirst for new experiences, or maybe architecture and engineering which would meet my ambitions to create a project from the very beginning through to the final stage and see the actual results of my work.